Written By: Mary Haft
Typewriter Rodeo: You give them the words, they spit out a poem. Sometimes, you hand them your heart and they find its expression.
These four writers, lassoed together on the strength of their skills as poets and wordsmiths, putting words to form on their trademark vintage typewriters, the clackety clack of the keys as distinctive as their talent, will be arriving for their second Nantucket Book Festival appearance.
A rare chemistry unites these four disparate individuals. “A bit like a band,” Sean Petrie says. “We work really well together. We’re sitting side-by-side working really hard. And at the end, we’re all so exhausted and we all decompress together. Seems like what a band would be like: performing together but separate.”
Their poetry, written on cue, has its range: from the lighthearted “goofball” poems to the profound, these poets pick it up. “Curiosity brings people to us. They know they will never see us again. And sometimes there is something inside that is bothering them and they want to find a way to express it, and they look to us to find a way to be able to do that for them,” explains Kari Anne Roy. They think of themselves as a little bit “therapist, a little bit fortune teller”, for in a moment, a trust is established. In a heartbeat, a life story is exchanged and what results is an encapsulation of this person’s slice of life.
“It’s a privilege to be allowed to do what we do,” says David Fruchter. “To be given the invitation to write a poem, we’re giving them a gift. But it is also a gift to us. We’re so grateful.” The thousands of poems that are floating out there are not the only permanent mark of their time at festivals. Sometimes, the person has left a permanent mark on the poet. “There are some that I will keep forever,” says Jodi Egerton. “Sewn into my heart now.”