Reading Journal Entry: Archy and Mehitabel, by Don Marquis

I feel an enormous amount of affection for Archy, not the least because I've recently discovered he lives in Westchester like I do. Dobbs Ferry, to be specific. Many years ago Archy took advantage of a piece of paper left in a typewriter overnight to exercise his poetic art; he climbed up to the top of the typewriter and jumped down onto each key in turn. He had some difficulty depressing the 'shift' key, so his works are free from punctuation and capitalization. The first of his poems appeared in 1916. Since he's a cockroach, he's probably crawling around here somewhere still.

Archy was not a simple cockroach; a victim of transmigration, he was once a vers libre poet. He shares social commentary and tells stories about the lives of his underworld friends; Freddy the Rat, Mehitabel the cat, and other colorful characters. It's bitingly funny and so modern in sensibility it could have been written last year. Although it occasionally descends into doggerel it more often achieves genius.

The audio version I listened to was very well done, with an excellent performance by Barry Kraft (Books of the Road) who manages to sound like a cross between Leonard Nimoy and John Delancie. But the charm of the original typography is lost when it's read. I recommend people read this instead of listening to it as a first introduction to the work.

And now, a word from Archy:

Pete the Parrot and Shakespeare

i got acquainted with
a parrot named pete recently
who is an interesting bird
pete says he used
to belong to the fellow
that ran the mermaid tavern
in london then i said
you must have known
shakespeare know him said pete
poor mutt i knew him well
he called me pete and i called him
bill but why do you say poor mutt
well said pete bill was a
disappointed man and was always
boring his friends about what
he might have been and done
if he only had a fair break

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