“We think poetry is good for people. It’s a way to get in touch with the things that are going on inside of you,” says Stephanie Berger. Belief in the power of verse is what led Berger and Nicholas Adamski, both poets, to launch The Typewriter Project, a literary art installation where passersby enter a wooden booth fitted with a typewriter, and type a line – or two, or three – to create a collaborative poem, a stream-of-consciousness peek at what’s on the collective mind.
The project began in New York City in 2014; this month, National Poetry Month, it will set up shop in North Hills. “Today, everything moves so fast and people are so ambitious and work so hard the majority of the time – this is a space where people can slow down a bit.”
The typewriter booths feature nifty overhauled USB typewriters, which are classic machines capable of transcripting to digital devices. So every keystroke of The Typewriter Project is collected via iPad and stored online for posterity. Despite the modern twist, Berger and Adamski say the booth experience is intentionally analog – the iPad is hidden and the typewriter is outfitted with a 100-foot paper scroll – as a way to help participants disengage. “While the typewriter is quote-unquote connected to the internet, it’s not,” Adamski says. “You can’t open a new tab. If you don’t know what to write, you look up and you look around.”
The project involves two volunteer-staffed booths. During its Quail Ridge Books-sponsored time at North Hills, a partner booth will be simultaneously posted at the Strand Bookstore in New York’s Union Square. “Two streams of (poetic) subconsciousness will be unfolding simultaneously,” Adamski says. “It’s going to be pretty interesting to get to watch them unfold.”
But don’t worry, there’s no pressure to be profound. “People don’t think of themselves as poets, generally speaking,” Adamski says. “This is a chance to readjust their thinking. If you sit down and write one minute, you’ve contributed to this giant poem. You’re a poet. We want people to know that it kind of is that easy.” –J.A.