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The Hidden Wisdom Jon Sayers

Walking London: An Audio Tour with Tamar Yoseloff. A psychogeographical ticket giving you access to hidden parts of London and your own mind can be downloaded for just £5.00 from the Poetry School website. Magma puts it to the test.

“Thank you for purchasing our poetry walking tour — a one-person poetry workshop that takes place on the streets of London” offer the accompanying notes to Tamar Yoseloff’s audio tour of Clerkenwell and Bloomsbury.

The notes go on to list the names of sixteen writers and poets referred to during the tour, five poems, eleven prose works (four of them by Dickens), three artists, two artist’s models and one painting.

But this is not a tour that depends on monuments or landmarks, whether literary or physical. Dr Yoseloff’s calm, deliberately expressionless voice informs us that ‘the idea is to notice things we don’t normally notice when we’re immersed in our day to day activities’.

This is a tour of weeds and trees, lost rivers and ghostly rumours, car parks and bomb sites, drains and gratings, overpasses, underpasses, and, ultimately, your own imagination: we are invited to become psychogeographers, recording aspects of the city not featured in guidebooks or on maps, working at ‘the point where psychology and geography collide.’

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I’m excited and just a little apprehensive. Will I find any poems, or, at least, any ideas or scraps of language that might turn themselves into poems?

The tour is divided into eleven sections, each relating to one of its eleven locations, and each running a few short minutes. There’s forty-five minutes of listening material in all, and the tour took me two hours. But it would be easy to linger longer if you wanted to stop and do some extended writing along the way.

The walk begins at Chancery Lane tube on the corner of Greys Inn Road and High Holborn. Dr Yoseloff invites me to note the weather and traffic conditions. She draws particular attention to the single heraldic dragon that marks the boundary of the City of London. I open the new notebook I’ve bought for the occasion and begin:

A busy Friday. Midday. Early spring. Unusually warm. Overcoats and sunshine. Dampness. Cows, if any were visible, would be sitting down. Cars, bikes and heraldic dragon sparkle in hazy sun. A woman wearing a backpack walks along with an oar in one hand, and a raw block of wood under the other. A fruit stall. Bananas and strawberries. Yellow and red predominate.

No poem is suggesting itself yet. But I find that the woman with the oar, who perhaps would normally have escaped my attention, or been briefly

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