don marquis was a great man
he was one of the few
who recognize talent even in cockroaches
and went out of his way
to publish worthy scribes
i will always remember him for
the fresh paper in the typewriter
and the crumbs of food nearby
glad to find someone else of equal stature
what was your name anyway fella
yr pal archie
Donald Robert Perry Marquis, 1878-1937. An American newspaperman, poet, and playwright, early on an assistant editor to Joel Chandler Harris. While struggling with the task of writing the daily "Sun Dial" column for the New York Sun, he was inspired to create Archy the cockroach. The idea was that every night, Archy (who possessed the transmigrated soul of a free verse poet) would in a passionate desire to express himself hurl himself headfirst at the keys of Marquis' typewriter, battering himself nearly senseless in the name of literature till he staggered back to his nest in the early hours in the morning.

Archy solved several creative and practical problems for Marquis. The character's alley-eye view gave him a way of reporting on the underside of American life (often literally); the idea that Archy could not reach the shift key, coupled with the fact that he was a vers libre poet, let him dispense with the headaches of punctuation and capitalization; and typographically the style worked well in the single-column space he'd been alloted.

Marquis does not seem to have been a happy man. Writing was difficult for him; like poor battered Archy, the creative act was for him akin to hitting his head repeatedly against his typewriter. He was in and out of financial trouble throughout his life. He suffered through the deaths of a son, a daughter, and both his first and second wives. His work is deeply funny and deeply touching.

My heart has followed all my days
Something I cannot name

collections of don marquis:
archy and mehitabel
archy s life of mehitabel
archy does his part

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