a portable typewriter/une dactylotype portative
Chapbook, Jill Mandrake, 12 pgs, Vancouver Desktop/Geist, geist.com, $5
Jill Mandrake has created something that lies at the intersection of the concrete, typewriter and visual poetry styles. Each of a portable typewriter’s 12 entries consists of a one-liner poem/title, followed by an image that’s built from typewriter keystrokes — the ASCII art of the pre-computing era.
Decoding Mandrake’s illustrations is a bit like staring at a Magic Eye poster. It takes a minute of studying her image of a music box, for example, to realize she’s built it with the letter b (lower-case) and pound signs, mimicking the symbols for musical flats and sharps. There are a few veiled jests hiding in the snippets of text, as well. Over an image of a house, Mandrake explains: “here’s a vancouver special / it can’t help itself,” referencing a much-maligned architectural style found in British Columbia.
Such textual insights aren’t the norm, however; the focal point of this chapbook is its illustrations, and the time, care and ingenuity that must have been required to assemble them. That being the case, there isn’t much reason to return to a portable typewriter after an initial perusal. Mandrake’s creations would probably be better utilized as larger-scale artwork. (Scott Bryson)