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The Best of Archy and Mehitabel…

The Best of Archy and Mehitabel (Everyman's Library Pocket Poets)

by Don Marquis

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Archy was a free verse poet, reincarnated as a cockroach, who lived in Marquis’s typewriter and communicated by launching himself head-first at the keys. He could not use the shift key, so punctuation and capitalization are lacking. Archy often wrote of Mehitabel, the cat, and Marquis often used his work, unedited, in a regular newspaper column.
  EverettWiggins | Apr 9, 2013 |
Don Marquis was a New York newspaper columnist who flourished during the 1920s and 1930s. What began as a way to fill column space whenever he had writer's block became what we might call today a "cult classic". archy is a cockroach who apparently lived in Don Marquis' office and would jump head-first in his typewriter and write poetry. Since he couldn't handle both the shift key and typewriter keys, archy wrote in all-lower case letters. Mehitabel prowls about the newspaper building, and chats with archy on occasion, telling him about her past lives (of which, in one of them, she was Cleopatra). As explained and described by archy in the poem (note: [....] incidates excerpts of the poem I did not include here):

"mehitabel was once cleopatra"

boss i am disappointed in
some of your readers they
are always asking how does
archy work the shift so as to get a
new line or do that they
are always interested in technical
details when the main question is
whether the stuff is
literature or not


i have been talking it over in a
friendly way who were you
mehitabel i asked her i was
cleopatra once she said well i said i
suppose you lived in a palace you bet
she said and what lovely fish dinners
we used to have and licked her chops


archy is both erudite and amusing. Some issues he covers are still relevant today, as the ending of the poem "what the ants are saying":

rainfall passing off in flood and freshet
and carrying good soil with it
because there are no longer forests
to withhold the water in the billion meticulations of the roots

it wont be long now it wont be long
till earth is barren as the moon
and sapless as a mumbled bone

dear boss i relay this inofrmation
without any fear that humanity
will take warning and reform

This edition is one in the Everyman's Library Pocket Poets series (I hope to eventually collect all of them). There are other archy and mehitabel editions out there that may have a different collection of poems by archy. Since this is the "Best of", I do not know how many of his poems have been excluded from this edition. ( )
  ValerieAndBooks | Jul 30, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307700925, Hardcover)

A selection of the best of the hilarious free-verse poems by the irreverent cockroach poet Archy and his alley-cat pal Mehitabel.

Don Marquis’s famous fictional insect appeared in his newspaper columns from 1916 into the 1930s, and he has delighted generations of readers ever since. A poet in a former life, Archy was reincarnated as a bug who expresses himself by diving headfirst onto a typewriter. His sidekick Mehitabel is a streetwise feline who claims to have been Cleopatra in a previous life. As E. B. White wrote in his now-classic introduction, the Archy poems “contain cosmic reverberations along with high comedy” and have “the jewel-like perfection of poetry.”

Adorned with George Herriman’s whimsical illustrations and including White’s introduction, our Pocket Poets selection—the only hardcover Archy and Mehitabel in print—is a beautiful volume, and perfectly sized for its tiny hero.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:38 -0400)

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