Picture this: A pair of poets riding a tandem bicycle, towing two typewriters more than 1,400 miles from Boulder, Colorado to Beloit, Wisconsin to promote literacy, poetry, the spirit of creativity and the power of community.
This coming July, Maya Stein and Amy Tingle – founders of Food for the Soul Train, a mobile creativity company in Nutley, NJ that brings art and writing workshops to children and adults – are teaming up for Type Rider II: The Tandem Poetry Tour.
Type Rider II is the second installation of a traveling writing project begun by Maya in 2012. “Type Rider: Cycling the Great American Poem”) was a forty-day, 1,200-mile journey from Amherst, Massachusetts to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, during which Maya towed a typewriter behind her and invited people she encountered at each stop to contribute to a collaborative collection of writing. She has recently published a book about her experience. Off the Shelf sat down with May and Amy to talk about their project.
Type Rider II builds on Maya’s first project in several ways. First, we will be partnering with Little Free Library to help build at least 20 new community-based book exchanges. The idea behind these “habitats for the humanities” is “take a book, return a book,” which allows anyone to find something to read or leave behind a book for others. Second, we are engaging local and national poets to hold poetry readings at our stops and donate books to the libraries we build. And finally, we will be creating personalized poetry on our typewriters for the people we meet.
We launched Type Rider II to honor and continue the work of Lutie Stearns, who spent twenty years (1894-1914) visiting rural communities in Wisconsin with her “traveling libraries,” bringing literature and news from the urban centers of America to those without access to printed materials. Using simple wooden boxes filled with books, Lutie traveled alone by horse-drawn wagon, often braving the isolated wilderness and stormy winter weather, to bring books to those who were hungry to read. By the time of her retirement, Lutie was responsible for helping to build more than 1,400 of these libraries throughout the state.
We were inspired by Lutie’s story and her courage and belief in the power of books to change the world. 2014 marks the one hundredth anniversary of her retirement, and Type Rider II is our tribute to her. And so we are commemorating Lutie’s hard work and perseverance by building new Little Free Libraries in her honor.
Riding solo through Wisconsin by horse-drawn wagon couldn’t have been easy, but it’s clear Lutie’s journey made a meaningful and lasting impact on the communities she visited. By embarking on our journey by bicycle, using our own legs to power through more than 1,400 miles on the small roads between Boulder and Beloit, we hope to encourage and inspire others others to make a meaningful impact on their communities.
The Type Rider II: The Tandem Poetry Tour was successfully funded on Kickstarter on March 5, 2014. Click here to follow Maya and Amy’s journey. Photo credit: Amy (top) and Maya with their vintage caravan MAUDE. @Bella Cirovic