Type Rider: Cycling the Great American Poem

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A girl, her bike, and a typewriter hit the road for 40 days to create a collaborative piece of writing.

Poet Maya Stein is celebrating her 40th birthday in unusual fashion. She’s getting on her bicycle and riding for 40 straight days…with a typewriter behind her. Leaving Amherst, Massachusetts on May 5, 2012, she will go on a 1,300-mile journey to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the birthplace of the typewriter, stopping along the way in communities and setting up a mobile typing booth so that others can contribute their words to a growing poem that will culminate with the end of her trip.

Stein is using Kickstarter, a crowd-sourced fundraising site, to raise awareness about her project and to drum up contributions for the trip. She hopes to raise $15,000, which will help cover the cost of a support vehicle and film and video production that will allow others to experience her journey from anywhere in the world. She will also be producing a book to house the collective body of writing produced from the journey. In 2010, Stein raised $12,000 for another Kickstarter adventure, “Tour de Word,” which had her embarking on a solo two-month circumnavigational tour of the country to lead writing workshops in more than 25 states. She gathered the writings from these workshops into a just-released book, “Lost Highways and Living Rooms.”

The idea for “Type Rider” was inspired by Stein’s childhood memory of a typewriter that her father had placed in a hallway on a desk near her and her siblings’ bedrooms when she was growing up. It served as a communal, collaborative writing space for the family to add their words to, building a shared story. “That story and the stories that followed,” Stein says, “drew me more deeply into my own creativity, and created an inextricable bond between those of us who wrote together. I want to bring that communal hallway back, to resurrect the joy of writing collaboratively, and to do it with a slow, purposeful unfolding by delivering the experience by bicycle.”

Stein will cycle an average of 40 miles everyday of her trip, taking a southerly route toward Pennsylvania first before heading west and north to Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and finally up to Wisconsin. She will be coordinating events in each of the stops on her itinerary, but is planning on pausing several times each day to create additional, spontaneous opportunities for others to participate. “Riding my bicycle through these communities,” she says, “will open the project to a wonderfully diverse collection of voices. I'm excited to celebrate this milestone of a birthday by fully engaging in a physical and creative challenge that can bring others together in a unique way, and to facilitate a literary work that literally covers ground as it grows.”

To learn more about the project, the progress of funding, and the trip itinerary, visit Stein’s Kickstarter page at http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/MayaStein/type-rider-cycling-the-great-american-poem. For more information about Maya, visit http://www.mayastein.com, To schedule an interviews, write to mayarachelstein(at)gmail(dot)com or call (415) 265-0085.

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