The prompt for this week’s walk arose out of a conversation with an artist and friend in Turkey (Ceyda Oskay) suggesting that she hand-print letters into a book to form our third poetry collage. We began talking about collaboration and books made from fabric, hand-printed or stitched into and taken for a walk. Houses became numbered books on pavement shelves each with its own unfinished story. I am walking along the outside edge of a private library where books can be borrowed by special invitation only. Parted curtains are teaser illustrations. On the flood plain the volumes are suspended above the water table and I walk to the forceful, rhythmic sound of the pile driver, compressing giant concrete blunt needles into the strata of the earth. No library hush here.

I step off the human-made shelf into mud. The straight lines of the catalogued world are replaced by a tangle of shoots, twigs and branches. The shelf is no longer stable and the edge between above and below is blurred. An intricate network of underground communications speaks from the past to the libraries of the future. Words on the screen have done enough for now and I reach for fabric and images from the walk that I printed out and ironed onto interfacing.  A sensory tussle ensues, sewing and unpicking the threads, re-sewing, pressing. Stitches reaching to the underside, catching loose threads. Sewing decisions mix with chance in a way that writing does not. The back and forth of walking, sewing and writing begins to feel like a means of balancing different ways of thinking, feeling and travelling, from one side to another.


Week 2 of Walking beyond words generated a poetry collage that demonstrated how meanings can shift dramatically through the choice of layering. The single word ‘Earthquake’ contributed from a walker in Turkey and used by another participant as the title of the poem, injected a friction into other people’s words. When words are gifted, how gently do we tread? These walks about our smallness and the interconnectedness of everything must inevitably take us beyond the walk as a relaxing, reflective activity and into the movement, muddiness and messiness of the earth.

I hoped that the walks would provide a springboard for my individual writing as well as enabling my contribution to the group poem to emerge.  The poem ‘Earthquake’ is not yet available for public circulation, but I reflect on the words that I formed together into my own shorter poem:

Walking in step with the pile-driver

Compacting into the earth,

The soles of my feet grow gravity roots

Holding me on the surface of a spinning sphere

Water dilutes earth into slippery mud

A liminal entry point into the ground

Blurring the edge between above and below

An unstable anchor.

Now I can see that the ‘Earthquake’ poem pushes deeper into the stuff that I had already tentatively prodded. The act of collaging the words perhaps has the power to reveal what we did not know was there or to push us deeper into our thinking.



Exploring our smallness and the interconnectedness of everything

Today is the beginning of Walking Beyond Words.

In this series of 52 weekly walks we are walking alone, knowing that others are walking also. It is a kind of solitary companionship, one that allows for the reflective, unpressured experience of solo walking, to be combined with the sense of belonging that comes from feeling part of a communal activity.

This best of both worlds has arisen through simultaneous walking activities during lockdown (e.g. Walks with[out] edges and PORTAL walks), but was also present in earlier collaborations such as ‘If the Cloud allows’ which involved people walking in a circle in Cambridge, UK and Basra, Iraq with a shared view of the moon.

The ecological themes emerging from earlier walks feed into the simple prompts for these walks which give the Walk an active role. They draw attention to the interactive, vibrant energy of everything in and around us.  The idea is that the prompts might help to reframe our walks and challenge our human-centred perspective.

The first walk is The Walk smiles at you.

Those who walk with the prompts are invited to send up to 10 words after the walk. These responses to the walk are formed into a poetry collage which is sent out with the prompt for the following week. Not everyone will walk each week or send words, and there is no pressure to participate. 20 people are currently receiving the weekly emails, including people in India, Turkey, the USA and the UK. Walkers are invited to suggest prompts and share the creation of the poetry collages.

The prompts are like little experiments. We might intimate from the responses, how they help us to re-imagine our connectedness. In this way we are researching how words can activate different experiences of walking.

This project is a collaboration between Aya Hastwell, Sally Stenton and all the walkers who are participating.

The project is affiliated to Experimental Space Collective [esc], an international, artist collective.

If you would like to find out more and/or join the project please get in touch via the contact page on my website.