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Possibility of flight feels like a path through personal history as Heidi’s family and friends walk through it in turns. Old loves return in ‘Too long in Wellington’ and ‘If I could take you there’, and friends are revisited in ‘Wicked Things’. Four generations make themselves present, from the grandparents in ‘The departed’ and ‘The Women’, to fathers and mothers in ‘Secrets’ and ‘My father is Santa’, until finally the collection ends with a new generation, your small heart / beats a small song / the sound of tiny / firecrackers exploding. The people that inhabit the poetry give life to it and help the poet to recreate and relive the past.
Lost love and heartbreak define the past quite heavily for Heidi. In ‘Love song to Mulkern Rd’ Some boy has thrown my heart out the third-floor window / Mulkern Road accepts it with indifference / The youths on the street don’t pause to watch their step. There is no intensity in this heartbreak, instead we find indifference which is soon swallowed up by the activity on the street below. In ‘Too long in Wellington’ this turns into annoyance as I want to be able to walk / into a stranger’s house / and not see / my ex-boyfriend’s couch / and him lying on it. These attitudes towards love run throughout the start of the collection, where the reflective nature of the writing turns these past experiences into episodes of loss.
Her family also features heavily in the poetry, grandparents and parents haunting the words, ghosts living / and dead, coming back out of the past. In ‘Letter to my grandfather,’ Heidi finishes the poem with some wonderful lines that point towards the influence and power her family and past have over her writing. I turned my back / and you reached out through twelve years / to touch me for a moment, that’s all. Her family is always present, asserting themselves as an important part of the poet’s life, no matter how hard she tries to get away from them. In the middle of my night he’ll call me / and still be surprised at the time.
The possibility of flight points to many different things. The possibility of moving on, of flying to a new place and reconciling with the past, and there is also the flight of a more survivalist world, of running away, a refusal to deal with the past or present. In Possibility of flight, Heidi is enacting this in its many facets, working in the dual spheres of running away from the past while also accepting it and moving forward. Her writing reflects on the past, she relives her past with family and friends and lovers, allowing her to fly towards the future, towards the firecrackers exploding in ‘Baby’.
This collection is a culmination of her past, her journey from childhood to parenthood. The poetry itself is a flight of reconciliation, even if the subject contains the flight of survival.
Reviewed by Matthias Metzler
Possibility of Flight
by Heidi North-Bailey
Published by Submarine