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Monday, 25 April 2011

Aram Saroyan: T. C.


Olympia red (Olympia portable typewriter, no. 156712): photo by Georg Sommeregger, 8 December 2010

A string of bad luck
hit you you
had a stroke

lost your job
when the college
collapsed Angelica

broke her hip, my God
we’re old people now
not young poets

leaving New York
to head West
the planet

re-jiggering as we
head to our grand

My first friend
when we

entered the fray
no one knows
what’s going to happen

to anybody
Kerouac told us
closing his own

book, the red
letters of his

A milder
more domesticated lot
we could still spot

the not-quite-all-there
leading to

in the papers.
Who cares?

With beautiful wives
we’d lead beautiful lives—
and so we did, for a while

taking our exemplars further
into domesticity,
our contribution

maybe. If you don’t get
your due, the ledger
fills up anyway; we knew that too

from Allen
and Jack.


File:Aram Saroyan.jpg

Aram Saroyan: photo by Beyond Baroque Literary Center, 2 November 2007

Aram Saroyan: T. C., 7 October 2010


Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Very fine, touching, and pointed.

tpw said...

Really nice poem. I love this couplet:

With beautiful wives
we’d lead beautiful lives—



Yes, really nice poem --

no one knows
what's going to happen

to anybody. . . .

With beautiful wives
we'd lead beautiful lives-–
and so we did, for a while


grey whiteness of fog against invisible
ridge, drops falling on green of leaves
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

i.e., ground from its place
noted as becomes one

part of the place, response
to question, in fact

grey-white clouds reflected in channel,
wingspan of gull flapping toward point

TC said...

Aram's poem is a real kick, very sweet. I wanted a red Royal portable, because Aram wrote on one back in the Sixties, but was delighted to have to settle for this wonderful red Olympia portable, and Aram liked it too, so here we go.

(I had an Olympia just like this, only gunmetal grey, way back when. Click, click, drip, drip, memories.)

u.v.ray. said...

I have a 1964 Imperial typewriter in gun metal grey. It's not portable though, it's a big heavy thing. Beautiful. I often look at it in my living room where it sits as an ornament and think how sad it looks, I imagine its heart yearns to beat... again.

I think I had one of those Olympia portables when I was growing up in the 70's.

I'm looking for a Remmington portable.

I love that poem.

I tell every visitor to my home the '64 Imperial once belonged to Jack Kerouac. And who knows? Maybe it did.

aditya said...


I had been thinking about the typewriters had put in some talk about the 'typewriters of Aram Saroyan' esp this gorgeous picture you have put up before the electricity went off and this laptop died. It not a typewriter afterall. I went out to look at the moon. Now logged back in again and there you are.

click click click

a very touching poem!

TC said...

I used a big clunky old Smith-Corona until the Seventies, when, like Ray, I got that little streamlined Olympia portable. That felt like a great boost in airspeed at the time.

In an interview done last year (and published in the Swedish magazine Prosa), Aram says:

"...the typewriter had a big influence on the minimal poems, almost at the level of a mechanical collaborator."

Ed Baker said...

I miss that warning DING! five spaces from forci
ng a 'run-on-line' changed my form-mat compl

Mine was/is a 1947 Underwood 5


i recently wrote a little book titled
My Typewriter Is Erotic

a pdf of it is somewhere in this stoop-id comp
uter .... somewhere.

nice poem. AS's dad was a fine story-teller.

nice poem and

Unknown said...

day to night
it takes more strikes to spark
into any
mind wide pleasure

the grey olivetti
home from Vietnam
awaits its ink drying
through years
its keys vibrate
in anticipation
of the lawless
part of life
and love.

the Saroyan poem is marvelous. thanks.

Anonymous said...

I think it would be impossible not to love this one -- everything about it. It's difficult to pick out lines, but "Who cares?" and "the ledger fills up anyway" are really great.

u.v.ray. said...


The last typewriter manufacturer in the world closes up shop:

It's interesting that a younger generation is adopting them though. I was in a vintage clothes shop last week and I noticed they were selling old typers and were seeking more stocks.

They're not having mine.

TC said...


Knowing you a bit, the last thing I'd ever dare to do is lay an uninvited finger on your typewriter. It deserves respect; much good has come from it, and more is due I'm certain.


"I miss that warning DING! five spaces from forci
ng a 'run-on-line' changed my form-mat compl

Me too, now that you mention it... though from the early 1980s, when I destroyed my left shoulder in a bike crash in the Santa Ynez mountains, to three and a half years ago, when I lost my job and small anticipated retirement, had a stroke, and had to start life all over again, I never heard any right-margin-warning dings because I never typed on anything at all (it hurt too much). (Not that there weren't some other dings, but that's a different story.)

