A Letter from the Editor
June 21st 2011
Welcome to Issue Two of StepAway Magazine.
I often wonder how the layout of a city determines our walking experience. Think of old world cities, Paris, for instance. Here the wanderer has the choice of strolling the grand boulevards, or exploring the meandering ruelles which evaded Hausmanisation. Cities such as London which have expanded almost organically, where narrow, twisting back alleys intersect with wide straight thoroughfares, bear a stark contrast to gridded cityspaces, where straight lines are chalked out long before the first foundation stone is set. It is somewhat simpler for the walker to lose his or her sense of direction in London, to wander unintentionally in circles, to confuse north with south. In midtown Manhattan, as with most New World cities, there is an inescapable rationality within the grid. The street numbers increase with northward movement, whereas the avenue numbers increase with westward movement. With this in mind, it is almost impossible for the walker to become truly lost when a grid reference can be found on almost every street corner. Similarly within the grid, the walker is faced with the same number of choices at the end of most blocks. He or she can either choose to turn directly left or right, continue straight ahead, or turn back on him or herself. In London, the number of choices are never certain. A tangle of capillaries: passages, lanes, arcades and alleyways all offer impromptu escape routes from the city’s main arteries. This too must have a bearing not only on how the walker moves through a city, but how the literary wanderer writes about a city. Do walking narratives set within the grid take on the stop-start rhythm of a crowd held or released by the walk/don’t walk sign at the end of each block? Is it easier to create a sense of being lost in a narrative set in an Old World city? These are questions to consider whilst reading issue two, where our contributors lead us not only through New York, Philadelphia and Chicago, but through Calcutta, Fes and Tirana.
In her review of our inaugural issue, Vanessa Willoughby of newpages.com noted that StepAway Magazine “crackles with city life and the energy of a world-curious adventurer”. That energy is perhaps more potent here in our summer issue, given the far flung destinations explored by our writers. We begin with a story by Richard Thomas, a critically acclaimed writer whose work has been anthologized alongside Stephen King and Peter Straub. Thomas’s story, “Daybreak” is set in Wicker Park, Chicago in the depths of winter. Thomas skilfully disturbs our perceptions of the walk, transforming it into a devastating act of catharsis, a manner of slipping from the emotional trappings of the urban carapace. Morelle Smith’s “Walking as Identity – Tirana” is a sensory stroll through the streets of the Albanian capital, whilst Vaughan Chapman’s charming “Kitsilano Portraits” has all the immediacy of a page of observations torn directly from the pocket notebook of a Vancouver flâneuse. Peter Taylor’s poem “Chicago Picasso” returns us to The Windy City. The poem is taken from a striking new collection by Taylor entitled Cities Within Us. This collection, as Taylor himself states, is a study of the “worlds and wars that we create within ourselves”. Gary Glauber’s poem “Perfect Stranger”, set in the New York subway, reads as a contemporary take on Baudelaire’s “À une passante”, capturing the fleeting nature of encounters in the metropolis. Debotri Dhar’s story “Calcutta, by foot” follows two lovers as they explore the “delicious little nooks and bends” of the West Bengal capital together. In Elizabeth Swados’s poem “Kalid 2” we are escorted through the Moroccan city of Fes and its surroundings by a local tour guide. Swados imagines the hidden city, the private spaces which exist behind stout wooden doors, the ancient ruined city of courts and concubines, and the villages and nomadic camps which lie beyond the margins of the city in open desert. William Doreski’s timely “Deep in Recession” is a poem set in Boston, it too features a tour guide, in this case one that has lost her banking job and is forced to show tourists around the city’s landmarks. Doreski’s Boston glimmers with consumer luxuries all of which are moved further from reach as a result of the economic climate. Meanwhile, Cheryl Chambers’s poem “A Woman: Tres Partes” sashays its way through the nocturnal barrio. Debonair Oates-Primus’s “In Transit: Confessions from the Conscience of a Blackened Street” is set in her home neighbourhood in Philadelphia. Her work is a study of compassion and community in what is perceived by the mass media to be one of the city’s poorest and most dangerous enclaves. Finally, Amy Schreibman Walter’s “On Christopher Street” takes the form of a lament for a lover lost in the New York crowd.
Our cover shot was kindly donated by the distinguished American photographer, Roger Minick. Minick’s photography has featured in Life magazine and is held in collections at The Metropolitan Museum, and MoMA. Having embarked on his first major photography project in 1966, a study of the landscape and communities of the Sacramento San Joaquin River Delta in California, his body of work offers a fascinating and detailed study of America and its people. Our cover shot is taken from his new book “Subway Dreaming”. In this project Minick shot his work candidly using an iPhone whilst travelling on the New York subway. I would like to personally thank Roger for allowing us to use his photograph.
I would also like to thank all of you who sent messages of support to StepAway Magazine following the release of issue one. We are truly grateful for your kind words, and for supporting us via our Facebook page. We wish to express our gratitude to each of you personally in our acknowledgements section.
Now, it is time to let the work of our talented writers speak for itself. Enjoy reading.
Darren Richard Carlaw