Wednesday, June 10, 2009


We could devote an entire course to walk-writing in Philadelphia, exploring the long relationship between walking and writing as it relates to the city. Some sources that come to mind...

On walking in Philadelphia:
Hollis Alpert, "Philadelphia: Plans and Pigeons"
George Barton, Little Journeys Around Old Philadelphia
Charles Henry White, "Philadelphia"
Christopher Morley, Christopher Morley's Philadelphia

The streets of Philadelphia are generalized in Springsteen's eponymous song, but they're there in this sort of walk lyric:

Streets Of Philadelphia

I was bruised and battered I couldn't tell what I felt
I was unrecognizable to myself
I saw my reflection in a window I didn't know my own face
Oh Brother are you gonna leave me wastin' away
On the streets of Philadelphia

I walked the avenue 'til my legs felt like stone
I heard the voices of friends vanished and gone
At night I could hear the blood in my veins
Black and whispering as the rain
On the streets of Philadelphia

Ain't no angel gonna greet me
It's just you and I, my friend
My clothes don't fit me no more
I walked a thousand miles
Just to slip this skin

The night has fallen, I'm lyin' awake
I can feel myself fading away
So receive me brother with your faithless kiss
Or will we leave each other alone like this
On the streets of Philadelphia

While not a walk lyric, here are the lyrics to Neil Young's "Philadelphia." Also note what we were talking about the other day viz prosopopoiea ["making/giving face"] in the speaker's addressing the city as a person:


Sometimes I think that I know
What love's all about
And when I see the light
I know I'll be all right.

I've got my friends in the world,
I had my friends
When we were boys and girls
And the secrets came unfurled.

City of brotherly love,
Place I call home,
Don't turn your back on me
I don't want to be alone.

Someone is talking to me,
Calling my name,
Tell me I'm not to blame
I won't be ashamed of love.

City of brotherly love.
Brotherly love.

Sometimes I think that I know
What love's all about
And when I see the light
I know I'll be all right.

--Neil Young

Edgar Allen Poe's "The Elk/Morning on the Wissahickon"

Of course, there are many other examples of walk-based writings on Philadelphia, and I'll post more as I think of them.
And feel free to add to the list!

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