Poetry Friday: 1927 (part 3)

I will admit, part of the reason I’m posting another Don Marquis poem is that I didn’t have time today to return archy and mehitabel and find another collection of poetry published in 1927.  But part of the reason is that I really find him powerful and interesting—the first real “discovery” of Poetry Friday, for me (some poets have risen in my estimation, but nobody that I hadn’t read before).  Marquis’s poems, in order, compose a lengthy and consistent (if not coherent) narrative, told to the human owner of the typewriter (always referred to as “boss”) from the perspective of archy, the cockroach who believes he was once a vers libre poet, although he does write on behalf of mehitabel (a somewhat dangerous cat who believes she is the reincarnation of Cleopatra) in her voice, at times.  Anyway, I don’t know if this guy works for you as well as he works for me—if not, I apologize—but regardless, here’s another of archy’s poems from 1927: “viii: a spider and a fly”

i heard a spider
and a fly arguing
wait said the fly
do not eat me
i serve a great purpose
in the world

you will have to
show me said the spider

i scurry around
gutters and sewers
and garbage cans
said the fly and gather
up the germs of
typhoid influenza
and pneumonia on my feet
and wings
then i carry these germs
into the households of men
and give them diseases
all the people who
have lived the right
sort of life recover
from the diseases
and the old soaks who
have weakened their systems
with liquor and iniquity
succumb it is my mission
to help rid the world
of these wicked persons
i am a vessel of righteousness
scattering seeds of justice
and serving the noblest uses

it is true said the spider
that you are more
useful in a plodding
material sort of way
than i am but i do not
serve the utilitarian deities
i serve the gods of beauty
look at the gossamer webs
i weave they float in the sun
like filaments of song
if you get what i mean
i do not work at anything
i play all the time
i am busy with the stuff
of enchantment and the materials
of fairyland my works
transcend utility
i am the artist
a creator and a demi god
it is ridiculous to suppose
that i should be denied
the food i need in order
to continue to create
beauty i tell you
plainly mister fly it is all
damned nonsense for that food
to rear up on its hind legs
and say it should not be eaten

you have convinced me
said the fly say no more
and shutting all his eyes
he prepared himself for dinner
and yet he said i could
have made out a case
for myself too if i had
had a better line of talk

of course you could said the spider
clutching a sirloin from him
but the end would have been
just the same if neither of
us had spoken at all

boss i am afraid that what
the spider said is true
and it gives me to think
furiously upon the futility
of literature


7 comments on “Poetry Friday: 1927 (part 3)

  1. kseverny says:

    this is some really cool and deep poetry.
    great job

    • jwrosenzweig says:

      Thanks, kseverny! I liked it too. I’m still sorting through what/who the spider and fly represent, but I think there’s obviously some symbolism going on here.

  2. Jingle says:

    u r talented in playing the game.
    cool post!

  3. jwrosenzweig says:

    I really do appreciate the positive feedback I’m getting from people, but I think I should make it clear (if it wasn’t already) that I didn’t write the poem. It’s a poem written in 1927 (maybe even earlier than that…published in 1927, anyway) by a man named Don Marquis. I posted it because I liked it, but I don’t have any responsibility for creating it (and thus can’t claim any credit 🙂 ).

  4. Drew says:

    Hey, thanks so much for stopping by my blog! Yeah, I realize that not everyone who is reading the Pulitzers is doing it for kitsch value, but it seemed like the point of that particular blog was mostly kitsch. You know, the whole idea of “let’s read these books because they’re important and we probably should.” So, I don’t mean you! haha

    I spent an hour or so looking around your blog, clicking on different things and getting a feel for what you’re doing and, I must say, I think I’m really going to enjoy reading your blog! I’m also looking forward to comparing notes on books we’ve both read.

    Happy reading, and thanks again for stopping by!

    • jwrosenzweig says:

      You’re very welcome! I know what you mean about that blog—I’ve visited it a couple of times, but there’s a reason I haven’t “signed up” as a participant. 🙂

      I’m really glad you’re interested in my approach: I think you and I have overlapping goals (though I think I’m approaching this as more of a literary critic…a poor one, but a critic…and less as a self-aware reader than you are). I like seeing what you have to say, and I’m hopeful you’ll come back often and contribute to the conversation here—hopefully you can remind me of the power of fiction when I forget it!

      You are now on my blogroll, sir–I hope a few folks drift your way from here, as I think you’re doing good stuff. I wish you well on your project!

  5. paawun says:

    amazing..I really liked it!

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