Courtesy of Henry Goldkamp
A WTHSTL typewriter station.
By Evan Wood
Last fall, St. Louis poet Henry Goldkamp got between 2,000 and 3,000 St. Louisans to sit at a typewriter and answer one simple question: What the Hell is St. Louis Thinking? The project, dubbed "WTHSTL" has since curated the best 200 responses and is trying to publish them in a book.
"Each page is a work of art," says Henry.
He's referring to the responses themselves, but also the method by which he intends to print them. Working with graphic designer Kirsten O'Loughlin, Henry has arranged a format for the book that allows each entry its own page, showcasing the type in a style reminiscent of old letterpresses. This is an intentional nod to the analog typewriters on which submissions were entered—but it also helps ascribe significance to each entry.
To collect submissions, Henry began arranging stations around St. Louis. The configuration was simple: a typewriter on top of a podium with a slot cut in it. The podiums had arrows pointing toward the typewriter and a message that read "type your thoughts." The number of stations eventually grew to forty, each placed in a strategic part of St. Louis—in an effort to represent as broad a sample of the population as possible. In the end, Henry feels pleased with the results.
"It all feels very St. Louis," he says, adding that a sense of place sprang up naturally from the entries he's chosen. He indicated that the selections range broadly across the emotional spectrum—some of them funny, others heavier.
While there were some entries that were blatant fiction and others that were simply gibberish, the format encouraged people to think about what they were writing. The lack of a delete key or an eraser combined with the highly physical experience of clacking typewriter keys encouraged participants to engage more with their thoughts. Henry wonders most about the entries people wrote but decided take, rather than submit.
The campaign's goal is to raise $6,400. According to Henry, that amount will cover printing costs for 500 copies of the book, shipping costs, and production costs including a fee for the printer and the five percent fee Kickstarter collects.
"It'll kill me if this doesn't go through," says Henry. "We need to share this."
With coverage from national outlets such as NPR and TIME, as well as a Facebook page with over 1,000 supporters, the project has garnered a sizable following. Only time will tell if that popularity spells success for the project.
As of April 2, it had raised $2,376 in pledged donations, and had seventeen days to meet its goal. Click here to support Henry's Kickstarter.