Some Things About Typewriters

Cindy Hunter Morgan

If you put your finger, gently, on the back of a June beetle, it feels like touching a typewriter key.

Spiders play Typewriter in much the same way we play Twister, calling out letters instead of colors. Mice use the thin metal arms of typebars to fence. It’s beautifully complex, how they move from key to key to switch sabers.

If you type “apple,” a very small apple grows somewhere inside the typewriter. Type a new word (say, “lichen”) and the apple disappears, though not completely. A little juice remains. This is one reason why keys sometimes stick.

Some people used to throw typewriters out the window when keys jammed. “Defenestration” is the word for such violence. It’s a fun word to type, but it’s a horrible thing to do to a typewriter.

If an apple is stuck in the typewriter when it falls, juice will squirt as far as ten feet. The apple is only one example. If a teacup is inside, it shatters.

It is true that typebars look like the legs of stick insects. This is not a coincidence. In fact, phasmids were used in early models, but they snapped frequently, and it was hard to find replacements.

Some people think the first platen on a typewriter was made from a rolling pin stolen from an Italian bakery.

No orchestra has ever invited a mouse to perform Leroy Anderson’s “The Typewriter.” This is not surprising. Change happens slowly, unless it is technological.

Cindy Hunter Morgan teaches in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University and is the author of a full-length poetry collection and two chapbooks. Harborless is a 2018 Michigan Notable Book and the winner of the 2017 Moveen Prize in Poetry. Apple Season won the Midwest Writing Center’s 2012 Chapbook Contest, judged by Shane McCrae. The Sultan, The Skater, The Bicycle Maker won The Ledge Press 2011 Poetry Chapbook Award. Next year, she will serve as Interim Director of the RCAH Center for Poetry at Michigan State University.