Max Blagg writes on a typewriter—literally.
For the past few months the poet Max Blagg has been scribbling, stenciling and otherwise inscribing fragments of his poems on a collection of 23 vintage typewriter lids. That’s right, the lids. And not just any old lids, but ones with particular pleasing shapes (he’s also amassed a few typewriters along with their lids, and now he’s wondering what to do with those).
“Blood on the inside only,” is stenciled onto a Hermes 3000#2 lid with more lines from the same poem scribbled behind. A Corona Zephyr’s army-green lid bears the inscription “Living as if dying was not an option.” These snippets of thought reflect Blagg’s urban beat. In his poems the smells are gasoline, the sounds are cheap chimes and dog barks, his skin is sweaty. Blagg is searching for beauty and finds it at his desk, at the dump, in his dreams, on Manhattan’s Canal Street and sometimes at the beach.
All last week the lids were hanging on display in a Lower East Side gallery, Show Room: “I like the idea of putting poems on the wall as opposed to putting them in a book,” says Blagg, who titles the work Writing on the Wall. It all started as a gift to his then-wife—of a Sappho poem—and then he had the idea of doing it with his own work, using stencils his daughter had given him. Blagg finds he likes the discipline that the confined space of the lids demands. Something like Twitter? “Something like that,” he says.
Above, “Blood on the inside only”; a page from Max Blagg’s catalogue for Writing on the Wall.
Along with the lids Blagg has produced a handsome catalogue to go with them (available from maxblagg.com). Each lid is shown with its model name and size; on the facing page is the complete poem that the fragment on the lid is from, typed, of course, on Blagg’s Hermes 3000#2 (“The thought process is quite different on a typewriter,” he says. “One has to slow down a bit”). In a self-conscious act Blagg has left in his proofreader’s penciled marks—he likes “the messier effect,” as if the manuscript was rushed to print before editing or we have Blagg’s own copy. The typewriters have splendid names, reminiscent of ocean liners or locomotives—Hermes Rocket, Remington Streamliner, Archiever, Royal Century, Royal Sprite, Imperial Good Companion. They signal one way, the poems another.
Above, “Living as if dying was not an option”: from the catalogue for Writing on the Wall.
Next? “Garden benches, tree stumps, canvas beach bags,” says Blagg. “It’s an elegant way to bring poetry to the Jitney.”
Working on the slow method of literary composition in Amagansett with Max Blagg’s Manchester terrier Max.
Photographs by Nico Sforza