Back in 2014 I was exploring Governor’s Island when I came across a strange little wooden cabin on an isolated stretch near the water. Curious, I stepped inside to find a brown typewriter with a long ribbon of paper sticking out. I had no idea what this random typewriter was doing there on its lonesome, but its surprising absurdity– a noisy retro throwback next to my sleek iPhone–was both refreshing and irresistible. Soon I was clacking away, devising a whimsical stream of my thoughts (and, of course, getting frustrated that I couldn’t erase my typos).
Turns out, that was just the first of many typewriter-led stunts led by Stephanie Berger and Nicholas Adamski of the Poetry Society of New York and the Poetry Brothel. Their recurring popup, The Typewriter Project, originated from Berger and Adamski’s collection of abandoned typewriters, found on the streets of the East Village over the past decade. Eventually, the duo wondered how they could share their love for typewriters with a larger audience.
Last year they popped up at Tompkins Square Park and B+B learned that the cabin-typewriter doesn’t just run on paper– it’s also specially equipped with a USB kit, recording every keystroke into an iPad to be uploaded in real time. The collection of letters, poems and random thoughts create a kind of subconscious running monologue of the city’s feelings.
This year, it’s McCarren Park’s turn. “This project intends to document the poetic subconscious of each corner of the city in which we live,” said Berger. “Last year’s installation took place in Tompkins Square Park, so we learned a lot about the minds of East Villagers. Now it’s time to listen to the minds of the people in Williamsburg. In such a rapidly shifting neighborhood, I’m sure what we learn will be surprising!” The summer typewriter will sit at the corner of N. 12th Street and Driggs Avenue from June 11 to July 24.
On Saturday, to inaugurate the little typing haven, the Society is throwing a full-on typewriter picnic bash–a chance for keyboard-enthusiasts (or just Williamsburgers whose nostalgia fetish of choice is the typewriter) to come out of the woodwork and unite in their love for poetry and strange desire to utilize fiddly and unpredictable retro machines.
Berger and Adamski plan to set up tables and hope that their fellow writers will cover them with their own creaky machines, creating an impromptu showcase of the enduring appeal of typewriters in all shapes and sizes. A few “typewriter experts” including Bill Keys and The Haiku Guys (And Gals) will be in attendance–the event posting says they’ll even offer a kind of party-favor to the word-obsessed attendees: “a custom poetic gift.”
The Typewriter Project, McCarren Park at the corner of N. 12th and Driggs Avenue from June 11th-July 24th. Monday-Friday, 3pm-8pm, and Saturday & Sunday, 12pm-8pm.