A Typewriter At The Crossroads

Meeting the human behind the typewritten poetry desk

Matt Shipley (he/him) // Co-Editor-In-Chief
Lucy Benson // Illustrator

Surrounded by the typical dreariness of a Monday afternoon, Sheyanne Sundahl drops to her knees and unzips her leather typewriter case. The desk on which it will sit is already in place — it never moves — but her typewriter itself is far too valuable to leave alone. Its body is draped in pearlescent blue, the keys a radiant gold. In a diminutive inkwell on the corner of the desk, a feathered quill rests expectantly, completing Sundahl’s tiny slice of the past. 

Before she’s even finished setting up, people magnetize towards her stand. Some are regulars and some are new, but they all share one thing — a curiosity for the new and unique, and an appreciation of the work Sundahl puts into every one of them.

“It all started at an art event,” said Sundahl. “Someone was typewriting poetry there, and I thought, you know what, that looks like something I’d love to do. So, I met them, hung around and watched their process for a while, and I started seeing wells of untapped potential in the idea. It was cool, for sure, but it could have been so much more.”

“I basically begged my parents for a typewriter for Christmas,” Sundahl laughed. “I must have gone through hundreds of pieces of paper in that first month, just to practice.” Sundahl began typewriting poetry in the library at Capilano University in late January after nearly a month of practice, and from her period outfit and deliberately dated machinery to the specific ink and paper she uses, her authentic glimpse into the past has quickly gained ground in an institution so focused on the future.

“People were starving for this,” said Sundahl. “They’re starved for — for real connection, for something tangible, something more than words on a screen. There’s so little uniqueness now, so little authenticity, where everything you get is just a copy of a copy of a copy. I think, when people see me and read the poetry I give them, it creates that kind of connection. Poetry is one of the few things that worms through all the bullshit [sic] and reaches more deeply than anything, really.”

Sundahl likes to see her endeavour as a movement of realness in an increasingly false world. “It’s a hostile place sometimes, for a lot of people. And, to them, something like this is an escape, a reprieve. It’s something that means so little to me in comparison to the change I can make in them.”

A previous graduate of CapU’s Motion Picture Arts program, Sundahl returned for the Fall 2022 semester in the Creative Writing program. Her passion had always been for writing, and when the screenwriting business proved to be ultimately passionless, she turned to poetry. “These days, networks have so much control that the finished product had almost nothing to do with what I was writing. If I can’t be creative, if we’re all beholden to a network at the end of the day, there’s no authenticity in that.”

As the carousel of students whirls on by, some stopping for a chat or a poem, it becomes increasingly evident that Sundahl’s typewriter is not only a tool for processing, but one for deep personal change. Her poems slowly leave her desk in the hands of campus-goers young and old, and in each of the students blossoms a visible sense of belonging. People leave with the magic of her words in their steps, their grins, their eyes.

“That’s really the end goal,” said Sundahl. “We’re all so worried about what we don’t have, what we want, and we get so caught up within ourselves that we never slow down and appreciate what we have. What these poems do, what they’re meant for, is to instill the idea that the only way to have everything is to realize you already do.”

Leave a Reply