In order to strike the key hard enough to type, Archy had to be an American cockroach, Periplaneta americana, which is about 30 mm (1.2 in) long, much bigger than the common cockroach found both in the Americas and in Europe, generally known as the German cockroach (except in Germany, of course, where it is called the French cockroach). Periplaneta kind of means the same thing as Peripatetic , i.e. "walking about or wandering", a name for the followers of Aristotle, and a perfect descriptor for Archy, albeit more of a folk philosopher than a formal one. I wonder if this was a consideration in choosing a cockroach as Archy's reincarnation.
In his time, Don Marquis was considered to be a humorist almost on the level of Mark Twain. Unfortunately, his humor, written for a daily newspaper, The Evening Sun, was quite topical, hence did not age particularly well, and it's likely that younger folks will not be familiar with many of the references of the time. Nevertheless, many pieces are timeless, and quite modern in some respects. Worth your read in any case.
and post notes and photos about your poem.
archy - cockroach reincarnate
from a free verse poet no less
now saw life from the underside
and had to get his thoughts to press
he sneaked onto a writer's desk
at a newspaper late at night
way back in the nineteen-hundreds
it was the finest place to write
the typewriter was set to go
with a sheet all lined up nice
now he just had to find a way
to operate the damn device
unpossessed of hands or fingers
he was suddenly filled with dread
to overcome this handicap
he'd have to really use his head
archy scaled the massive framework
and dived head down with mighty force
the impact and his weight sufficed
barely to type one key of course
no way he could use the shift key
punctuation was not worthwhile
he'd have to use just lowercase
and write in e e cummings style
time and time again he nose-dived
and pounded out a line complete
and then pushed back on the carriage
until it made that ding so sweet
it seemed labor sisyphean
but at last his verse was done
and then he collapsed exhausted
just at the rising of the sun
his column made the daily paper
and many others after that
thanks to his sponsor don marquis
and friend mehitabel the cat
so if you like philosophy
and wry wit that knocks you dead
you should read the verse of archy
a poet who used his head
April 18, 2013
Some of my favorite books as a teenager
were the collections of Archy's articles
penned by Don Marquis from 1916-1936.
These stories were originally illustrated
by George Herriman, the creator of Krazy Kat.
One of my favorites was "the lesson of the moth"
a nice bit of existentialism, I think...
Copyright © Roy Jerden