Sunday, October 25, 2009

Technology vs. Typewriter

This semester, my MacBook Pro has been sitting off to the side while I write letters and draft poems on a manual typewriter. The typewriter is a requirement for a class that I am taking called The Poet Critic. Each student has a partner in the class, to whom we write letters discussing our reading assignments and anything else we may be reading, share what we have been working on, as well as anything else on our minds that we may find relevant to write about. Composing my poetry on a typewriter has been the real challenge for me. Copy-pasting is key to my editing process and somehow handwritten drafts had disappeared from my practice. The typewriter is bringing a few lovely things to my practice as a poet: 1) I have a physical copy of everything I write, every change I make. 2) I no longer spend an hour writing a sentence, deleting it and rewriting it (as I have been doing in writing this). I just write the sentence and move on. 3) I can’t check my Facebook every five minutes on my typewriter. 4) The physicality of using a manual typewriter is sort of fun.

I make oil paintings rather than Adobe Illustrator images, while a computer can do embroidery I spend painstaking hours making little French knots, why has my hand disappeared from my writing practice? I like my embroidery a little imperfect and a little oil paint in my hair, and I like seeing what color of gel pens I wrote poems in the 7th grade. Technology may be convenient but what of a practice is lost with it? I don’t even print out half of my poems. If my computer died tomorrow I would lose most of it completely. Maybe it is worthwhile to slow down, spend some time with my work, punching the typewriter keys.


Anna Gorman said...

That beautiful typewriter of yours makes me want one really bad. I think partly because the idea of a typewriter is so romantic and old fashioned. When you were having issues with your typewriter tape, I couldn't help but think about "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and how Holly gives Paul a typewriter ribbon as a make-up gift. It was in a little box with a little note and the whole idea was just nice.
It's really interesting that you bring up the notion of tangibility. As you know, the presence of my hand in my work is very important to me. Being able to hold something I've made is almost essential, which I think is another way of being in control of the things I make.
As someone who is growing increasingly interesting in developing my skills as a wordsmith (!!!), I'd like to follow suit and try using a typewriter. Maybe I would hate having to be so decisive or maybe it would be the perfect instrument for me. I think you should loan me your baby for a week next semester. It'll be like in high school where people carry around hollow eggs and baby dolls for a week, trying not to kill them.

SentlMenta1 said...

I agree so much on it being romantic and fun. I'd like to try typing with the typewriter too. What I really agreed with Jeni was that she would paint rather than an adobe illustration work.