About Me

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Bristol , United Kingdom
I am co-director of the Leaping Word Poetry Consultancy, which provides advice for poets on writing, editing and publishing, as well as qualified counselling support for those exploring personal issues in their work - https://theleapingword.com. My fifth poetry collection, Learning Finity, is now available from Indigo Dreams or directly from me.

Monday, 31 August 2020

On Poetry, Hot-Air Balloons and Getting Up Horribly Early

Up betimes yesterday morning to record a poem for the upcoming anthology 'Places of Poetry: Mapping the Nation in Verse'. 

My poem is about the death of my grandmother, Hilda Hill, during the 1991 Bristol Balloon Fiesta. Which is relevant because I saw hot-air balloons rising over the city the evening before she died, something I found beautiful and strangely comforting. 

Somehow this memory became conflated in my head with another summer evening spent watching balloons from the vantage point of Horfield Common as they drifted over the northern suburbs of the city - something which doesn't happen too frequently, as the Festival is held at Ashton Court to the south of the city, and often the balloons float off over Somerset. Judging by the then age of my children, I think this particular occasion must have happened a year, maybe two, after my grandmother died, but poems are timeless things, and anyhow it was another quarter of a century later before I wrote it.

I decided that if I was going to produce of recording of me reading a poem so closely tied to its location, it would have to be recorded on the Common itself, rather than at home, sitting in front of the obligatory bookcase. This presented problems, as it's a popular place for joggers, dog-walkers, and children, with several busy roads marking its boundaries. Hence the horribly early Sunday morning start. 

The recording went well. We did four takes, and upon my return home, I steeled myself to do battle with Dropbox and/or Google Drive or whatever I would have to use to get the file sent, only to find that we should have recorded it in landscape format rather than portrait. Which meant another early rising this morning to repeat the whole process.

It was a beautiful dawn - dew-soaked, and more autumnal than yesterday's. We stood on the tump, which was originally raised for archery practice, so that there would be a good view of the city behind me. And surprisingly - almost miraculously, in fact, since the pandemic prevented this year's Balloon Fiesta from taking place - hot-air balloons were drifting up the Frome valley in the misty distance. Which, since we are poets, is Clearly A Sign. 



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