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This article is taken from PN Review 173, Volume 33 Number 3, January - February 2007.

Walking Downtown M.G. Stephens

In his essay entitled 'Walking', Henry David Thoreau notes that the walking of which he speaks has nothing to do with 'taking exercise, as it is called, as the sick take medicine at stated hours, - as the swinging of dumbbells or chairs; but is itself the enterprise and adventure of the day'. If you need exercise, he says, go in search of the springs of life. Thoreau goes on to say that you should walk 'like a camel, which is said to be the only beast which ruminates when walking'. Then Thoreau goes on to give an anecdote about Wordsworth, and a traveller who asked to see the master's study. The servant said, 'Here is his library, but his study is out of doors.'

The poet, folk singer and political activist Ed Sanders has observed that, living on the Lower East Side in the early 1960s, walking was the way to experience the city, not just as a curious inhabitant, but as a poet, even a spiritual person. In talking of his influences, he credits his poetry friends this way:

So, how much was the influence? Quite a bit, O'Hara particularly - those city walking poems - of which Ron Padgett is also a master - of the gazing around while you're walking - it's a variety of the Buddhist pacing meditation type of thing that Gary Snyder picked up on in Mountains and Rivers without End, the idea of walking through ...


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