On Walking On looks outward onto—or rather, walks through—the work of various writers for whom walking was or is an important element of daily life. The number of writers who were or are serious walkers is striking, and the connection goes back to antiquity, more recently including Woolf, Nerval, Sand, Debord, Sebald, and many others.
Swensen’s exquisitely rendered images, unexpected syntax, and surprising line breaks give us the feeling of something ‘delicate falling to pieces,’ while at the same time, in its falling, ‘perfecting the scene.’
“American poet Cole Swensen’s latest is On Walking On (New York NY: Nightboat Books, 2017), a book-length suite of poems engaged in the subject of walking, from her own notes on the subject to her responses to a lengthy list of other works by Geoffrey Chaucer, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Dorothy Wordsworth, Henry David Thoreau, George Sand, Virginia Woolf, Thomas De Quincey, Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson, Gérard de Nerval, Guillaime Apollinaire, John Muir, Robert Walser, W.G. Sebald, Werner Herzog, Harryette Mullen and Lisa Robertson. The back of the collection includes a healthy bibliography, which Swensen introduces by writing: “This series hopes to honor the millennia-old connection between walking and writing without trying to be in any way definitive. It started with an interest in texts written by a number of writers about walks that they had taken and then branched out in various idiosyncratic ways. Idiosyncrasy, in the long run, became the only principle of both selection and order.”