Years after we thought typewriters had become obsolete, an exhibition reveals they still have considerable charm.
The Joe McCauley Gallery at Heartland Community College hosts “Typo(etry): Poems, Images and Typewriters,” currently up through May 3. Poems composed on vintage typewriters line the walls of the small gallery space. There’s a typewriter station where visitors can perch themselves before a classic 1940s Royal KMM manual typewriter. Forget the delete key; there’s a wastebasket nearby for mistakes and typos.
Gallery Coordinator Danell Dvorak teamed with English professor Cathy Gilbert to assemble the show, which includes works from faculty, staff and students.
“I love poems, the shapes of poems,” said Dvorak. “Having poems typewritten by the actual poet makes them very singular objects.”
Creative writing professor Gilbert called on Ekphrastic poetry, which is inspired by visual art, to help inspire her students. “It seemed like a really interesting concept to look at the poems as visual art on their own. Poems take a shape on the page and they become art, especially when we type them on a typewriter.”
For many of the students, working with a typewriter was a new and interesting experience. Breanne Penn and Quinnie Calvert are students and design interns in marketing.
“I’m just a digital kid,” Calvert confessed.
This show was her first experience working on a typewriter. “But I was really excited to come in and try something new. I love vintage things, and this is a nice gateway into the past.”
Growing up, Penn had a typewriter.
“It was electric, not manual. So, I was interested in learning how to set margins on the manual typewriter. I like the aesthetic of the typewriter and the words typed on the page.”
Calvert found much to like about vintage typewriters.
"I love the cadence of the typewriter. There’s that auditory feedback that you get, unlike with a laptop keyboard. On a computer everything is quiet, unless you get a notification. With a typewriter, you’re more immersed and you really have to think about what you’re writing before you put it on the paper, unless you make a mistake. There’s a better relationship between you and the piece you’re writing.”
With no back key, no delete and no White Out, the poets faced unique challenges in creating their works on the typewriter.
“Some of my colleagues were in here on their fifth or sixth or seventh try to get their poem looking perfect,” said Gilbert. “Especially those who had a space in the middle of the page, there was a lot of math they had to figure out to get that to work. Other colleagues made their mistakes part of the poem, letting them be or just typing over them so you can see part of the process.”
“One of my colleagues was really pounding the keys hard that there are actual holes in the page because he was hitting the ‘O’s so hard,” Gilbert laughed.
Community members are invited to be a part of the show by sharing and posting poems, drawings, and more on the community response wall.
In conjunction with the exhibition, Heartland’s library has on display some vintage typewriters and graphics by student interns Penn and Calvert, along with a selection of poetry books by staff librarians.
A reception with readings by exhibiting poets takes place Monday, April 1, from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the Gallery. An afternoon poetry reading by Heartland students and faculty of work featured in the show is Wednesday, April 3, from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. in Community Commons Building, room 1407. Both events celebrate National Poetry Month.
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