(photo: Paul Wilkinson ARPS)
Alyson Hallett grew up in Street, Somerset. Her childhood was infused with the shoe factory where her father worked, the view of Glastonbury Tor in the distance and the lattice of rhynes that criss-crossed the Levels. She studied Comparative Literature at the University of East Anglia then went on to work for MIND in Norwich and the Richmond Fellowship in Glasgow. In 1992 she gained a distinction in her M.A. in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. Since then she has consistently published poetry in magazines and journals, won competitions, received an Individual Artist’s Award from Arts Council England and presented papers at conferences on poetry.
As well as reading her work in the U.K., (e.g. Ways with Words, Bristol International Poetry Festival, Appledore Literature Festival, Mr B’s Emporium, The Temenos Academy) Alyson’s poetry has been translated into Spanish and several years ago she gave a reading in Guadalajara, Mexico. Jorge Esquinca and Penelope Downes, the principal translators, went on to publish these poems in the journal Husocritico.
Alyson has published short stories with Virago and Serpent's Tail and her book, The Heart’s Elliptical Orbit (Solidus Press) was published in 2003. These stories explore the perils and pleasures of love, including one about a man who inherits a dead man’s memories when he has a heart transplant.
"These are powerful stories, written with spare eloquence, packed with tension, menace and longing. Alyson Hallett is a new talent to watch."
She has recorded an audio-diary for Radio 4 (Nature: Migrating Stones) and written scripts for Sky Television (Agony) and drama for Radio 4 (Dear Gerald), a play based upon letters that were written by a young boy who was evacuated to South Africa during World War Two. The play was chosen for Pick of the Week and Pick of the Year.
"...a touching, vivid story based on the hundreds
of letters Gerald sent to his parents."
The Sunday Times
In 2001 Alyson was commissioned to write a site-specific poem for Bath. The resulting poem, Arise, was then carved into Milsom Street pavement by letter carver Alec Peever.
"..the beautiful carved phrases of Alyson Hallett’s pavement poem seem to float up from the stone beneath your feet like half-remembered dreams."
Rose Flint, Poetry Society Newsletter
Besides teaching creative writing at Bristol University and co-teaching poetry with James Harpur at the Arvon Foundation, Alyson has been the holder of several prestigious residencies. She was writer-in-residence for Arts Council England, South West for Year of the Artist. For two years she was Visiting Writer at the University of the West of England in Bristol and she has just completed a three year poet-in-residence post at The Small School in Hartland. In 2009 Alyson was poet-in-residence for the Caravanserai Project, run by Annie Lovejoy and Mac Dunlop.
Alyson has a long standing commitment to collaborating with other artists. In the early nineties she wrote and recorded poetry with composer Roger Mills for La Stanza Rosa, a dance performance at the Arnolfini, Bristol. Following this, she worked with Neil Jenkins to create poetry for an installation based upon the myth of Icarus at Cornershop Studios. In 1999 Alyson worked with Opus Glass designs and wrote text that was acid-etched into a stained glass window for Bradley Stoke Library. In 2005 Alyson worked with Kamina Walton to create an exhibition, Hidden Images, a project that explores genetic disorders. Alyson also collaborated with Annie Lovejoy by writing a poem for Bedminster Health Surgery, Bristol. (Please see: Annies' website for further information) Another significant – and ongoing – collaboration is with artist and bookmaker Penelope Downes with whom Alyson has made several artist’s books.
Alyson participated in a three week summer school in Glasgow run by the performance art group Goat Island. She has also done performance training with desperate optimists and 3 or 4 composers.
In 2010, Alyson completed a practice-based PhD in poetry. Her research focussed upon geographical intimacy and an exploration of interfusion in poetry. She then went on to be poet-in-residence in the University of Exeter’s department of geography in Cornwall for a year. This residency was funded by an award from the Leverhulme Trust.
She is currently a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Exeter.