Archy and Mehitabel
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Archy and Mehitabel

4.3 of 5 stars 4.30  ·  rating details  ·  871 ratings  ·  104 reviews
Of all the literary genres, humor has the shortest shelf life--except for Archy and Mehitabel, that is. First published in 1916, it is a classic of American literature. Archy is a cockroach, inside whom resides the soul of a free-verse poet; he communicates with Don Marquis by leaping upon the keys of the columnist's typewriter. In poems of varying length, Archy pithily de...more
Paperback, 193 pages
Published 1960 by Doubleday Dolphin (first published 1927)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,423)
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hello everyone
in case you haven t heard of me
my name is archy
i was a vers libre poet
who died and came back as a cockroach
i used to pound out my poems on an old typewriter
and someone called don marquis took them to the publisher
now there are no more typewriters
and don marquis is dead
i heard he reincarnated as a fruit bat

The rest of this review is in my book What Pooh Might Have Said to Dante and Other Futile Speculations
When newspapers were the dominant medium, were fun, and didn't take themselves so goddam seriously, there were great columnists.

Don Marquis was one. archy was his alter ego, a cockroach with the soul of a poet who threw himself on the typewriter keys to express his thoughts. Hence no caps--you can't throw yourself on the caps key and a letter key at the same time. mehitabel was his unruly alley cat sidekick.

Great fun, and occasionally wise ("The human race may be doing the best it can, boss, but...more
Mark Bruce
Don Marquis was a newspaper man from the early 20th Century who came up with this series of free verse poems about a cockaroach who's the reincarnation of a verse libre poet. His comic and sad tales of life in the alley with Mehitabel the cat and an assorted cast of unsavory characters stands up over the years because the poetry makes you laugh and think and the personalities in the work are vivid and true.
Explaining who archy and mehitabel were is just too darn complex. If you enjoy comic verse, do yourself a favor and get this book. (Actually, you can get a good start at this webpage -- -- as it contains a number of Marquis' poems and a fine introduction to this book.
Oct 30, 2013 Pewterbreath rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Pewterbreath by: X-ray Iris
Had I read the back of this book, I would have never read the book itself. A cockroach that writes poems on a typewriter and his cat friend---sounds insipid and revolting doesn't it? However this book is a marvelous oddity which strays far away from cutesiness. It's one of those works where the schtick doesn't take over the rest of the text. Granted, this was never MEANT to be a book in the first place--if I recall correctly this started out as something that showed up in newspapers.
Charming, surprising, funny and sad. Where else will you find a mummy greet a cockroach as "scatter legged scarab." Supposedly this free verse was just filler for a columnist. Ha. It's also a big reminder of how much more we used to expect from our newspaper readers. I checked the dictionary more than once.

Good social commentary.
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
my best girlfriend and i loved this when we were in high school. archy is a cockroach who types by hopping from key to key on the typewriter, so he can't capitalize anything, and there are some punctuation marks he can't use. mehitabel is his feline friend. very clever and amusing.
i forgot how much i loved you, archy, until i read you again. what prompted my reading is silly, and so utterly appropriate-- yes, i typed without an apostrophe. rueful at first, and then remembering you.

archy's origins from the first don marquis column that saved his job, his best introduction.


"Dobbs Ferry posseses a rat which slips out of his lair at night and runs a typewriting machine in a garage. Unfortunately, he has always been interrupted by the watchman before he could produce a comp...more
Jul 21, 2008 Henry rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who wants a few chuckles
This is a fun book and sometimes deeper than it seems. It is ostensibly written by a cockroach named archy. It's hard enough for a cockroach to type, but the shift key is beyond him so it's all written in lowercase. He doesn't bother with punctuation, either. In most ways, this is seriously light reading. On the other hand, there are occasions of serious philosophy. Still, It's hard to take a cockroach too seriously. It's fun and there are occasional gems. It's short enough that you can get thro...more
this is part of my list of all time favorites. I nver leave home without a copy. A vers libre poet transmigrates into the body of a cockaroach and becomes the eyes and voice of the "people" through the perspective of a maligned insect. he manages to continue his writings by butting his head onto each key of the typewriter that is at his disposal. it is painstaking work and due to the difficulties in shifting and the mechanics of captalization, his work is sans uppercase and punctuation. Along hi...more
This book is a compilation of the columns that Don Marquis wrote during the prohibition. The main character is Archy, a cockroach who communicates by jumping on typewriter keys. He writes stories about his life as a cockroach and his former life as a writer. The other featured character is Mehitabel a female alley cat who bemoans many parts of her existence, but mostly the kittens that she never wanted to have.
Obviously everything must be a metaphor for something else as prohibition was a time...more
A friend at work suggested this as one of her favorite books in the world. I didn't hate it, but I wasn't particularly amused or charmed, either. I thought the gimmick got old quickly. I suppose there are people who look at The Complete Calvin and Hobbes and tire of the kid thinking the tiger is real, too.
First appearing in 1927 Don Marquis and his clever free verse poem of Archy and Mehitabel , Archy the mad typist "poet" cockroach and his kitty friend Mehitabel who was Cleopatra in her past life entertain the reader and remain a classic in American literature.

