Wolverhampton

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Coxwell and Glaisher’s High Altitude record from Wolverhampton Gas Works

Steve Harrison

They set off from Stafford Road Gas works
Sept 6th, 1862
James Glaisher crammed the basket with instruments
Henry Coxwell would pilot the crew

of six pigeons, as over ground canaries
to test pressure and cold and how
animal life reacted to altitude
Pre-empting clouds from both sides now.

You can still see the meticulous recordings
in Pounds, Fahrenheit and Feet
despite frozen fingers and passing out
still incredibly, indelibly neat.

Upwards and higher than Everest
Glaisher extrapolated the possible height
Coxwell daringly climbed on the basket
Hands useless, opened the valve with his bite.

A world record starting in Stafford Road,
look on the Science Park to so see the blue plaque
Coxwell and Glaisher landed safely in Shropshire
the homing pigeons never came back.

Steve Harrison is a poet who resides ’round the Wrekin’ (Shropshire) and has strong connections with the Black Country. In this wonderful poem he sets out to play with one of the less known historical events of Wolverhampton – the world record for the highest hot air balloon flight. Weaving in and out of historical records, contemporary observations, folk tale, science and his own idiosyncratic visions / insights, Harrison provides a beautiful and rich exploration of nostalgia, discovery, memory and cultural identity. This is a bit of a trademark move for Harrison – one of the region’s finest poets and performers.

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Author: rmfrancis

R. M. Francis is a poet from the Black Country. Author of Transitions (Black Light Engine Room, 2015) and Orpheus (Lapwing Publications, 2016). He's currently researching his PhD at the University of Wolverhampton

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