Brunel 200 Legacy Ralphe Hoyte – Isambard! The Epic Poem.
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Isambard! The Epic Poem

Swift flows the tide to the sound of the bell
Is that a name it is tolling, as the flow it doth swell?
It rings once more, oh hark to its knell!
The name it is tolling is that of Brunel...

Ralph Hoyte is a Bristol-based poet, writer and text-based artist who works with words in a variety of contexts: live, visually and sculpturally, across artforms and in new media. He is currently in residence with the Bristol Alliance (Broadmead extension) investigating ‘text in the city’. His first major work for the Alliance is a 134m-long text-based artwork entitled PAST-PRESENT…FUCHSIA on the hoardings around Quakers Friars ( or

Ralph wrote, displayed, distributed, broadcasted, webcast and performed an epic poem interpreting Brunel’s life, work and legacy.

ISAMBARD! is an epic poem about a man of epic stature – Isambard Kingdom Brunel. I have for some time wanted to really let rip on a long poem. Brunel is the ideal subject: driven, tempestuous, obsessed, running away from inner demons, impossible to work with or deal with except as a force of nature; and in the end a tragic hero. Of such are epics made”, said Ralph Hoyte.

Ralphe Hoyte – Isambard! The Epic Poem.

Ralph researched the poem via visits to the Brunel Archive at the University of Bristol, where he had access to biographical accounts of Brunel by Adrian Vaughan and Celia Brunel Noble –– Brunel’s granddaughter, who contributed much of the material to the University to start the archive in 1950.

ISAMBARD! THE EPIC POEM is written in epic verse form with ballad inserts. There are five sections to the epic, each corresponding to five phases in Brunel’s life. It has been produced in a facsimile Victorian ballad sheet style with an embedded CD and has seen many public performances, comments from which included,

“A wonderful experience – I’m racking my brains to think of how to bring the poem to more people!”

You can hear the full poem here (MP3).

It is available through the Bristol Poetry Can:

or by phone at: (0117) 942 6976

or write to: Poetry Can, Unit 11, 20-22 Hepburn Rd, Bristol BS2 8UD


Photography: Mark Simmons.