A Letter from the Editor
December 21st 2012
Welcome to Issue Eight.
In the months which followed the publication of our previous issue, we witnessed the awesome and terrifying power of nature as Hurricane Sandy bore down on America’s eastern seaboard. As the superstorm made landfall we kept a close eye on Twitter. Hari Kunzru tweeted: “One by one, New York area sites are going dark – Gawker, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post #sandy.” Minutes later Occupy Wall Street tweeted “the lights are flickering” followed by the BBC’s Laura Trevelyan tweet “#sandy lights out in Lower Manhattan”. And so, we watched from afar as a megacity was momentarily closed down. Trading stopped. Transport stopped. Even New York based internet sites went dark.
In most instances the construct of the contemporary metropolis serves to shelter its inhabitants from all but the most powerful forces of nature. The wealthiest need rarely venture outdoors, making use of underground carports, chauffeurs and helipads. For the rest of us, when it rains we take a cab. Or we duck into the subway or the underground. As long as we have spare change in our pockets there is no need to bear the brunt of the weather. On a daily basis, it is perhaps only the homeless that live at the true mercy of urban nature. We look down from our apartments and admire the beauty of a frosted winter street, but for the destitute an unexpected drop in temperature is a potential brush with death.
As much as Sandy demonstrated New York’s ability to rally in a time of crisis, it also served to emphasize the ultimate fragility of our urban spaces. When we walk in cities, nature may recede from us and yet it is ever present in its beauty and in its threat.
The theme of urban nature – bloom and decay – is laced into the very fabric of issue eight. Our writers take us atop New York’s High Line and beneath the rusting tracks of an elevated railway, through the flora and fauna of west coast suburbia and down into the gutter where thistles push up through the asphalt.
Our cover is courtesy of Sherry Karver and is entitled: “Webcam at 45th & Broadway, Winter”. The scene is a New York winter as captured by the Earthcam.com streetcam. In her Surveillance Series the artist recognizes webcams as the “historians of our contemporary era” on account of the manner in which they “capture us in our everyday lives…usually unaware that we are being observed. Webcam captures form Ms. Karver’s creative starting point – all of her work in this series is a combination of photo images, oil paint and resin surface on wood panels. StepAway readers may wish to explore Ms. Karver’s portfolio, particularly her Urban City Series which ingeniously combines street level city views with superimposed flash fiction biography of her pedestrian subjects.
Issue eight opens on a festive note with Gina Williams’s poem “Silver Bells”, a wonderfully woozy, boozy wander through nocturnal New York. Phillip Dacey’s “With Apologies to Grant Wood” transposes an iconic image of 20th century art onto 21st century street level Manhattan. Tina Barry then takes an elevated wander through the Big Apple in her three linked prose poems “The High Line, New York City”.
Brenda Yates’s “Walking is the First Meditation” transports us to L.A., a city which she feels is best described by Woody Allen’s character Alvy Singer in Annie Hall: “my feet haven’t touched the pavement since I reached Los Angeles”. Her poem is a quiet contemplation of the natural world whilst walking in suburbia. Meanwhile the industrial rhythm of James Scott’s “Metallic Heart” rings out like a mantra as he takes a walk beneath the elevated railway tracks.
The themes of urban decay and the reclamation of the city by nature are amplified in Carol Lavelle Snow’s “Ghost Town” and Tamara Sellman’s “While in Chicago”. We remain in The Windy City for George H. Northrup’s “Chicago: on the bus, off the bus” an anecdotal poem which examines the distance between urban commuters.
We then leap to Liberia where Althea Romeo-Mark examines visibility outsidership and threat in her creative non-fiction piece “A Morning at Waterside, Monrovia, Liberia”. Catherine Simpson’s “Caffé Trieste on San Pablo” then examines the act of seeing and being seen as the poet plays at being the flâneuse, while Jerry Ratch’s “The Bum and His Shopping Cart, Giving Up His Ways” observes homelessness on the city streets. We close this issue in the City of Light with Enid Becker Smith’s “Paris” – a painter and writer’s homage to the sensory pull of her favorite city.
And on that note, I think that it’s about time that I left you to explore our fantastic winter edition of StepAway. Shelter from the weather, have a warm and wonderful festive period – we look forward to catching up with you in the Spring.
A very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year from everyone here at StepAway Magazine!
Darren Richard Carlaw