So happy this was made available in digital format, always readily available to make me smile and chuckle endlessly.

 photo 4483f970-c5cf-49bd-aca4-1eac8b41a869_zpsdfcfb141.jpg

"the lesson of the moth

i was talking to a moth
the other evening
he was trying to break into
an electric light bulb
Feb 03, 2008 Camilla rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Camilla by: heather o'neill, though not personally
I'm putting this is my "read" section, though I have not finished reading it, only because it no longer belongs in my "currently reading" section, as I am not reading it any longer. I do not like it enough to finish it. I was trying to persevere and see the humour and genius, but I only found it annoying and boring. I do not care to read the word "wotthehell" again, especially not in the context of free verse poetry that is often made to rhyme. I guess the philosophical musings of a flea are not...more
I have loved Mehitabel & Archy ever since discovering them in high school.... am happy to have discovered this Kindle version of the book so they will always be close at hand. toujours gai! (sadly, I have discovered several of my favorites to be missing... dropping to 4 stars)
i don't know, this just might be my all time favorite book. how can you resist the chronicles of a cock-roach who types fervently and a house-cat who thinks she is cleopatra re-incarnated???
Charming without ever being twee, and just so damn beautiful.
Stephanie Ricker
I flew through archy and mehitabel by Don Marquis. Archy is a cockroach, and he types his poetry by hopping from key to key on the typewriter, so he’s can’t quite manage capital letters. He’s also not fond of punctuation. Mehitabel is an alley cat who believes she is the reincarnated form of Cleopatra. Don Marquis is the brilliant soul who was a journalist for The Evening Sun and began publishing the tales of Archy and Mehitabel in 1916. The poems are wickedly funny, with not a little satire spr...more
I am very grateful to the friend or acquaintance who brought this book to my attention when I was a senior in high school. I was, at the time, very earnestly reading my way through the works of Herman Hesse, delving into eastern philosophy and, in general, starving that side of me that craves laughter and fun. archy and mehitabel restored my balance and reminded me that just because something is funny (and ostensibly written by a cockroach) doesn’t mean it can’t be profound. It remains a favorit...more
A lovely little book that I squeezed in right at the end of the ‘thon. From what I understand, this semi-poetry used to appear as columns in an American newspaper, and is purportedly written by Archy the cockroach, a former poet reborn in a more lowly form. As Archy typed this verse by jumping up and down on the keys of a typewriter, there are no punctuation or capital letters. (He couldn’t reach the shift key).

This volume is a collection of Archy’s works, about his life as a poet-turned-cockroa...more
If this was "Archy" rather than "Archy and Mehitabel", I'd love it more. I just can't seem to like Mehitabel... who would've thought I'd like a cockroach more than a cat?

I borrowed this from the library because I've loved "the lesson of the moth" for a long time now.
"certain maxims of archy" is a close second:

if you get gloomy just
take an hour off and sit
and think how
much better this world
is than hell
of course it won t cheer
you up much if
you expect to go there

if monkey glands
did restore your
A very enjoyable collection of "bite-sized" poems that is a good "pick up once in a while" book. I was first exposed to archy and mehitabel in high school but I found that the poems have much more resonance with the passing of years. The poems are written by "archy", a free verse poet in a past life who has been reincarnated as a philosophical cockroach. He writes by diving headfirst onto a typerwiter -- rendering capital letters and punctuation moot. He observes life around him, and also tells...more
archy and mehitabel! I don't even know what to say about archy and mehitabel. I mean, what do you say about a book of poetry narrated by a cockroach who was a free verse poet in a past life? This book is from the 1920s but it reads absolutely contemporary. It is way too much fun to read aloud, it is super weird, it is philosophical, and it features a cat named Mehitabel who was Cleopatra in a former life and is now "toujours gay" despite hanging out with all manner of riffraff. If this sounds in...more
Poetry. Archy's a cockroach with the soul of a vers libre poet, and Mehitabel's a cat who claims to be the reincarnation of Cleopatra. Archy uses a typewriter to composes poetry, but he can't reach the shift key.

