Three Poems on a Typewriter

Carlo has many artist friends. Naturally, they know him by one of his many aliases – Robert the Lover, Diego the Master Swordsman, and Douglas the Butcher – as he knows them by theirs. On this particular night, one of his artist friends, a man we will simply call ‘N’, asked Carlo if he knew anyone who might want to participate in a fundraiser for ‘N’s theater company, The Claque. Carlo immediately thought of me. The idea to write impromptu poetry for money came to Carlo after his friend asked if Carlo would like to be auctioned off as part of the fundraising. Carlo often told me that I had moderately good looks and an even higher sapiosexuality quotient, so he thought writing love poetry on the spot would be a perfect way to attract a suitable woman and mate. And to even raise some money for The Claque.  

‘N’ had a Sears typewriter that he’d found in his parents baseement. It was non-electrified and white, and the carrying case was cornflower blue. It must have weighed fifteen to twenty pounds. When he first presented it to me, I laid it out on his kitchen table. At first, I babbled onto the page. All I wanted was to get a feel for the keys, the weight of a letter, the immediate imprint onto the page. Then I tried copying someone’s else’s words:


Poems being written on a typewriter

“my love is building a building
around you, a frail slippery
house, a strong fragile house
(beginning at the singular beginning

of your smile) a skilful uncouth
prison,a precise clumsy
prison(building thatandthis into Thus,
Around the reckless magic of your mouth)” – e.e. cummings

While I knew there was something different about this method of composition, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I continued to experiment with the typewriter at home. The night of the party approach, and I felt totally unprepared. In order to focus my work and the poems, Carlo suggested that I provide order forms asking the poem-recipient for something they loved and something they hated. The first two entries provided were as follows: Love – magical unicorns, Hate – games. The finished product was surprising and unexpected.

Poetry Order Forms; Liz Clayman Photography -

The idea of writing on a computer word-processor felt sterile and diffuse. The letters and the composition of words into sentences had a severe sense of gravitas with the weight of each key and the immediate impression onto the page. Over the next week, as I familiarized myself with the typewriter, I began to see how the scroll of the page became a process. I could scroll down a few lines and start over with my my rough draft above it. I’m sure many of you right now are thinking, “Can’t you do the same thing with a computer word processor?” Sure, you have the option to do so, but the impulse is to edit out, to erase. Because of the immediacy of the typewriter, it has to flow more. One has to move on from the previous word or line. This lead to alternating modes of writing, from a furious almost reckless pace to a more careful and thoughtful way of writing. The poems written that night were some of my best, and I was able to raise a whopping twenty-something dollars for The Claque. The poems are laid out below:

Hate: Flying - Love: My new baby Zooey

Love: Magical Unicorns, Hate: Games (Names have been changed to protect the intimate)

Hate: Anything generic, Love: Surprise Warm Berry Pie


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