A series of collaborative and hand-typed poems by Raimondas Valasevičius which accompany the visual works of artist and peer Conor Broderick.
What the hell is that thing?
Does that thing have a cord
Do you think it’s 1952 or something?
I am used to puzzled reactions. After all, I am the only person using a manual typewriter at my facility. In fact, I’m the only person who has used one here for the past seven years.
My first day on the job in the library was in June of 2015. There they sat. Three dust covered Olivetti MS 25 Premier Plus manual typewriters. Between the three of them, I was able to cobble together one working machine. I was thrilled. I’ve always loved the look of a manual typewriter’s font, even when I used one in highschool in the pre-computer days. But it wasn’t just the look of the type.
In this place, where I own almost nothing, the Olivetti felt like it was mine. I fixed it, after all. I found an old cloth typewriter ribbon and laboriously dragged each inch of it across an ink stamp pad from the library to breathe life into the dry fabric. I repaired it over and over through the years. And repaired it some more: with screws from the carpentry shop, epoxy from the plumbers, and tape from the book repair shop. In a place where nothing is mine, this is mine.
There is a sense of physical creation that comes from using this old beast. Electricity does none of the work. The pressure from my fingertips applies the ink to the page. I control the spacing with my hands. I slide the carriage back to start a new line. There is a difference between a person painting a picture on a computer program with a mouse and a keyboard connected through a USB port and a person with a brush in hand pressing the paint to a canvas. Both are creating art, of course. But I cannot help but feel that the painter who dips his brush in the oil and touches it to the canvas is also putting some piece of himself in his painting. His fingerprint, his soul. His imperfections and his talent. On the Olivetti, there is no electricity in the way between me and the paper. I put myself on the page.
There are the little pleasures as well… the quirky space bar. The way the letter “i” takes as much space as the letter “m”. The way I can affect line spacing by carefully half-turing the slide carriage bar. The way there is no backspace key, no delete… just like life. Re-typing my work into a computer would be possible. But could it catch the spacing as I saw it onto the page? Would it show the smudges? Would it be imperfect enough?
I’ll stick with the Olivetti MS 25 Premier Plus. As long as I can keep her running…
Mouse through to see both artists’ pieces side by side: