A Letter from the Editor
March 21st 2011
Welcome to Issue One of StepAway Magazine.
Who was the first writer to bring a city to life for you? I vividly remember my first reading of William Blake’s “London”, and the unique experience of being transported directly to the streets of the nineteenth century capital. Furthermore, the poem reminded me of when, as a child, my father and mother first took me to London. I held my father’s hand tightly and peered curiously at the passersby. Faces stared back at me, only to be torn away forever by the pace of the city. As a young reader, Blake’s “London” forged for me a bridge between the urban present and past. I found the same fear and fascination on the page as I did whilst walking with my parents in the city. Fashions change, as do urban topographies, yet the sensation of being immersed in a crowd is timeless.
I was later introduced to the term ‘flâneur’, which, in my teenage years led me to read Guillaume Apollinaire, Charles Baudelaire, and Walter Benjamin amongst many others. I marvelled at the manner in which these writers guided their reader through the streets of the old world cities. It was my particular admiration of Poe’s “Man of the Crowd,” however, that led me to write a doctoral thesis about the New York flâneur. “Man of the Crowd” was set in London, yet not having visited the British capital, Poe drew upon his experiences in nineteenth century New York. I began to seek out other American writers that employed the flâneur device in their work.
Immediately, I noticed clear differences between the old world and new world literary wanderers. For example, whereas Baudelaire thrived on being within yet apart from the crowd, Walt Whitman’s view proved far more egalitarian. I drew upon work such as Allen Ginsberg’s “Mugging”, Frank O’Hara’s “A Step Away from Them”, along with David Wojnarowicz’s Close to the Knives and Sarah Schulman’s Girls, Visions and Everything. Each of these writers employed walking narratives in their work, yet, after close examination it became clear that in being transposed onto the New World city, the classic nineteenth century Parisian flâneur device had become something else. The wanderers found in these works were not aristocratic dilettantes bound to wander on account of their boredom; they had taken to the streets due to poverty, necessity, or simply to cruise. My studies revealed the manner in which the literary flâneur had evolved into many diverse genera: the social analyst, the urban collector, the drifter, the voyeur, the stalker, and the auto-flâneur, amongst many others.
This is where StepAway Magazine begins. It is our aim to perpetuate the evolution of the walking narrative. We urge our writers to submit work which forges pathways through the cityplace.
We are open to work which embraces the classic forms of flânerie, but we are also fascinated by writers that reject such forms completely. Our first call for submissions was met with an overwhelming response. On behalf of everyone at StepAway Magazine, may I express our gratitude to each of the writers who considered us as a home for their work. The standard of submissions was exceptionally high. Please do not lose heart if your work was not accepted on this occasion. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our contributors, without whom we would not have been able to publish what we believe to be a remarkable first issue.
Our guest author for issue one is a writer for whom I hold great admiration – the novelist, historian and playwright, Sarah Schulman. Her story “WHY NOT?” is set in Los Angeles and views the city from the position of an outsider; a New Yorker who has ventured out to the west coast for “money, meetings and a girlfriend”. Issue one also contains a wealth of finely crafted poetry and prose by both new and recognized writers. Matthew Hittinger’s “Füße: Umlauts, Eszetts, A Step” offers a contemporary response to Frank O’Hara’s “A Step Away from Them”. Jaydn deWald’s experimental poem “Tour, Anti-” blurs the divide between cityspace and cyberspace. “Cat People #9: Tales of Manhattan” by Kyle Hemmings is a surreal paper chase through the streets and apartments of a salacious New York City. Joan McNerney’s “street corners” is a strikingly minimal study of urban living, suffocation, and a meld of the natural and the synthetic. David Gaffney’s “Effective Calming Measures” set in Poole, England, examines life in the edgelands, those artistically overlooked spaces that fall between the cityscape and the countryside. “Urban Poetics” by Changming Yuan is a witty exploration of a city brought to life by poetic terminology. Tom Sheehan’s “A short look at the Great God Shove,” shows us Boston’s Charlestown in the nineteen thirties through the eyes of a seven-year-old boy. Meanwhile, P.A. Levy’s poem “Home to Roost” offers a seamy stroll through nocturnal London and Gem Andrew’s “The Small Mouth Bass” juxtaposes small town America and the big city, in order to describe two contrasting states of isolation.
We hope that you enjoy reading the work of these talented writers as much as we did, and we look forward to receiving your comments and submissions for our following issue.
Darren Richard Carlaw
Thank you to everyone involved in the creation of issue one, particularly our small team of learned readers, web designers and the artist I. Martin for donating her striking cover image. I would also like to thank James Annesley, John Beck, Jon Balmer, Linnie Blake, Paul Coulthard, Immy Humes, Jim Jones, Elena Kharlamova and Donna Wylie for their support, advice and inspiring conversations.
I would also like to express my gratitude to all of those who were eager to show their support for StepAway Magazine in its very early stages: Hannah Boylin, Keith and Heather Carlaw, Heather MacLeod, Ala Reutter and Lucy Sherwood.
Very special thanks to Irene Carlaw for her steadfast support, encouragement and belief.
Finally, thank you to Elena for her patience and tender devotion.
Issue One is dedicated to Dennis Carlaw and the art of drawing boxes.