Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

Run by HappenStance Press

A History of Walking, Lydia KennawayThe jacket is cream in colour. All print is black and centred, starting with the title in caps. Below this a small ornament, then the author's name in lower case italics. Then silhouettes of the soles of two feet, with handwritten words in white lined across them (words from one of the poems inside). Below this the publisher's name in small caps.

HappenStance Press, 2019   £5.00

Craving and Loss

In A History of Walking, Lydia Kennaway asks us to slow down; really slow down. Then step by walking-pace step, she invites us to face the harsh truth that each of us is driven by the complex yin and yang (or yang and yin) of craving and loss:

Walking starts not in the feet
or in the legs or the inner ear
but in the eyes.
I want is the small fierce
engine of mobility.
    [‘Sumo’]                                                                    

The poet suggests (in ‘The Invention of Walking’) that we’re made ‘to crave the having and dread / the losing’, so prompting us to ponder how this applies, or has applied, in our own lives.

Guiding us further, she shows us that loss is not always bad. In the poem ‘Inuit Anger Walk’, the narrator says:

I am a furnace in the snow.
I have been given my anger-stick
and told to go plant it
where and when my flames
have turned to embers

and so I walk
past my people who know
          to look away. I walk [ ... ]

Only when ‘the heat spills from my eyes’ does the narrator ‘drive the stick into / the yielding snow and / turn to face the cold / walk home’.

In contrast, in ‘Las Locas’ — in the oppressive heat —  loss is definitely not a good thing. ‘Standing or sitting is forbidden. / So we walk. Every week, / we walk in the Plaza in circles.’ Speaking for herself, and for the women who walk with her, the narrator says:

We refuse the black mantilla
until we know. We have
asked the questions. We have
listened to the lies. Now
we write history with our feet.

Reading this pamphlet reminded me that whenever craving or loss enters my life, or the lives of people I care about, I need to walk towards it, step by walking-pace step; then be brave enough to do, or say, or let myself feel whatever the situation requires.

Sue Butler