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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Five Things We Learned from What the Hell Is St. Louis Thinking?

Posted By on Thu, Nov 20, 2014 at 12:12 PM

Henry Goldkamp holds the anonymous, typed messaged that questioned the diversity of his What the Hell is St. Louis Thinking? project. - YOUTUBE

The first line of the first entry of What the Hell Is St. Louis Thinking? tells you almost everything you need to know about the story behind the book:

"Typewriters evoke a world of the immediate, a world in which our actions have immediate consequences, a world in which a thought becomes an incarnate word."

Who wrote that line? Nobody knows, not even the book's creator Henry Goldkamp. Yet it ably reflects Goldkamp's fascinations with typewriters and spontaneous poetry, interests he honed while hanging around the Grove and banging out verses for bar patrons on his 1957 Smith Corona. In August 2013 he set out to distribute dozens of typewriter stations across St. Louis, and bystanders were asked to anonymously write something -- anything -- and add it to the growing collection. The end result, as Goldkamp himself writes in the book's introduction, is akin to St. Louis "having a discussion with itself."

See also: What the Hell is St. Louis Thinking?: "My Home Smells Like Beer and Pretzels" [VIDEO]

Sure, Goldkamp's description of the book sounds a bit schizophrenic -- and in a way, that's not too far from the truth. Some entries read like prose compositions. Other pages contain haikus, rants, confessions and, in a few cases, children's hand-drawn illustrations.

Now, after months spent reviewing thousands of entries, Goldkamp (winner of RFT's 2014 Award for Best Local Poet ) and his publisher, Bottlecap Press, are preparing for the book's official release on November 22. Daily RFT flipped through our press copy and picked out five entries that made us sit up and say, "What the hell?"

1. WTHSTL Includes Its Own Haters.

Goldkamp and a few friends spent untold hours repairing and replacing broken typewriter stations. Naturally, he ended up with angry submissions like this one:

click to enlarge DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • Danny Wicentowski

This project is a complete fail.

Machine doesn't work.

No ink.

No maintenance.

"Artist" doesn't give a shit.

Got the publicity he was looking for.

2. Extremely Short, Extremely Chilling Stories.

It was Ernest Hemingway who famously penned a six-word short story ("For sale: baby shoes, never worn") and WTHSTL's contributors build on that tradition:

  • Danny Wicentowski

3. St. Louisans Love Their City

The final section of the WTHSTL features plenty of folks who are in love with St. Louis and want to see the city improve, like the person who wrote this touching letter:

click to enlarge DANNY WICENTOWSKI
  • Danny Wicentowski

Dear STL,

Be awesome: Find solutions to the issues that plague you. Maximize the passions of your people. Be like glue. Be sticky for those visit you. Don't let them leave. Why? Because you are awesome.

Continue for two more entries from What the Hell is St. Louis Thinking?

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