The Fourth River

A Second Look: “Hot Air Ballooning,” by Erin Jourdan

By on December 17, 2014

In this new series, the staff of The Fourth River comb back through our archives to find and share with you the pieces they believe deserve a second look.

Floating in Poetry

-by Amanda Long, The Fourth River Staff


Levitt Instagram2As I flipped through past issues of The Fourth River over the last couple weeks, I kept returning to the first issue and Erin Jourdan’s poem “Hot Air Ballooning” from Spring 2005. “Hot Air Ballooning” is a ten line prose poem consisting of eight paratactic sentences . The language escapes your mouth much like a whistle as you read, each word feels alliterated to the next, “Sea salt breath, small time crook of hearts as small as birds, petty criminals of glitter and shine catch sight of my craft skimming the hillside.” With tongue twisting language that forces you to read slowly and deliberately, I was hooked to each individual word. I enjoyed simply skimming this poem, and also relishing deeply in it’s complexities. 

Jourdan starts with “Hot air ballooning over houses,” creating a sense of floating in the sky, looking down on the world below. Then, with “delicious as iced petit-fours, wind farms churn floss silk,” the language shifts and becomes very sensory, shifting the reader from the sense of taste with the description of houses as delicious “petit-fours” to a more haptic quality, evoking the sense of touch with “floss silk. ” I was struck by such surprising juxtaposed images as “pinwheels turn and sparklers pop in jet streams sparkling gold and silver marking the traipse of air.” Here the language flows together with no punctuation, evocative of rocking or floating.

As the poem progresses, it transforms further into a dreamlike stream of consciousness. “I sleep curled in my basket letting the wind navigate, letting my cloud friends blow.”  As this dreamlike scape takes hold, Jourdan introduces strange and surreal characters and personifications, “Mice sew me a suit of armor as I sleep, strength in taut threads.”  This poem teeters on the bridge between reality and the imagined. When I got to the last line, I had to go back and reread the poem; it is so strangely beautiful and delicately revealing. The speaker asks “Save me from morning, save me with whisker hair and diminution.” The refrain “save me” feels more subtle than urgent, as the speaker asks to be saved “with” the minuscule whisker hair and “diminution,” or a sense of fading out. Hot Air Ballooning is a kind of meditation on poetry and language itself and creates new insight with each read.



Amanda Long is an MFA candidate at Chatham University. She lives in Friendship, PA with her husband and dog.