My son got a bee last year for a vintage typewriter and the search turned into a full fledged collection. Lovely old manual machines he found at dusty antique shops and stalls. He’s been a tinkerer all his life, a musician, good with this hands, so he cleans them up, fixes what needs fixing, learns their history, and sometimes passes them along for a fair price. You can see his growing collection here at Tumblr.
Earlier this fall as I was continuing my poetry postcard project into indefinitely, I decided I needed a typewriter, and bless his heart, he showed up with one and then he and his darling wife gave it to me for my birthday in October.
Its a beautiful 1946 portable Royal “Quiet Touch” in wonderful condition, a beautiful lacquered tweed case trimmed in heavy leather. I’m learning how to type again on real keys, you have to press on with real finger muscles. OMG! Beautiful glass keys like the great poets typed on, real ink on real paper, real tap-tap-tapping, and the beautiful little ding when you get to the end of the line and have to slide the carriage back. Nothing automatic. No deleting. No spell checker. No auto-correct, thank you very much! Every goof right there on the page. I guess Hemingway loved this typewriter, they say. Me too.
I was three when this machine was made as the company went back into production after the war. Imagine. A machine 68 years old that still works and wonderfully. Came out of a different time, a different mind-set about things lasting.
So now in the early mornings when I get up, get my coffee and my wrap over my shoulders against this chill weather, out in my sunroom where I can see the sky, the stars, the dark, stillness of the trees, I begin typing. Barely visible, I press my fingers into the keys and let some kind of little poem write itself on the page. I let all the mistakes just be and actually I’m getting better even tho I kind of like the roughness of faulty typing. The spaces and wrong letters and dropped characters. This morning as I sat down I heard the neighborhood owl right outside. So, here’s today’s Typewriter Poem photographed by candlelight with my iPhone. Strange kind of bridging of the mechanical and digital ages.
The intention here is not to write a great poem, a crafted poem, a be-labored poem. But to let the fingers, the morning, the keys work together to bring something forward into the articulated day. A little poem you could paste onto a postcard if you wanted to, maybe. As I have done in the last weeks. A witnessing of the hour, brief, quiet, solitary, chill. Too soon vanished in the rising day. These dawn poems at an old typewriter to press a memory onto the shifting page of time so it won’t be forgotten. An owl. The stars. The candle. Me awake in it.