The Step is the Foot

Interesting review by Alan Price in the Fortnightly.  And now another great review – In SANGLAP – Indian literary magazine – written by Swati Joshi.

Anthony Howell interviewed by Scott Thurston – Stride Magazine

Scroll down for more info and other reviews and comments.

Dance and its relationship to poetry

Very nice review at LOVEREADING


This consummately fascinating study into the relationship between dance and poetry – the “step” of dance, and the “foot” of verse – presents a complex, intricate interlacing of disciplines. Dappled with personal anecdotes alongside probing evolutionary questions, historical depth and contemporary insights, it is at once thought-provoking and engaging.

The author’s experience as both a dancer and poet inform his unique investigation. He ascribes his long-held passion for both to a deep-rooted childhood awareness of rhythm: “Rhythm is common to both pursuits. Increasingly I have come to feel that dance is a language and that language is a dance.” I found the “Which Came First?” chapter especially compelling. The author’s exploration of humankind’s transition to bipedalism and language takes in fascinating linguistic and archaeological theories, and links the shift to bipedalism to the development of reflective thought, and to walking as an expressive activity. 

Suffused in spirited intellectualism and a global perspective, this is a must-read for anyone interested in poetry, dance and exploring the history of humanity through the lens of the arts.


Buy it on Ebay with Paypal

Trade sales through Phoenix Publishing House

Dear Anthony,

My initial enthusiasm was not misplaced. Your book falls into my ideal category of the “unpublishable”. (I have one such in my bottom drawer). What I’m saying is that there is not a single commercial publisher that would touch this book and for this alone it is commendable. I don’t always share your viewpoints, and sometimes not your enthusiasms either. I remember going to see an exhibition of ice age objects at the British Museum and feeling troubled by some of the descriptions saying this or that object was probably used for purposes of performance art. I don’t think one can convincingly apply that label. It is just too modern a notion and carries too much baggage for it to ever feel true for me. Ritual, yes, certainly and of course ritual has its aesthetic. Also I’m afraid I have virtually no sympathy for Freud who falsified so much in order to demonstrate his various theories. Years ago, I began to write about this but found the subject too depressing to be able to continue. The essays on art and literature are absolutely riddled with untruths and I don’t think they were innocently applied.

This said … this said … I think The Step is the Foot is an incredible achievement, full of insight and never less than fascinating; it is also a window into your creative world. Beautifully written, it is revelatory in so many ways that I felt myself continually pushed in one direction and then another. It is provocative in the best sense of the word while at the same time generous in its inclusiveness. I simply loved the section on the threshing floor dance, which can be so easily translated to the tammurriata as performed at the religious festas on the slopes of Vesuvius and which has it origins in Dionysian rites. And your words on the tango are beautifully expressed. A couple of years ago I read an academic book on the history of the tango which, although informative, doesn’t come close to what you manage to say in a few paragraphs. It is, and will remain, one of my “secret” books, and certainly one of the best I’ve read in ages. Once again, thank you for this wonderful and important gift.

As ever,

Marius Kociejowski 

There is also an interesting article on Nietzche’s interest in dance 

This touches on some of the same notions that engage The Step is the Foot.

8 thoughts on “The Step is the Foot

  1. I have enjoyed reading “The Step is the Foot.” I have often found that walking has helped to string words together. The rhythm of walking helps bring words to the surface. After reading about walking and words, it occurred to me that tracking animal footprints in prehistoric times, might also have contributed to shaping ideas in a line. One winter, after it had snowed, I tracked several different animals and tried to work out their movements. I followed a fox track around the edge of a field and then it suddenly divided. One track continued round the edge and the other cut across to the centre. What magic was that? Vixen and dog had been walking in line, treading carefully in each other’s footprints, until one of them had changed direction. Tracking, reading steps, was like reading words to understand. Best wishes
    Laurence Smith


    1. Peter Porter often wrote his poems while walking in Hyde Park. And I am sure you are right, Laurence, tracking would have contributed to the developing of the sequencing side of our nature. Very good point.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s