expression is the need of my souli was once a vers libre bardbut i died and my soul went into the body of a cockroachit has given me a new outlook upon lifei see things from the under side now
. . . .
don’t you ever eat any sandwiches in your officehavent had a crumb of bread for i dont know how longor a piece of ham or anything but apple paringsand paste leave a piece of paper in your machineevery night you can call me archy
excerpted from “the coming of archy” by Don Marquis, 1927
I discovered Archy & Mehitabel in a magazine in my young teens, and eventually found a copy of the 1927 book. I read it backward and forward, enthralled with Archy’s view from the under side. I memorized whole sections, dropping lines from Archy in casual conversation ("leave a sheet of paper, you can call me by my real name," "transmigration is the game!").
E. B. White (another important influence, naturally) objected to the use of the word “humorist” to describe Don Marquis:
“Archy and Mehitabel” is, to my mind, a distinguished work in American letters, and whether it is a classic or not, it doesn’t deserve the adjective “minor.” There is not a minor word in it. (From Letters of E. B. White, New York, Harper & Row, 1976.)
there is alwayssomething to be thankfulfor you would notthink that a cockroachhad much groundfor optimismbut as the fishing seasonopens up i growmore and morecheerful at the thoughtthat nobody ever gotthe notion of usingcockroaches as baitexcerpted from “certain maxims of archy” by Don Marquis, 1927
man eats the big fishthe big fish eat thelittle fishthe little fisheat insectsin the waterthe water insectseat the water plantsthe water plantseat mudmud eats manmy favorite poemis the same asabraham lincolnso why should the spiritawaiting your answeri am and so forth“My Favorite Poem,” from Archy & Mehitabel by Don Marquis, 1927.
thank your friends for me forall their good advice about how towork your typewriter but what i havealways claimed is that manners and methodsare not great matter comparedwith thoughts in poetry you cant hidegems of thought so they wont flashon the world on the other hand if you pressagent poor stuff that wont make it livemy ego will express itself in spite ofall mechanical obstacles having somethingto say is the thing being sincerecounts for more than forms of expression thanksfor the doughnuts“Something to Say,” from Archy & Mehitabel by Don Marquis, 1927.
This has been my rule for writing and expression since I first read Archy’s words as a teenager.
If you are unfamiliar with Archy & Mehitabel--and if even if you are!--I encourage you to browse around on the Don Marquis site and get to know his writing. Enjoy!