Jan 13

Typewriter Rodeo's Story

by Sean Petrie

We never, ever thought this would happen.

In mid 2013, we got together at the Austin Mini Maker Faire, to promote a friend’s booth. The four of us had never done anything together before, much less write spontaneous poems on typewriters. It was a completely last-minute idea, when one concept (“Hey, we could write poems to attract passersby!”) combined with another (“Oh, and we could use my vintage typewriters!”) to create a wonderful surprise.  Kind of like a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup of poetry.

People loved having poems written about them while watching—and hearing—old typewriters in action.  Someone even yelled out: “Y’all are like a Typewriter Rodeo!”

We figured it would be a one-off thing. We never even considered doing it again. Until a guest asked: “Do you all do this at other events?”

We paused, looked at each other, and shrugged a silent why not.

“Of course we do!”

Since then we’ve been lucky enough to type on-the-spot poems at hundreds of events coast-to-coast. We’ve entertained at Willie Nelson’s SXSW music festival, an international PayPal conference, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Boston Antiquarian Book Fair, and even for Hilton Resorts in Los Cabos, Mexico. 

Did we ever ever EVER think we’d be doing all that, on that day back in 2013? Did we possibly imagine we’d be recording weekly poems for NPR, or appearing on Boston’s “News Quiz” radio show? Did we in our wildest dreams think we’d end up typing at a sunset beach party in Cabo?

(The answer to all the above is no.)

We have the best job in the world. We get to meet thousands of people, across the country. And, with each one, we get to share a tiny moment of real, human connection. 

Maybe a guest will give us a word (“Write me something about tacos!”). Or ask for a poem about their pets.  Or maybe they’ll share more—like how they’re going through a divorce. Or lost a loved one. 

Then, for the next few minutes, we’ll write a completely new poem, just for them, on a real typewriter, on real paper, with real mistakes. And hopefully, once we’re done, they’ll smile or laugh, choke up, give us a hug or high five, or perhaps just say thanks. 

Most likely we’ll never see each other again. But, for that brief moment, we’ll share a connection, a spark of emotion.  And really, when you think about it, there are few things better in life.

We never, ever could have planned all this. Which, like our poems, is part of what makes it so awesome. 

This will be our first trip to D.C. (!), and we can’t wait to type poems at the Washington Antiquarian Book Fair!

More information about Typewriter Rodeo can be found at http://typewriterrodeo.com/

Follow Typewriter Rodeo on Twitter at @typewriterrodeo



History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies. - Alexis de Tocqueville