RANCHO SANTA FE – Jeremy Brownlowe sat down at his table tucked into a corner of the lobby of the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe with his emerald-green typewriter and waited. The poet, dressed in suspenders and bow-tie, greeted guests as they walked on by and answered more than a few questions regarding the location of the bathroom. During his periods of downtime, he’d clack out the lines to a poem for his first customer: Henry, a shy boy who likes trains.
The Nov. 17th event marked the first in a series of Sunday poetic outings at the Inn for Brownlowe, in which he sells personalized poems to customers for $10. “I just love how [Rancho Santa Fe’s] this hidden gem up in the canyons,” Brownlowe said. “I had no idea it was like this until I came up here.”
“I love the country, back-roads vibe. It’s awesome that they have ranches and horses and…yeah, it’s like this little hidden pocket, and it kind of has this lost-in-time sort of vibe.” As a self-proclaimed ‘old soul’ who carts around a typewriter, Brownlowe said it would make sense that he’d be drawn to such a place.
Though he has no formal education in poetry, Brownlowe very much enjoys what he does; he feels that crafting poems on a vintage machine gives his poems a particular aura that is unlike other poems. Brownlowe also sends his customers poems via snail mail.
“We’re living in such a technological world, things are kind of intangible,” he said. “To be able to hold something that was created right then and there on a machine that’s even older than I am, I think is special for people. And it’s always fun to get mail that’s not a bill or something. I really think that letter-writing is an art-form in its own.”
His poems only rhyme loosely and do not conform to any particular style; he says that his work is more free-flowing. He describes his poetry as being akin to affirmations or mantras, meant to lift the spirits of whomever buys from him. “When I’m really in the zone, writing, I’m kind of trying to tap into a state of mind that connects me to a higher creativity,” he explained.
Brownlowe grew up moving around the country on account of his father being in the military, and he attributes this to being the cause of the semi-nomadic lifestyle that has led him to stay in Oregon for 12 years, make a stint in New York City, settle in his current home of San Diego, and enjoy driving through long stretches of nothing.
“I like writing in San Diego especially, because it’s just so diverse. I set up at the farmer’s markets typically, so I get people of all ages, people from all places, you know, pretty diverse population.”
He’s found his inspiration in the Big Apple, Utah, Tucson, Palm Springs, Joshua Tree and New Orleans—there are more typewriter poets like himself in the Big Easy. Brownlowe also attributed his current artistic journey to a long-distance online relationship he had, when he sent poems to his partner that he wrote on his typewriter. It is the experience, not the content of the poems themselves, he said, that give his work meaning. To that end, he keeps a journal of the things he’s seen, the places he’s been.
Brownlowe writes his free-form poems on one of the three vintage typewriters he owns; he took his other two with him to this event, just in case, though he kept them tucked safely away in his van. “I often wonder who was using the machine before me, what its purpose was. For some reason, writing on the typewriter really kind of gets my brain flowing a little bit more.”
On the off chance he needs to repair a typewriter, he takes them to the Ace Typewriter and Equipment Co. up in Portland. Since the typewriters are risky to ship, he’ll leave the typewriter up there for months at a time, until he can make a trip to retrieve it.
The last this reporter saw of him, Brownlowe was invited to meet a woman’s in-laws, who were celebrating their 56th anniversary, in order to write a poem for them. He traveled over to the Inn’s restaurant in the next room to speak to them, sharing laughter. Then he came back to his table and started churning out the poem, the typewriter clacking rhythmically.
The next “Typewriter Troubadour” event will be held on Nov. 24 at the Inn at Rancho Santa Fe, and will continue to be held on Sundays until Dec. 8. Brownlowe’s website is typerwritertroubadour.com.