While compiling my last collection, The Elastic Dome, I began a series of poems titled “The Radio Odes” using various cut-up techniques. Some of those surrealist works were included in the book. They were composed by arranging excerpts from feature shows and news reports from a popular broadcasting station. I wrote down the snippets that struck me, rearranged and tweaked them, and added a few lines of my own. Some turned out well; others didn’t pass muster.
I’m turning to cut-ups again, and plan a collection further on. Some are traditional, but the majority have my own spin. My source material at the moment is radio, newspapers, magazines, journal entries and excerpts from correspondence. The ones pictured were mined from a torn photocopied letter, a character sketch and a copy of Mark Twain’s On the Decay of the Art of Lying.
The Third Mind is the title of an out-of-print book by William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin. It features cut-ups, popularized by Burroughs and Gysin in the ’60s.
This one took me by surprise. I almost passed on it because it seemed flimsy at first glance: I was woefully wrong about that. Although it has plastic keys, the body is metal. One may be tempted to classify it as an ultraportable, but it has more heft than a Hermes Rocket or Adler Tippa. Closer inspection revealed that it was barely used, aside from small chips in the paint. The type slugs gleam, and the pica typeface is astoundingly crisp. The backup sheet barely shows indentations.
I’ve been using a Remington Rand 17 upright, but on some days my fingers don’t jive with the smaller keys. On those days, I often turn to this Cole, which has ample keys and a nicely spaced keyboard. I like the paper gauge on the right carriage knob: one aligns the red window on it with the red arrow painted on the body. The ribbon selector eluded me at first: it’s under the knob, and I mistook it for a carriage lock, which is on the other side. Seems like an afterthought.
This one was manufactured in Western Germany. To my understanding, Cole Steel had them made there for some time. If I were going on a long trip and portability was an issue, and reliability of the essence, this one would be at the top of my list.
Typewriter paraphernalia—from vintage paper and letterhead to tape dispensers and paper holders–has always fascinated me. When I received the spring issue of ETCetera, a quarterly typewriter journal edited by typewriter guru Richard Polt, I was turned on to vintage letter openers.
The article, which is well researched, has pictures of several letter openers, two of which I was able to find on eBay: a Burroughs and an A.P. Little. The latter is in poor condition but the Burroughs is in very good shape. Considering their rarity, I think finding them a coup; they were also fairly priced.
If you have a typewriter addiction, and correspond regularly, you may as well go full hilt and open letters in style.
It’s a long story, of course: that’s one reason I bought the paper roll in the first place. It’s graph paper made for EKG machines and measures 8 1/2 and, I’m guessing, at least 100 feet. I decided to use the white backside because it’s less distracting. I bought it for $10 shipped from a shop in China.
I turned to the roll because my prose slowed to a trickle: I was overly deliberate while trying to write “literature.” And yet, I wrote letters every day, usually for hours. So I decided to pen a manuscript that is essentially a long letter. The goal is to put aside the ivory stage and tap the inner core, “energy unchecked;” to forge ahead regardless of polish. That will come–if it gets that far–during the editing process.
I chose one of my Olympia SM3s with elite typeface for this project: I don’t foresee changing typewriters, and I made sure to choose one that I would look enjoy. I relish its crisp, sharp touch: it even sounds beautiful.
So far, the writing is coming along: average is three or four graphs a day (I still work on letters, and keep a journal). I don’t labor as much because I write as if I were addressing a friend, not an audience. But I have to remind myself that, if I expect progress, I need to keep in touch with the roll and roll with it.