On "A Short Introduction to the Word"
[Different versions of this poem exist. This is the original, which Crosby offered to Transition as a filler for a 2-page portion of the magazine set aside for his work. Editor Eugene Jolas took portions which he rearranged in a shorter sequence.]
Reproduced with the Permission of Special Collections, Morris Library, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale
[the following transcriptions occur on a page-by-page basis]
Hunt-the-Slipper. A flower called
Lady-Slipper. Running in the
Gold Cup a horse called Slipper.
Drinking champagne out of
her Red Slipper. From these
magic sources the development
of the word Slipper in my mind
so that it becomes the word internal
and therefore as such a part of
me as my eyes or feet.
Puma, Firedine, Sunelope, Yes, Ráhda,
which burns permanently in
my brain. It has accuracy
and alacrity. It is monomaniac
in its intensity. It is a continual
flash of insight, It is the
|marriage of invulnerability with Yes
of the Red Wolf, with the Gold Bumblee
of Madness with Rã.
Fingertoes, Auroramor, Barabarific,
Parabolaw, Peaglecock, Lovegown,
words to be single and by themselves
and deriving from no other words
as for instance the word I.
Prizefighter and Princess, Aviator and Nun.
be avoided altogether.
promise of words such as the
words in her eyes.
Locomotive, Firecracker, Tornado, Galloper Light,
Trajectory, The Meteor, Fleetness, Velocity.
kiss-pretties = go to hell, jumping =
jumping into bed with someone hence
the expression shes a jumper,
whats the crêpe = how are you,
to put on a storm = to stage a wild party,
harra or harra burra = a cry of
enthusiasm, brunch = a combination
of breakfast and lunch, m. o. =
mutual orgasm, 34 ½ = ½ of 69,
d.b. = dumb blonde.
physical changes in the brain
result in a given wordthis
word having the distinguished
characteristics of unreality
being born neither as a result
of connotation nor of conscious
in the mind requires despotic
power and unlimited elimination.
How would Yes for instance flourish
among words such as dog or corset
or safety-pin or hot-water-bag or eunuch
merely an image but a directive
force which guides the flight of
constant repetition of certain words
is as necessary as eating or as
February Barbaric and Catapult
March The Arrow
April Amor and Ra
July Meteoric Madness Velocity Sorcerers
August I Yes
September Slipper New Moon
word as for instance with me
the word Sorceress where the
word goes on even while the
attention is focused on entirely
different subjects just as in
swimming my arms and legs
go on automatically even
when my attention is focused
on subjects entirely different
from swimming such as
witchcraft for instance or
the word is too often ignoredany
word that will serve for any other use
is seldom satisfactory.
Time in regard to the word
should be qualitative rather than
The significance of the
word must differ from that of
daily life. This is important.
according to the dictionary is a
drug provocative of sexual desire.
But for me it is the name of a yacht
and white as her great white sails
and has nothing whatever to do
with sexual desire.
hareem of houris for the brain of
man a hareem of words.
Sweet To Touch words written
in red lettering on a card
pinned to a bathing suit worn by a
wooden mannequin in a shop window at Deauville.
meat for brave men because they
at the same time transfer its
courage to themselves. So is the word
|fit meat for brave minds because
they at the same time transfer
its courage to themselves. Take
the words Conqueror Meteoric
trailing a long white banderole
on which is written in huge
letters the words Dry Gin.
words as well as living words
contain stores of magical
force Stone or Star.
is to be sought in ones own mind.
A word should be
absolute in its application
Phallic Thrust Propellor
Delivering the Word
[Crosbys diary records an exciting anecdote about delivering this typescript to the printer. If the entry is credible, it registers several points: that the contents of Transition were sometimes assembled at the last minute and that Crosby had, through an arrangement with the editor Eugene Jolas, a certain number of pages set aside for his work, and most interesting of all, that Crosby felt that he could "never write anything on the spur of the moment unless it was a love-letter." To him, the poem emerges from the meditation on the word "slipper" a passage that was downgraded from its opening position when slimmed down for publishing in Transition.]
[October] 17 There are two blank pages left open for me but I can never write anything on the spur of the moment unless it is a love-letter and we cant seem to find my Short Introduction to the Word We telephone to Colombey to have it dictated over the telephone but we are cut off in the middle of it. A good meal in a little restaurant Jolas ordered it. Many telegrammes sent off after luncheon but more to the Sorceress I dont know where she is a lie for she is curled in my heart. At four it begins to grow dark Auguste exhausted is back from Dijon I put him in the back seat with Narcisse and Sykes and I sit in front We are off for Paris I drive like the wind and in two hours we have covered 140 kilometres an average of 70 kilometres an hour. Pas mauvais. But near Paris there is traffic and we had to slow down. We got in about eight and I found my Introduction to the Word and sent it back by express to Saint-Dizier all because I like the word Slipper. A nursery game called Hunt-the-Slipper. A flower called Lady-Slipper. Running in the Gold Cup a horse called Slipper. Drinking champagne out of her Red Slipper. Her ears two little slippers for the feet of my voice (see Transit of Venus) From these magic sources the development of the word Slipper in my mind so that it becomes internal and therefore as much a part of me as my eyes or heart or mouth or hands
from Edward Germain, ed. Shadows of the Sun: The Diaries of Harry Crosby (Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1977), 282-283. Copyright 1977 Edward Germain.
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