Goodnight, Royal! (On Valentine’s Day, Staten Island, and a Slightly Related Third Thing)

Originally Posted: February 17th, 2015
Updated: January 1st, 2020

When you strip away expectations, rampant consumerism, obligations, forced monotonous duty, and the arms race for resources (red roses for only $50!), Valentine’s Day becomes something truly beautiful. The free exchange of gifting, buying, receiving, giving–all in the name of expressive love–

…What could ever go wrong?

A few months ago, Diane Matyas invited me to perform at the Staten Island Museum’s Second Saturday event, Betty’s Typewriter Love Fest. A Staten Island native, Betty Bressi focused on striking colors, minimalistic type, and repetition (among other mediums) to create art. The Typewriter Love Fest was a retrospective tribute to not only the artist herself, but to Valentine’s Day and typewriters, as well.

When Diane reached out to me, I had already quietly decided to discontinue the “Free Poetry” aspect of Typewriter Poetry after several existential breakdowns. Though I was no longer typing “Free Poetry,” I fell in love with Bressi’s work and was inspired to commit to performing at the Staten Island Museum event.

Come Valentine’s Day, I made the trek from Philly to Manhattan early in the morning. I discovered that at the southern-most point of the City, there’s a free ferry you can catch which takes you straight to Staten Island every thirty minutes.

It’s also orange. And it’s giant.

"at the same moment" staten island ferry

Sea Orange Staten Island Ferry Manhattan New York Billimarie Typewriter Poetry
I was the only person crazy enough to stand outside on the deck for the ride. It was freezing, but I had been missing the sea. (Photo by Billimarie.)

I’m extremely grateful to say I’ve crossed one more item off my bucket list: perform Typewriter Poetry inside a museum. It brings Typewriter Poetry to a complete circle. Now, I am able to put my typewriter to rest with pride and move on to the next adventure.

Typing poetry inside the Staten Island Museum. (Photo by Kathryn Carse for Staten Island Advance)
Typing inside a museum: an installation, and a dream come true. (Photo by Kathryn Carse, Staten Island Advance.)

Inspired by the Staten Island Museum’s varied collection of walled insects, island history,  paintings, sculptures, graphic design, and Bressi’s bold creations, I played around with my typewriter. Kathryn Carse of the Staten Island Advance published a wonderful article focusing on Typewriter Poetry. It’s filled with photography, quotes, and video of the event:

The setting seemed made for Billimarie Robinson. A traveling poet with a pink 1950s Royal typewriter, she need only use her first name. She casually converses, listens, laughs, and writes a poem which she types on onion skin paper. Then zzzzzipppp she rips it out of the typewriter, creases it and carefully tears away the extra paper.


“I love handwriting, but there’s something about the instrumentation of the typewriter … every letter matters, and there’s something beautiful about ink to paper, immediacy, poetry,” she says.

She hands over the finished product which inevitably causes a smile as each person reads and finds a little bit of themselves in a poem.

“It’s just an opportunity for a lighthearted connection between strangers,” says Billimarie.

I am ridiculously humbled to see it from Kathryn’s point of view. I urge you to read the rest of her incredible article here, if you’re curious. All photos in this entry–unless otherwise mentioned–were taken by Kathryn Carse for the Staten Island Advance.

Coral Pink Light Typewriter Royal Typewriter Poetry billimarie
Ten points if you can spot what’s “wrong” with this picture.

My favorite part of the event was when the insightful and talented artist Florence Barry sketched me while I was unaware. She was kind enough to show me her journal, afterwards. It is a thick and rugged notebook filled to the margins with sketches of all kinds of people, animals, places. She doesn’t have an online presence–“I’m a bit of a luddite,” she claimed in person–but I did get her business card and later discovered this amazing photograph:

Florence Barry.

It was my first time visiting Staten Island. The community surrounding the museum is palpable with artistic cultural intent. Though I wasn’t a “Staten Islander,” everyone was friendly and welcoming. I was honored to be part of the town for even just a day.

Betty Bressi Snapchat billimarie typewriter poetry staten island museum
The first Betty Bressi Snapchat? (Photo by Billimarie.)
Yiddish Typewriter Keys Staten Island Museum billimarie Typewriter Poetry Hebrew
Jenny and Robert showed me a Yiddish typewriter they had in storage. (Photo by Billimarie.)
Typewriter Repair Staten Island Typewriter Poetry billimarie
Mike is the only typewriter repairman on Staten Island.
Staten Island Museum Betty Bressi Typewriter Love Fest Typewriter Poetry billimarie Valentine's Day
Ingrid, myself, and Diane. Ingrid is holding a poem Diane wrote for her daughter, Wisdom.
Before the event; getting the table ready. Recycled props! (Photo by Ingrid Alvarez.)

