St. James's Park Tube, Broadway/Westminster Abbey exit | Map

Guided by David

Short version: "You never look at London, after these poems, in exactly the same way"  

Shorter version: "Poetry is what we do to break bread with the dead"

Image version: Love this image. Says it all. Is a crystallisation. I look at it I'm looking at my feelings about what happens when you bring poetry and London together. All by itself London's an enchanted forest. For me at any rate. Powerful medicine, this town. To it you add poetry – "words so nimble, so full of subtle flame" (as a great London poet put it four centuries ago) – and a group of like-minded London and literature lovers and it's... Well, it's like Keats 'first looking into Chapman's Homer" – we feel like "a watcher of the skies when a new planet swims into our ken" and "look at each other with a wild surmise."

Long version. Forty-five years in the making, this one. That's how long I (David) have been reading London poetry on a daily (well, near as dammit) basis. This walk's a distillation of that reading, that learning, that love, that curating (and, yes, that guiding and that university lecturing). It's significantly different from a "normal" London Walk. It's about the poems, their character, their music, their whys and wherefores, their positioning, their places. With light guiding along the way. Say it again: the poems feature; it's their show. We're going to let them resonate, let them breathe – not "fit them in", not caulk the cracks of a normal walking tour with a few poems. So, yes, light guiding betwixt and between each venue. And no, it's not just walking to various spots and spouting some poetry. There's "accompaniment" to these poems – I've curated them. So, yes there'll be some gentle touches to the tiller when the poems make their appearance. But, bears repeating, it's their show – I'm just the window through which you'll see them, the walk's the thread along which they're strung.*

Longer Long version. What else? Well, it's certainly fair to say this one's a labour of love. Pretty much haemorrhaging red ink on this walk because of "the handout." To wit: everybody on the walk will get a wonderful, substantial – and completely free** – portfolio of London poems. It runs to about 70 poems. It's very special. It's been privately printed (well, produced). A "limited edition." It's not for sale. It's not obtainable any other way. You, my poetry walkers, will be the only people in the world who'll have a copy. It matches up favourably – it's better than – any existing anthology of London poetry. It's got the big hitters, the most famous London poems – the Blake, Wordsworth, etc. classics – but there are other poets and poems who will be a complete – and thrilling – revelation to you. They're in there because of the unique circumstances of this anthology – in short, fitting poems to a London Walk and, the other side of that coin, fitting a London Walk to poems. In which connection, by the way, I strongly recommend that you bring a pen or pencil; it'll come in handy.

*Apply the Blue Plaque principle here. Blue plaques are wonderful. Be fun to do some magnetic resonance imaging of the brain when people see a blue plaque up ahead. Dollars to doughnuts it's some pleasure "node" of the brain that spotting a blue plaque stirs into action. Neurons lighting up, all a-bloom all-a-sudden. Because blue plaques say, "something special happened here" or "somebody special lived here." And the mental salivation starts. Well, in this instance, instead of a plaque it's a poem. And – this surely goes without saying – great poems do it infinitely better than plaque writers. Once you know that poem about the statue of Florence Nightingale, you'll never again see that statue in a ho-hum way, never again not hear the "word". Here are the lines:
 
                    I almost love you, Miss Nightingale,
                    for going to war against war,
                    and when you came home to London
                    you cut through soaking red tape.
 
Soaking red tape. One word. The shiver-up-the-spine word. 
 
Or those two lines about the Great Stink of 1858
 
                    In that summer of egg-rotten air,
                    the river was a damp corpse...
 
Great poems – it's like great actors or great artists or great guides – you just let 'em get on with it.
 
**Yes, completely free. Free poems that will set you free. With London Walks that word means what it says. We don't do bait-and-switch – you know, advertise something as free and then lean all over people for "tips" when they turn up to avail themselves of what's been advertised as "free."
 
You won't have any problem spotting me. In addition to the finest walking stick in London, I'll have a big roller bag (to carry the dozens of London Poetry books that rolled off the press a few weeks ago). Oh, and we won't "do" all 70 poems. That'd be impossible. We'll do maybe a dozen or so. The rest of 'em are "takeaways." For you to make the acquaintance of – and fall in love with (several of them) – in your own good time.

LONDON IN POETRY WALK – THE PRACTICALS

To go on the London in Poetry walk meet me, David, just outside the Broadway/Westminster Abbey exit of St. James's ParkTube. The walk takes place at 2 pm on Friday, December 28.

LONDON WALKS REVIEWS

"Even jaded Londoners find these London Walks a source of astonishing gems of information about the city in which they live."  Daily Mail, Top London Treats

"by far the most impressive series of walks that I have ever encountered are those offered by London Walks" Travel & Enjoy

 "London Walks puts you into the hands of an expert on the particular area and topic of a tour..." The New York Times

"one of the ten best tours in Britain" the Mail writing about littérateur and flaneur David's Dickens' Walk. (The Mail noted in passing that David's standing in matters Dickensian took him to Buckingham Palace to meet the Queen.)

LONDON WALKS PRIVATE WALKS

If you can't make one of the regularly scheduled, just-turn-up, public London in Poetry walks do think about booking one as a private tour. If you go private you can have the London in Poetry Walk – or any other London Walk – on a day and at a time that suits your convenience. We'll tailor it to your requirements. And – always with private London Walks and tours – we go to great lengths to make sure the guide-walker(s) "fit" is well-nigh perfect. Ring Fiona or Noel or Mary on 020 7624 3978 or email us at privatewalks@walks.com and we'll set it up and make it happen for you. A private London Walk – they're good value for an individual or couple and sensational value for a group – makes an ideal group or educational or birthday party or office (team-building) or club outing.

GIVE THE GIFT OF LONDON WALKS

A private London Walk makes a very special, indeed, unique gift – be it a birthday or anniversary or Christmas present or whatever. Merchandise schmerchandise (gift wrapped or not) – but giving someone an experience, now that's special. Memories make us rich.

IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THE GUIDING

"If this were a golf tournament every name on the Leader Board would be a London Walks guide"

LONDON WALKS – STREETS AHEAD!

Don't just take it from us.

THE FAMOUS WHITE LONDON WALKS LEAFLET

"Nah, don't need it, got it all here," you say. Er, roaming charges? Er, dead battery? Er, reading your phone in the bathtub and you drop it? [Smelling salts interval: sick as a parrot. ashen-faced.] Er, read the famous white leaflet in the bathtub and you drop it what do you do? Er, you dry it out. Anyway, maybe worth making a mental note that you can always pick up the famous white London Walks leaflet at the Cafe in the Crypt at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, the old church in Trafalgar Square. They're on the Information Table there, right by the box office. And indeed they also display them on the shop counter, right by the cash register. And it's win-win because the Cafe in the Crypt is one of the town's delights. Should be on everybody's London itinerary.