There came then a quarter-century personal revival of the oldest writing technology of all, scribble-scribbling. (This may have been concurrent with, and perhaps tantamount to, your Rip Van Winkle period, Ed.)

Since that time however I have taken to banging away again, with two fingers, on a computer keyboard... which, as you say, just ain't the same.

Still, the fascination among the young (who grew up on computers) with "retro" vintage-typewriter fetishism, whether of the classic/historical cummings to Olson line, or any other, seems to me now as out of place in our world (which we may not have made, but is the only one we have) as the cargo cults of the Triobriand Islanders, or whoever may still have good fetish mojo working.

There ought to be a law, no use of typewriters if they had become extinct before you were born.

Still... Ed, your typewriter sounds hot. A sexy typewriter is a lot better than...

"AS's dad was a fine story-teller."

Yes, I read his complete works at age 14 and still recall fairly vividly the full and real worlds created therein.


It is a great pleasure to hear from you, my brother. Your grey Olivetti has probably been places and seen things the rest of us can only imagine. I salute its and your survival. Welcome, and, in these precious hours and days while we both yet breathe, please do come again!


Yes, I feel that way about this one too. Love it, and am of course grateful.

TC said...

Before leaving the subject of typewriters... above I have quoted Aram saying that in his early minimal works, his typewriter was in effect a collaborator. That's clear from those great crazy groundbreaking works, so full of the wonder of that collaborative exploration. Just in case anybody hasn't seen those, here are some examples:

Aram Saroyan: lighght / morni,ng (with Springs, Stream, Ruins and a Kentucky Common Grackle)

Aram Saroyan: night

Aram Saroyan: Replication and Variation (bird bird bird / eyeye)

As it happens, Aram and I go back quite a ways on these long strange twisting keyboard-built and non-keyboard-built roads of life. In 1966 he showed up in London to visit his father, who was staying in a hotel there. A few weeks before, back in the U.S., Aram had auditioned for the role later played by Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, and, as he told the story, had actually been offered a screen-test by Mike Nichols — and turned it down.

(Poetry is grateful for that.)

He took me along to meet his Pop, a brief but illuminating encounter. (I think Pop was somewhat less than impressed by Aram's choice of companions; if so, in retrospect I could not blame him.)

During the same stay in England Aram came out to Brightlingsea, a small fishing village by the North Sea, where I had digs, for an overnight visit; and while there, he kindly sat down at the old clunky Smith Corona propped upon the battered steamer trunk which served as my writing desk, and spontaneously pecked out a perfect minimalist-verse introduction to my first volume of poems, Airplanes, a Once Press mimeographed self-production:

‘In the middle of the night / in Brightlingsea / Tom Clark is / sitting here with me. / The time is / for me to write an Introduction / to Airplanes. / I do...’

While he was typing, I glanced out through the window upon the estuarial pasture land beyond, and watched some large handsome cows grazing. A good memory altogether.

kent said...

"I think Pop was somewhat less than impressed..."

Cracks me up remembering the time long ago when I worked with Elmore Leonard's son and Dutch came to visit. Thinking to myself, "What on earth did I do to piss HIM off?"

Seems self-deprecation to be the natural order in such circumstances.



Thanks for taking us back to that visit, w/ Aram typing "'In the middle of the night / in Brightlingsea / Tom Clark is / sitting here with me. / The time is / for me to write an Introduction / to Airplanes. / I do...’" ---- TC glancing out the window at "estuarial pasture land . . . some large handsome cows grazing." An echo perhaps of that moocow coming down the road. . . .

TC said...


To instantly evaporate or otherwise vanish, disappear, make oneself invisible would, I think, be the natural reaction of any reasonable person when put in the company of anyone whom they may have been led, for whatever cause, to believe even mildly famous.

Happily though, there are some fools amongst us who at such moments (and perhaps many if not all other moments as well), forget all such practical considerations, fling caution to the winds, and behave, for better or worse (probably usually the latter) merely as though they were their own natural normal unimportant selves.

Actually, the older I get, the quicker I tend to be able to convince myself that as a matter of fact no single individual human being is more important than any other single individual human being, and that anyone who believes otherwise ought to be kept away from all forms of broadcast media for a period of years.

For instance, that might present a much better use for Guantanamo than is currently being employed.


Yes, those tidal estuary pasturage cows were definitely a presage or fore-echo of moo-cows (and oinkers) yet to come.