Originally Posted: January 2nd, 2015
Updated: June 13th, 2018
This poem is an excerpt from Andrew Treneer Pitman’s Technoautobiography, an online literary piece published by Harlot. Technoautobiography is a piece which travels through intellectual abstraction, personal narrative, and philosophical quotes by way of a simple college essay format and an editor’s touch of red blue ink. You come away from his Technoautobiography relating to the repetitive desire to “put words on paper,” whether that is through the means of a computer, a fountain pen, or–in this particular case–a typewriter.
I can relate to the speaker’s girlfriend in the poem: she specifically buys him a typewriter based off a hopeful knowing that he “would write again” because of “something in the form of it.” In an effort to move beyond the day-to-day concerns of a writer who is void of weighted words, the speaker holds a hesitant optimism as he tries out the typewriter. Soon, his perception blossoms. He types. It is an act which forms a recognizable spatial bridge that is “the connectedness of one t hing to another.” It is with this series of small, vague, intuitive leaps (and keystrokes) that we land on a beautifully soft, contradictory note:
“maybe there is something to the idea of an honest machine.”
Andrew reflects on the fact that he always had trouble writing. With a typewriter, he found that the machine created limits which helped with his flow.
“I can type much faster than I can write by hand, and unlike on a computer, it’s impractical to edit until I’ve finished at least a page. It keeps my worst tendencies as a writer in check. I’m aware that it’s a little ridiculous, and it makes a lot of noise, but it helps.”
(Personally, I enjoy the noise. It’s further evidence that work is being done.)
The “Typewriter Poem” was something Andrew came up with a day or two after he received his typewriter. He recognizes that typing a poem on a typewriter is “a conceptually different way to write,” especially when in contrast to computers. It is argued that we do not think of computer usage as actual “physical work.” He cites N. Katherine Hayles, who believes our disconnect between work and non-work on a computer does not bode well for us as physical, thinking and feeling material bodies. Hayles considers the typewriter–unlike the computer–to be a reasonable mechanic by which we hold the “relationship between word and referent” significant:
“…the radical immateriality of text in a word processor (where a few keystrokes can erase an entire document) could call into question the materiality of the body. As Marshall McLuhan famously observed, “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.””
Andrew closes with a nod to others who also feel this affinity for the typewriter. Yet, he is careful to note:
“This isn’t about fetishistic retro-worship on my part; what is really important to me is not the typewriter as an object but the function it affords. Maher et al. define technology thusly: “Technology is the knowledge that allows us to further our proficiency with and understanding of the world around us”…We think that the technology of the typewriter is the knowledge of a particular way to put marks on paper, but that’s really only part of it. It turns out that it’s also a way to think about writing.”
TYPEWRITER POEM by Andrew Treneer Pitman she bought me a typewriter Smith-Corona portable she thought that I would write again that something in the form of it the connectedness of one t hing to another would lead me to simpler truths and I find that it does obscure the futility of expression, does cover with a pleasant clatter my lingering doubt as to the efficacy of poetry, or even art maybe there is something to the idea of an honest machine