The subject matter gets repetitive, but the poetry itself is fantastic -- free-flowing, jerky, unpunctuated prose with unpredictable linebreaks. I preferred the Archy poems over the Mehitabel ones and "archy hears from mars" was my absolute favorite. I also enjoyed "aesop revised by arch...more
Verse & cartoons about a cockroach named "archy" who's a reincarnation of a free-verse poet & "mehitabel", a cat who's a reincarnation of Cleopatra. It's typed in lower-case b/c the cockroach isn't strong enuf to make the upper-case letters. I reckon this is an off-hand tribute to e e cummings but maybe not since cummings wd've been sround 20 when this 1st appeared in the papers in 1916. Maybe cummings was influenced by marquis?

Anyway, when I 1st ran across this I probably thought that...more
Jo  Blakely
This is my go-to, make me laugh, 'happy' book. Though Marquis is very political and misanthropic, these stories do expose his great heart though his wonderful characters particularly Archy (the bard) who has the soul of a poet reincarnated into a cockroach and Mehitabel the cat who was once Cleopatra and has seen better days. It is their resilience and humor that keeps them going and their commitment to their 'art'. Told in free verse (no punctuation or capitals) as Archy cannot hit the shift ke...more
A thoroughly original, iconoclastic book. It gathers witty, cynical philosophical reflections in vers libre by Archy, a cockroach with a transmogrified poet's soul and a typewriter at his disposal. He often writes about the misadventures of Mehitabel, who was perhaps once Cleopatra and now an alley cat, but ever the amoral, pleasure-seeking lady. Archy asks why we cry over the creatures deemed beautiful, like butterflies and orioles, while we dispatch ugly hens and cockroaches without a twinge o...more
Jane Stabb
If you have never come across this book, I highly recommend it. It's a collection of poems written by a cockroach called Archy, about him and his best friend Mehitabel the cat. In a previous life, Archy was a free verse poet, and now records details of his life on a typewriter by jumping onto the keys one by one.

It's really cool. My favourite poem is about when a tarantula came to the house, up from South America in a bunch of bananas. This poem is so funny that it makes me cry with laughter eve...more
This book absolutely charmed me. A book length poem written by Archy the cockroach and telling not only his own tale, but that of Mehitabel the cat, as well. At once a humerous account of the cat and cockroach's exploits and experiences, don marquis also studs the story with beautiful reflections about society and art. I especially loved the "archy hears from mars" and "mehitabel dances with boreas" chapters.

"freeze you bloody december
i never could stay a pet
but i am a lady in spite of hell
Mike Jensen
The back cover copy claims this is a book of poetry and that it is art. It is neither, but the conceit of a cockroach who writes about a snooty cat is fun. Though the stories are uneven, some are wonderful fun. A very few actually are poems, while the rest are just typed on the page like poetry. George Herriman's illustrations are wonderful, and the reason to get this edition or another that has them. There are extensive Shakespeare references on pages 75,92-3, 110, 115-9, 120-1, 125-7, 140, 159...more
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The Reader's Den 1 11 Apr 28, 2009 11:30AM  
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Donald Robert Perry "Don" Marquis was a newspaper columnist as well as a playwright, novelist, and poet, best known for his "Archy and Mehitabel" free verse and his "Old Soak" anti-Prohibition play.
More about Don Marquis...
The Lives and Times of Archy and Mehitabel The Annotated Archy and Mehitabel Archyology : The Long Lost Tales of Archy and Mehitabel Archy's Life of Mehitabel Archyology II (the Final Dig): The Long Lost Tales of Archy and Mehitabel

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“From 'the lesson of the moth':

and before i could argue him
out of his philosophy
he went and immolated himself
on a patent cigar lighter
i do not agree with him
myself i would rather have
half the happiness and twice
the longevity

but at the same time i wish
there was something i wanted
as badly as he wanted to fry himself”
“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 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 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

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