Typewriter Troubadour started when I hit the road in the spring of 2015. I was an aspiring writer looking to shake up the story of my life, and needed to take a really long drive.
At the beginning of the trip I went to a poetry reading in Flagstaff, Arizona. I was already hooked on the novelty and freedom of the road, but didn't want it to end with an empty saving account. After the reading I spoke with another traveling poet about how I could make life on the road sustainable. Since I had brought my typewriter along for the journey, she suggested I hit the streets like her friend Kevin Devaney who worked as an impromptu poet on the boardwalks in Santa Cruz.
A couple days later I randomly ended up in Jerome, Arizona. Once a bustling copper town, Jerome has now been reincarnated into a faux ghost town haunted by tourists. Given it's lost in time vibe and tons of foot traffic, I decided to bust out my typewriter and try writing poetry for people.
I lugged my machine down the hill to the town's center, sat on the hard pavement, and watched as people walked past me. Most were amused someone my age even had a typewriter. "I used to type on one of those," one woman said. "Is that a robot?" asked a kid as his dad shuffled him along. Eventually, an older man came up to me. He took a look at my set up, laughed at my 1958 Smith Corona with a belly full of nostalgia, and hired me to write a poem using the word "epiphany". He said he'd be back in ten minutes. As he walked away, my inner clock started to clamber and my mind scrambled as I stared at a blank page. I had to come up with something - and quick! I took a deep breath, silenced my inner editor, and let my fingers fly across the keys.
Epiphany. I immediately started to recollect what that word could mean to me in the context of my journey so far. While I had dreamed of taking such a trip for years, it wasn't until I couldn't take the white noise of the city - or my life - any more. Hitting the road meant I was finally allowing myself to push past the static in hopes of catching a glimpse of who I was to become. It was a reset button. The search to feel settled. My epiphany.
The man came back just as I finished the poem. "Alright, kid. Show me what you got!"
I removed the piece of paper from my machine with a chime, and read the poem to him - and myself - for the very first time.
I looked up from the page, awaiting his response. He smiled saying it was quite impressive for such a strict deadline, and gave me a generous tip. Throughout the day more people's intrigue transformed to interest, and I was given more words to muse on. Everyone left with a poem in their hand, a smile on their face, and claimed their spirits had been lifted. A win-win between poet and pedestrian.
I continued to drive across America typing in both cities and podunk towns alike. Along the way I wrote on a variety of topics for people who approached me on the streets. Some people wanted a memento from their own travels or simply the experience of hearing the typewriter's percussive ambiance. Others wanted to give a unique gift to a friend. Though I was surprised when the majority of people wanted to connect. They seemed to need a space to have their troubles heard. Perhaps I - the poet - had the medicine their soul craved in order to heal. Throughout my travels, I had another epiphany: writing poems for people was far more valuable than a tank of gas, and would enrich my life beyond measure.
Today, I continue to live a minimalist nomadic lifestyle, using my creativity and typewriter as a tool to prove poetry has the power to unite us all. One word at a time.
- Jeremy M. Brownlowe