With as little as one word, Maya Stein and Amy Tingle, founders of the Creativity Caravan, can open a pathway to a new world of expression.
On Sunday, April 2 at 2 p.m., Stein and Tingle demonstrated the art of being a “poet-typist” by producing poems on typewriters provided by Sojourner Truth Library (STL).
They began by telling the attendees their “story.” After searching for a creative outlet at a young age, Stein had found comfort in her family typewriter — a tool in which the whole family had been encouraged to add a line per week. It was five years back, on a fateful day, in which Stein had been walking past a shop in Amherst, Massachusetts when she spotted a typewriter in the window.
Stein, gripped by her memory, admits spotting the typewriter woke something up in her.
This flashback to her childhood inspired Stein to travel by bike for 40 days. Setting up her typewriter and leaving a writing prompt, Stein encouraged people to answer the call to creativity.
“It was weird because although it had been out in the open, the minute someone sat down at the typewriter, it created privacy,” she said.
Shortly after that Stein and Tingle cofounded the Creativity Caravan in 2013 and endured two tandem bicycle tours called “Type-Rider” and “Type-Rider II.” The tours involved both Tingle and Stein “cycling the great American poem” with their caravan in tow and even collaborating with the Little Free Library movement. The vintage caravan, a 1965 Covered Wagon, is named Mobile Art Unit Designed for Everyone — or MAUDE for short — and serves as their creative hub and home away from home when they are not at their studio in Montclair, New Jersey.
Involving themselves with the Little Free Library movement, the duo aided in helping construct over 30 little free libraries along their journey.
While on tour Stein and Tingle would stop each day in various towns and go to work. Placing a sign that read, “give us a word, we will give you a poem,” they were approached by strangers who were intrigued by the typewriter.
Stein and Tingle reminisce on their adventures and admit to meeting three different types of people during their travels.
“There were the people who would run right up to us, eagerly waiting to see what we would create for them, then there were people who just ignored us altogether, pretending like we didn’t exist,” Tingle said. “It was the third type of person who always piqued our interest. Some people had to warm up to the idea of us and would pass our station a few times before finally offering up a word.
Regarding content, the duo loves receiving narrow words when given the task of producing a poem.
“We can write millions of poems about ‘love’ or ‘serendipity’ or ‘soulmate’ but give me a word like ‘jacksaw’ and through that I can create a pathway of love with that word,” Stein said.
With unabashed excitement, the duo was eager to demonstrate exactly what they meant and put their audience to work.
Starting with a six-word memoir, a common creative practice in which a writer is meant to use only six words about a topic to tell a story, the audience was tasked with using the word “twelve” to draw forth a story.
Stein and Tingle prefaced their attendees how one word could affect one’s handiwork from another — this was only the tip of the iceberg
The audience, ogling the vintage and pastel colored typewriters, waited in anticipation for the poet-typists to indulge them with these “pathways of communication.”
“Many a time people have very powerful reactions to our poems thinking that we might be psychics or something, having personal insight into their life; we don’t,” Tingle said. “It just becomes easy to open a door when someone gives us a word that has special meaning for them.
The duo’s mission in this project? To spark, engage and nourish creativity in communities everywhere. Believing that creativity can change lives by building self-confidence, harnessing imagination, helping to practice problem-solving and bridging differences, Stein and Tingle center their programs on the joy of discovery and power of collaborative learning, offering art and writing experiences for kids and adults of all ages and abilities.
Future projects can be found on their website at thecreativitycaravan.com.