Friday, April 13, 2007

steely amanuensis

Originally uploaded by ReyGuy.

a found poem

It is strange and pleasing
That a machine famed
For its cold efficiency
Issued from the hands
Of this modest and distracted man [1]

He wore battered hats
One historian says.
His trousers were inches too short

[In later years]
He soon disowned the [typewriter]
Refused to use one

Or even
To recommend its use

[And yet]

Nietzsche used a typewriter
In the effort to stem his migraines
And incipient blindness
(Symptoms of syphilis)

Mark Twain was the first
To deliver a typewritten manuscript
To a publisher [2]

For many years after his death
[The] devoted typist [of Henry James] [3]
Claimed that she was still receiving
[His] dictation

Through her spirit medium
She was informed that
Thomas Hardy, George Meredith,
And John Galsworthy

All as dead as James
Also wanted to use
Her stenographic services.)

William S. Burroughs wrote
And may have believed
That a machine he called
The Soft Typewriter
Was writing our lives
And our books
Into existence

Found in The Typing Life: How writers used to write, Joan Acocella's review of Darren Wershler-Henry's new book The Iron Whim: A Fragmented History of Typewriting, in this week's New Yorker Magazine.

[1] Christopher Latham Sholes, from Milwaukee, was the inventor of the typewriter that was marketed to great success by Remington after the Civil War (when the market for guns dried up). The machine was the first to deploy the QWERTY keyboard, designed to be inefficient so that the typewriter’s keys wouldn’t jam together. According to Wershler-Henry: “Reportedly, Sholes’s partner delegated his son-in-law, the superintendent of schools for western Pennsylvania, to draw up a list of the most common two-letter sequences in the English language. Sholes then designed the keyboard so that these pairs were separated, thus introducing a tiny delay between the activation of one letter and the next.”

[2] The manuscript was Life on the Mississippi

[3] Theodora Bosanquet


anniemcq said...

this is fascinating. I want to read more about the stenographer. That's a one woman play waiting to be written. Miss Hoo.....

suttonhoo said...

lol -- maybe.

but she kinda sounds like a nutjob to me. although a very nice nutjob, I'm sure. ;)

anniemcq said...

Nutjobs make great drama. Or comedy. Either way, fun to watch...

Next year, on this date, I'll expect the first draft!

suttonhoo said...

k. will you take any draft? I'm working on a play, but it's not about Theodora Bosanquet... what if I gave her a bit part in the one I've got going? ;)

anniemcq said...

fair enough!
(and whoo hooo!)

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