You're too young to know about typewriters, but they were enormously irritating because if you made any mistakes, you had to either start over or put whiteout on it, or you know, etcetera. And then, you would make a copy. I mean, you would print it out and if you wanted another copy, you'd have to type it again.
I can't remember the last time, and I may never have done it—written an entire poem by hand without a typewriter or a computer. I just don't work that way.
I generate fragments of the poem, but the act of consolidating and moving them, and making a poem out of them—for me it's always been done on a computer, or a typewriter before that.
But I had a lot of spare time, so I would write a lot at work on my typewriter—this was before computers.
I'm very interested in some of the visual poets, poets like Ronald Johnson. His early work which is all typewriter-based, but he does some amazing things with the shape of the words and the appearance of the words using the typewriter.
[The internet] hasn't really changed my composition process a whole lot, because I was doing on typewriters what I'm now doing on computers. It's made it easier to cut and paste, and to move things around.
I'm 57, so when I started writing it was typewriters, you know? I took a type a typewriter to college and it moved from... You know, I took typing in high school and it was, it went kind of quickly during the time—my little time capsule of when I was sort of coming up from portable typewriters and little cute cases that were sort of like a big lunch box with the little handle to increasingly kind of complicated electric typewriters to...with all their weird accoutrements like carbon paper and white out or weird... Then they started making typewriters that actually had a correcting tape in them. It was like white and you would type over the letter that you wanted to correct, with this white, chalky strip that was in there as part of the typewriter.
I think I would write in notebooks and then at a certain point transfer what I had to the typewriter. Because the typewriter was something... It isn't actually easy to revise on a manual typewriter. I mean, you have to roll the thing out and mark it up. There really isn't an efficient way of marking things out, or putting, inserting a list of possible words you might want to use instead of the word choice that you had. So, I think I would work on it up to a certain point and typing it was sort of like, "Oh, this is kind of an official draft.
One fact of working on the typewriter that's either—I don't know whether it's an advantage or not, and I imagine for prose it would be. My prose writer friends all love the computer, but when I get to an impasse or an awkward line, I have to start over. So it's a new sheet of paper, and you have to do the whole thing again, and problems emerge in those retypings, like your fingers will hesitate over something you thought was resolved, and you realize it's not resolved. You realize you have to do something different.
I think, it was a big moment when I switched from longhand to the typewriter. Maybe it would be equally transforming to switch to a computer.
I can't imagine how it was possible to write a book of prose (to write the Ulysses book) long-hand with a typewriter. I mean, I just can't. It would have been so much easier if I'd had some facility with the computer to write that.
A crappy typewriter is not any fun
I remember for awhile I shared an apartment with Alan Cheuse, novelist. He does book reviews for NPR. Alan is a year ahead of me and Alan is a fiction writer. I could remember hearing his typewriter going tick, tick, tick. I was sitting there, maybe with a paper and pen thinking, trying out different phrases in my mind and sort of ending that tick, tick, tick.
Something came out of the typewriter that has a lot of ballpoint all over it. Now it comes out of a laser printer and it has felt pen in all over it.
I think poetry took an unproductive turn when people fell in love with the technology of the typewriter. Charles Olsen wrote very solemnly that with the new poet, you can count the spaces. Proportional spacing came along within a decade or two and made nonsense of that. To me, the graphic thing—people talk about lining endings quite a lot. I always feel, "No, I don't write line endings, I write lines" and it's the whole line. I guess you could say I'm kind of an extremist and very resistant to the visual idea of the poem. Different technologies give people the illusion that poetry is a form of graphics, and I guess for them it is.
When I went to Iowa, I was writing five poems a week. It was fun and easy-"Hey! This is easy!" And occasionally changing a word or two, and all by hand. I mean I would have to type it up at some point and that was on a typewriter in those days. A manual typewriter, I think.
I will never start composing a poem on the typewriter, or on a computer. Ever. That doesn't happen.
I would compose letters on the typewriter too. I've always done that, and not written letters by hand-I'd always typed them
I started on a manual typewriter and then getting an IBM typewriter was a big thing, you know.
Nance Van Winckel
I remember a lot of the faculty were complaining but I like them because I was moving from this electric typewriter, or something, and this machine was so much easier to do corrections and everything. So, I took to the computer right away
I had an IBM Selectric. I guess even before that, I had some other kind of electric typewriter. I would type it up as far as I could go and then wait and see what would happen. Usually what that meant was that I'd take the poem out of the typewriter, as far as it went, and write it back down long hand in the note book but it would look different. It shaped it differently
It would have been dangerous for me in the beginning,I think, to compose on a word processor or a typewriter because it might have given me this inclination toward a particular kind of structure that in fact would not have been as interesting or as evocative to me.
My first book manuscript that Penguin published, that was all typed on a typewriter without page numbers, which are then penciled in. I thought about winding it all in the typewriter, typing-in page numbers, but I thought, "This is insane, it'll drive me nuts.