Flo (Florence Barry)



Florence Barry’s sketch.
(Photo by Diane Matyas.)





in and over
we flow numerous
canvas letters and marks
a ride or a lesson
february 14th 2015




first is the blank slate
time is an essence we refuse
to solidify, letters and
shapes, pica to inch. we
blossom into sounds of
an ethereal nature:
with age
we collect
folding over

A Newly-Wed Couple


sparrow p@rr0t
being of numbers
numerical operations, as they say
he saw she and the colors
just begged to become
becoming becoming, and going their way
we all have the habit
of wishing we could stay
february 14th 2015







outside, it's cold.
everything wrapped
in dirty white snow.
habor waves look cinematic
when viewed through an iPhone lens--
these things
being things
small reminders
of what remain.
february 14th 2015





(the eye has it, doesn't it?)
in the notion
we capture bitsbits&bits
how lovely,
you, are pieces of poetry
straight shooter
to the ends of the heart
february 14th 2015

IMG_2647 “(But where is what I started for,
so long ago?
And why is it yet unfound?)””Facing West from California’s Shores” by Walt Whitman. (in “Understanding Comics” by Scott McCloud. Photo by Billimarie.)

A huge thanks to everyone who made every single event I ever typed at possible.

Thank you to everyone who carries bytes of my soul with them (re: a free poem) though I am probably only 1/98th human now because of it. On the plus side: I became 97/98th wolf.

Thanks to the guy who asked me to sign a poem so he could sell it when I got famous, because haha fuck you.

I’m sorry to the events I flaked on.

Thank you to everyone who ever helped me along what now seems to be a strange, pointless journey of “Free Poetry” (the hilarious ironies of life!).

Thank you to my family, especially to my brother who I once overheard proudly telling a stranger that I “go around typing free poetry for people,” and especially my parents who kept hinting that this endeavor might be a huge waste of time but gave me room enough to find that out on my own.

To a secret admirer this Valentine’s Day: thank you for your present, [but more than that] your presence: “and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant”

Thank you to Ridge and Sandra, the two women who took one look at my Free Poetry setup then looked me dead in the eye and said, “you’re better than this.” No one had ever told me that, before. I cried. They hugged me.

…And they were the last people I ever typed free poems for.

Typewriter Poetry: 2011.
Typewriter Poetry: 2011. (Photo by my sister.)
Typewriter Poetry: 2015.

17 thoughts on “Goodnight, Royal! (On Valentine’s Day, Staten Island, and a Slightly Related Third Thing)”

  1. You never know where life will take even when you think you have had it,seen it all or whatever, I can’t tell how many times I have said enough,then from out of nowhere, it’s says wait over here I got something for you, then I am rite back at it refreshed and ready for the next one, stay cool my friend, breath in , i will talk to you soon

  2. Yvonne @ Sunnyside Up-Stairs

    It’s the things we do for free that define us the best I think.
    Your Typewriter Poetry has given me hope that people realize what value is even to this day. Thank you for letting us journey with you, in a place between the world we have, and the world we might.

    1. Oh that’s a wonderful concept, I love it. Thank you for sharing. I’m so glad we crossed paths, following your story has been inspiring for me (as someone who yearns to reacquaint herself with working by hand, again). I’ll be keeping in touch!

  3. This entry is a beautiful, bittersweet closure. Like Ridge and Sara, I’m rooting for better and greater things ahead for you. And I hope rest, love, and contentment surround you for the rest of the year.

    1. Mel, thank you for your words and your sentiment. “Bittersweet” is the perfect way to put it. It’s funny that we’re just now becoming online acquaintances/friends, just as I am bowing out of the blogosphere–but know that I’ll be following you online! I’m also curious to see what you do for this year’s blog challenge 🙂

  4. We Staten Islanders were honored to have you visit and compose for us,
    Thank you!!!!! And the walt whitman was a nice touch- even though he was more Brooklyn/manhattan. We were home to an Emerson and a Thoreau though! Much luck and love on your next mission!

    1. Thanks for reading & sharing your comment, Diane. It was a pleasure working with you, meeting you, and getting to know the museum. I’m sure we’ll cross paths in one form or another. Until next time!

    1. I remember your gorgeous rendition of that picture–I still have it on my computer. I’m glad to hear you’re in Norway. I’ll be following along with your ongoing art process!

  5. Love the setting – nice way to bow out of one mode. I really love your unflinching honesty, Billimarie. I’m fascinated to see where you go next. Good luck with whatever form it takes.

    1. Thanks for following along, Richard. It’s been a pleasure. I’m sure we’ll find each other on the next ride!

  6. The event was so uplifting, in part I think, because you “freed poetry.” It is good to be reminded that for the poet a poem is not free. You give so much, I hope you were nourished by Betty Bressi. It was a joy to cover the event — thanks for including here. Good luck as you regroup and move onward. (And what Yvonne said)

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Kathryn…you put into words something that has, hilariously enough, been hard for me to understand and articulate until now: “for the poet, a poem is not free.”

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