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

Out, Walking John Welch

'City walking is the freedom of anonymity,' writes Iain Bamforth in his article 'The Future of the Walk' (PNR 163). Well, I called my first collection of poems Out Walking and I connect the sense of possibilities its writing represented for me back then with starting to live in inner London. A day in early autumn perhaps with a sense of the trees beginning to change and all those miles of quiet Victorian brickwork, and it was as if I could slip through a crack in the day, like the protagonist of a story I once tried to write, moving out into the sunlight of the streets feeling safe from harm. 'Moving alone and anonymous round the town was what he liked' I wrote, 'stepping clear of timetables and intentions - it gave him a sense of freedom, all the more so on a weekday when others were at work. Going out into the street then was like embarking on a piece of writing and not knowing where you would end up. Connected with this autonomy was a sense of his own absence, as if, being nowhere, he could be everywhere. At any moment he could dive into the Underground and surface in whatever part of the city he chose.' I sense something of this now in Atget's photographs of Paris taken in the 1920s, as if my solitude were confronting the picture's solitude. Even the small crowd of people here in this photo graph ...


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