Typewriter Poets

By Robert Messenger

For the typewriter aficionado on Instagram, it soon becomes apparent that typed poetry is trending big time. And around the world now, people are taking their typewriters to the streets to offer a typed poem service. I first saw this at the “I Am Typewriter” Festival in Melbourne seven years ago, when a smart young cross-dresser set up a Valentine’s Day poetry desk in the busy subway under the Flinders Street station.

One of the latest to join the throng is 20-year-old South American street artist Carlos, in Bogota, Colombia. At Aspen Grove in Littleton, Colorado, Ryan Ashley Knowles provides “Untouched Poetry” for donations during the weekly Paris Street Market, using a 1940s Smith-Corona portable. In New Orleans, Ben Aleshire is one of four “poets for hire” on the streets of the Faubourg Marigny neighbourhood. On Howard Street’s wide sidewalk in the Old Market of Omaha, Nebraska, Britny Doane types her poetry on a shiny Remington portable.

These are but a handful of the people meeting a worldwide need for poetry typed on demand. It’s not so much the poetry that appeals, as having it written an old technology before the customer’s very eyes. The home computer, laptop and printer can never match this form – try to imagine, if you can, e e cummings creating poetry with Word Doc! Impossible! And the craze obviously doesn’t necessarily encompass street performance, as the thousands of typed poems appearing on Instagram will readily attest.