Poem Flies to the End of the World

This weekend Canadian poet Ian Ferrier won a trip 100,000 feet in the air, where his vehicle exploded and rained poetry on an unknown destination.

The trip took place as part of a benefit for the Ottawa festival VerseFest, which takes place this February.

To mark the end of the Mayan long count calendar in 2012, the festival sponsored a contest called Poetry for the End of the World.

Ferrier’s was one of six poems chosen as finalists, and at a gala event last Saturday night, his performance of “Letters from the Ice Age” won.

The prize was a trip for the poem in a small plastic canister strapped to a helium-filled weather balloon.

At sea level the very thin off-white balloon looked like a big, saggy, floppy exercise ball. But like the ugly duckling, when released into the air it became quite beautiful A crowd of 20 or 30 spectators gathered to watch VerseFest director Rod Pederson release the balloon (which actually contained the poems of all six finalists).

It floated quite swiftly upwards into the clear and very cold sky, and as it rose it began to fill out. It was rising fast. First it looked like the full moon, then quickly like a planet, and finally like a star. It could still be seen more than a kilometer up, looking like another bright star in the constellation Cygnus until it veered south and began to disappear. It was last sighted heading south.

According to festival director Rod Pederson the balloons can reach heights of 100,000 feet, which is truly the edge of the world, and very high for a poem. As the air gets thinner and thinner the balloon’s skin continues to expand, until it is so stretched that it explodes.

Rod Pederson, festival director for Versefest with winning poet Ian Ferrier and a weather balloon

For information, pictures and video you can reach festival director Rod Pederson at


You can reach winning poet Ian Ferrier at


The Ottawa VerseFest web-site presents the winning poem and describes the event at: