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Saturday, November 20, 2010

every cloud

(Archy at Work, illustration by George

Don Marquis (1878-1937) was a New York newspaper man and poet. Beginning in 1916, when he was writing a daily column at The New York Evening Sun, sometimes in the mornings he would find short poems left in his typewriter. They were written by Archy, a cockroach who tapped out the words late at night when the humans were home in bed. Since Archy could not use the shift key on the typewriter, there were no punctuation marks or capital letters.

In his first note, Archy introduced himself to “boss,” as he called Don Marquis:

expression is the need of my soul
i was once a vers libre* bard
but i died and my soul went into the body of a cockroach
it has given me a new outlook upon life
i see things from the under side now

Some of Archy’s best lines are found in his collection of maxims.

every cloud
has its silver
but it is
sometimes a little
difficult to get it to
the mint

* vers libre – free verse with no regular rhyme, meter, or stanza lengths

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