I bought a vintage Webster manual typewriter the other day. I’d had my eye out for one on a good deal ever since watching A Place of Truth about Abi Mott, a wandering poet that writes poems for tips. I didn’t think I’d actually enjoy writing on it, but I thought it would make a good performance prop. Today I opened it up and fiddled with it.
At first I couldn’t imagine using it for writing. This little Webster is cute, but I really had to slam the keys down to get it to write. I set it out on the picnic table outside and asked Mr. Smith to give me a topic for a poem on demand. In the middle of changing the RV’s water filter, he suggested “filtered water.”
I started typing, slamming keys down, creating a poem. The sun was setting, and a dragonfly swooped me, pausing for a moment on the Webster to watch. My fingers didn’t glide across the keys like on my computer, but there was something alluring in the feeling that I was building a poem physically. By the poem’s end, I was feeling fond of the clunky way of writing. I gave him his poem, on actual paper, the only copy in the world.
I doubt I’ll ever be writing a book on “Webster,” but I can see bringing him along to book signings. I love the idea of poetry as an interactive effort between reader and writer. I want to come up with a series of poems created in different environments, inspired by a variety of people.
Who knows where Webster and I might go? All I know for now is I like him a lot more than I thought I would.