When I was in my twenties, my grandparents finally moved out of the house my mother had grown up in. In the attic where we used to sleep as kids, and where my grandfather would come in at bedtime and sing “Goodnight, Irene” to me and my younger brother and sister as we lay in a row in our little cots, I had found my mother's typewriter, a Royal Quiet Deluxe, perfectly preserved from her high school days. My grandfather was the sort of person who would make sure it was in pristine working order, and when I opened the case, the keys gleamed. It didn't even need a new ribbon. It made a satisfying, well-oiled clack. I lugged it to the house I was living in on School Street, in Northampton, Massachusetts. I had moved from California back to the same weird little valley where I had gone to college, to go to graduate school for poetry. Thankfully I did not yet know that a manual typewriter was a writer cliché. For a while, the typewriter just sat there in the corner of my room. I was still toiling away, writing a lot of poems the way I used to: choose a subject, and try to write something “about” it. Use a computer. Those poems always felt labored and ponderous. No matter what I said, the thoughts in them were […]
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