4 Poets from The Stepaway Magazine

4 Poets from The Stepaway Magazine

The StepAway Magazine is an online literary journal that publishes work reminiscent of Frank O’Hara’s flâneur poems from writers around the world – i.e. immediate, conversational pieces which, as the website puts it: ‘evokes the sensory experience of walking in specific neighborhoods, districts or zones within a city. This is flânerie for the twenty-first century.’ The aim is to ‘become an online repository of walking narratives . .  . in one thousand words or less.’

I have chosen four pieces, the best that I can find of the genre, though they’re not wholly successful. The problem, as I see it, is that we look for significance in description: the detached ‘innocent eye’ soon becomes rather boring.  The places have to mean something to us, through literary or historical associations, because they are germane to a story involving characters we care about, or because (the most difficult of all) through them we see the world afresh in compelling new outlines and colours. I don’t think any of the poems do achieve these ends – supposing they ever have them – but StepAway is a novelty on the poetry scene and deserves attention.

Gary Glauber is a widely-published poet, fiction writer, teacher, and music journalist. His Perfect Stranger can be read at: http://stepawaymagazine.com/archives/597

It’s lengthy piece, fifty odd lines, and opens by giving us the emotional background:

She remembers the day, the feeling,
as if it were some recent occurrence
and not a unique phenomenon
from twelve years prior.

And then the details: the subway ride home when she was reading Plath, how it had been a long day at the office, and then someone who suddenly appeared:

He got on there,
oblivious to the heat, the clamor, the anxious
hustle and bustle that delineated so many in this
trite urban panorama.

Their eyes meet, and she is immediately attracted. Looking back twelve years later:

It was electric, and mutual, a look that at once unleashed
a million untold secrets and harsh truths about loneliness
and inner longings, a chemical reaction that changed
its component elements forevermore.

But nothing comes of it. He disappears; she repeats the journey and thinks of advertising in Voice, but finally concludes:

Millions of stories
comprise the heart and soul of the naked city, and yet
some never even get started.  So many years later,
she still never wavers, knowing in fact he was the one.

Clearly, it’s rather prosy and cliché ridden, doesn’t tell us much about New York, or anything new about the human condition, but it’s doubtless what everyone has experienced at one time or another.

Elizabeth Swados is an award winning author and composer, with numerous theatrical credits both on and off Broadway. Her Kalid 2 can be read at: http://stepawaymagazine.com/archives/574
The poem is dense with Arabic, Persian and Jewish echoes but seems to be a tour of the ruins of a Moroccan Kasbah (i.e. inner city) led by the guide of the poem’s title. We note:

Tile red clay and strong marble floors
Intricate rugs woven with secret symbols
So rich so completely unexpected.

And various details: courtyard, balconies, room for the favourite wife, for concubines, where the marble came from, respect afforded the Jewish population, that there was also a court:

In this Kasbah was a court-Kalid
Showed me where
The King judged who was a criminal
Who should go free
The criminal beheaded on the spot.

Tomorrow the narrator with visit Berber nomads in breathtaking mountain scenery, but will not forget that she’s Jewish, and was born one of them. The last lines send us back through the sights:

I’m interested in the drums and metal castanets.
And the dreams of Kalid
Who was born as one of them.

In his wide range of interest – boxing, bull fighting, photographing hummingbirds in Tuscany, and the trumpeted sounds of Miles Davis – Van  G. Garrett is closer to O’Hara. His Walking: Postcard From The Ghetto Part 2 can be read at: http://stepawaymagazine.com/archives/1943

The opening lines set the tone: detached, matter of fact.

My feet know the sounds that bump off trashcans
And walls. The way bats echolocate.

With the observations calling up  odd thoughts:

The way Ray Charles saw.

And others in their turn:

Knowing what kind of dog it is by the way that it barks.
Doberman or other.

We turn down alley-ways with their graffiti:

This is where I see the light. The world.
Showing her breasts bursting through walls
Neon as billboards advertising the same vices

A tawdry but vibrant world that vanishes as daylight floods in:

When the sun seeps beautifully into cracks.

L.S. Bassen a published playwright and reviewer. His poem Gloves can be read here: http://stepawaymagazine.com/archives/2287 It is in five sections, the first starting in the wide avenues of New York, the second noting gloves left on a mannequin, which were of white kid leather such as his mother wore:

She’d kept them wrapped
in tissue in her bureau drawer, flattened
by a velvet box that held her pearls.
Bottles of perfume breathed her many moods
on the glass-topped bedroom bureau.

Which make him buy the things:

He went into the store
and bought the gloves,
size seven. Lucky seven.

That’s all: simple but charming.

You may want to catch up on Frank O’Hara’s work:

1. How I stopped worrying and learned to love Frank O’Hara by Ryan Ruby.  More Intelligent Life. August 2008. http://moreintelligentlife.com/frank-ohara
2. Frank O’Hara. Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_O’Hara

Four Poets from The Stepaway Magazine: L.S. Bassen, Van  G. Garrett, Elizabeth Swados and Gary Glauber

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