Cathy Thorne is not only a poet – she is a spontaneous typewriter poet. Based in Toronto, Cathy has been able to seamlessly combine her passion for poetry, people and old-school typewriters into her work. With a background in improvisation theatre, creative writing and visual arts, Cathy writes on-the-spot personalized poems at weddings and special events, creating thoughtful keepsakes for guests and hosts alike. We are thrilled to welcome her on the blog this week and learn more about her work.
1. How did you discover your love for what you do?
I came across a spontaneous typewriter poet about a decade ago at a fair. I realized immediately that unlike all of the people in line, I didn’t want a poem. I wanted to be the person writing poems! I fell in love with the idea of it – but life was busy back then, so I put the thought in my back pocket.
2. Where did the inspiration for Everyday People Typewriter Poems come from?
I saw a random post on one of my social media feeds with a request for someone who could write spontaneous poems on a typewriter at a wedding. On a whim, I commented that I could do that! While technically I’d never done it before, I was confident that my background in improvisational theatre and my 20-year career as a cartoonist had prepared me to be able to do it. I was hired for that wedding, and quickly bought a typewriter and started practicing at friends’ parties and local events. By the time the wedding came around, I had written dozens of spontaneous personalized poems – and was amazed at the ease with which this came. It’s as if everything I’ve studied and have a natural talent for has mixed together to create the perfect work for me!
3. Has anyone or anything in particular inspired your creativity and artistic passion?
This is a hard question for me. During my childhood, my creativity and artistic passion was actively discouraged. School was competitive instead of inspiring, and I didn’t thrive in that environment. So I’m not sure I can pinpoint exactly when or where I was inspired to be creative, but it was always there. I have always made things with found objects, I’ve always written and drawn, and I’m regularly finding beauty in the world through music, books, movies and even a well-written tagline on a bulletin board — inspiration is everywhere!
4. Where do you find the creativity to write spontaneous poems in situ?
It’s less about what I do and more about what I don’t do. I have to get out of the way. I try not to be overly creative, but instead just let people tell me their story and then take their words and arrange them poetically. I always use as many of their words as I can, so really, it’s a collaborative creation. They bring the words, I bring the typewriter and poetic devices, and together we make poetry.
5. What is your favourite part about offering typewriter poetry for weddings and events?
It is so exciting! Strangers sit down with me and share their thoughts and experiences, and it’s like an instant rush of connection. I love it! I meet new people, see new and beautiful places, and there’s always a fancy finger food or two, which I also love. And of course, I get to write! Everything about it is just so much fun!
6. What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Tears. I was surprised at the number of people who are so moved by the poems we’ve created together that they cry. Interestingly, the topic that brings them to tears isn’t always sad. It’s often about the love they feel for another, or about overcoming obstacles. I think poetry can make people feel quite vulnerable, and having their words reflected back to them makes them feel seen and heard, and it’s an uplifting and heartwarming experience.
7. What do you want to communicate to the people who read your work?
Life is full of challenges and celebrations. Try to accept what is, embrace the everyday, and if that doesn’t work, have a good laugh.
8. Can you tell us about your fascination for old-school typewriters?
They force me to live in the moment. Every mark is there permanently (I don’t use white out) and mistakes happen. But that’s also just life. Also, typewriters are beautiful and strong, and fun to play with!
9. You also offer poetry writing workshops. Do you prefer the writing or teaching side more – or do you feel that they work hand in hand?
I adore both, but if I had to choose, I’d choose writing. Getting out there and talking with people, and the rush of not knowing what comes next, it’s just so exciting and fun! Mind you, the writing I do by myself is so fulfilling too. I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t work my thoughts out with words. It’s a life skill for me, and that’s what I bring to the workshops. I’m not so much a poetry teacher, but a writing encourager.
10. Is there any advice you would like to share with aspiring poets?
Write, write, write and read, read, read. And make friends with poets so you can discuss poetry and learn and grow. Then write some more!
BONUS: We have a tradition where we ask every featured artist to do a shoutout to any contemporary fellow artist that inspires them, so we can feature them in the future, as a way of #artistssupportingartists. That’s how we heard about you, when Dina Lu nominated you. Please nominate a fellow artist, and tell us why you admire their work.
Anna Redish. She facilitates creative art journaling workshops that allow people to connect to their innate creativity in a community setting. I don’t know a more supportive, creative person and I am proud and pleased to call her my friend!