A Letter from the Editor

September 21st 2012

Dear Reader,

Welcome to Issue Seven.

Last month I was invited to review a new eBook entitled The Metropolis Organism by Frank Vitale. Mr Vitale, is a New York based filmmaker, teacher and non-fiction writer who studied physics at McGill University, Montreal before becoming an assistant for a fashion photographer. Whilst flying to an editorial assignment in Los Angeles for Mademoiselle Magazine, he began photographing towns and cities from above and imagining the visual comparison between urban mass and other organisms. The Metropolis Organism is the culmination of years of careful observation and study. Mr. Vitale takes on the position of ‘the Scientific Observer’ peering down from a great distance and seeing the earth for the very first time. Using his own photography and film footage along with satellite images, the author argues that the city is a “living, breathing biological organism”.

Although I do not completely agree with Mr. Vitale’s heavily literal reading of the city as an organism, this beautifully assembled interactive e-book is important because of the manner in which it destabilises our perceptions of urban space. Some weeks later I stumbled across this inspirational THNKR video of illustrator and New York Times blogger Maira Kalman discussing the joy of urban walking and veering off the prescribed path. Ms. Kalman comments “I walk everywhere in the city. Any city. You see everything you need to see for a lifetime. Every emotion. Every condition. Every fashion. Every glory”.

The aim of Ms. Kalman’s street illustration and photography is strikingly similar to that of the poetry and prose we publish in StepAway Magazine. She is interested in walking, responding to, and recording the city around her – with feeling. Her work is about “waiting for the unexpected,” “being surprised”. She is attracted by what the passerby says and wears but also strives to peel back layer after layer of meaning from each urban tableau. Ms. Kalman is, in many respects, the consummate twenty-first century New York flanêuse.

In London, precious few street photographers can match the keen eye of Elena Alhimovich. Like Ms. Kalman, she is drawn by the character, charisma and individual style of the passerby, believing that “people are the only worthy subjects for photography (besides cats, of course)”. Her street portraiture has the uncanny knack of looking deep into a stranger’s soul. Her projects include: “Faces of Primrose Hill”“Londoners I met and liked” and “People and their Hats”. Ms. Alhimovich, whose work has featured in Vogue and the Guardian, generously agreed to donate a striking photograph for our Issue Seven cover. I doff my travel-worn trilby to her.

Discovering the work of Mr. Vitale, Ms. Kalman and Ms. Alhimovich highlighted the infinite number of ways in which we can observe, understand, represent and celebrate the city. It also confirmed that despite being a literary journal about urban walking, StepAway Magazine is in little danger of becoming repetitive or out dated. The city will always be the focus of human fascination. It will always surprise the walker and, in turn, inspire the walker to capture that surprise.

Our latest issue opens with “Muses over Manholes” by Murzban F. Shroff about a dejected writer walking in Mumbai. Breathless in Bombay, Mr. Shroff’s outstanding collection of fourteen short stories was recently included in the Guardian‘s ten best books set in Mumbai, alongside Salman Rushdie’s The Moor’s Last Sigh and Vikram Chandra’s Love and Longing in Bombay.

This is followed by Nidhi Zakaria Eipe’s short story “Found,” a saunter through downtown Santa Fe. Next up is Nancy Scott’s poem San Francisco Redux which skirts around City Lights Books. ”Mirth” by Justin Bond is a poetic wander by the Greyhound Bus station in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Donna Kaz’s poem “To Walk in LA” is an east coast walker’s comment on a west coast state of mind. ”Arbor Hill” by Noah Kucij is a springtime walk in Albany, New York. John M. Edwards’s “Over Six Billion Served” is a micro essay about poverty in Portland, Oregon. ”I Trust My Feet to Lead me” by Nicky Marsh is a solitary wander though a storm at nightfall. Sarah Dobb’s flash fiction “Drifting, Softening, Gone” follows the path of two lovers through the city. ”Dimestore Apocalypse” by Philip Tinkler excavates the seamy side of nocturnal Manhattan. Finally, ”Other Songs (in the Homesick City)” is a homesick saunter in Montreal.

Meanwhile, we have two new additions to Northern Wanderer. The first is an extract from the 1876 publication The Nightside of Sunderland. Urban sensationalism was all the rage in the mid to late nineteenth century. In New York, the journalist George G Forster explored the darker recesses of urban life, whilst in London Henry Mayhew cast his eye over the urban poor. Sunderland, it appears, was placed under similar scrutiny. A Sunderland Echo journalist known simply as ‘Dagoon’ took to the streets to shine a light upon drunkenness and prostitution. One of the few existing copies of this text is held in Sunderland Library. Local historian Norman Kirtlan has reprinted this fascinating text, complete with illustrations for the Sunderland Antiquarian Society. New copies are available here. Our second addition is a piece of flash fiction by Amy Ekins which explores life in Walker, a residential suburb to the east of Newcastle.

Before closing, I would like to congratulate StepAway Magazine contributor Richard Thomas on the publication of his new collection of short stories, Herniated Roots. I would also like to welcome Caroline Brown to the StepAway team, who will take on the role of Development Editor.

I hope that you enjoy our seventh issue. Happy reading!

Yours faithfully,

Darren Richard Carlaw