blacktitle.jpg (12329 bytes)

On "A Short Introduction to the Word"


Holograph version

[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]

1

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. 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.

2

Names for girls: Clytoris,

Puma, Firedine, Sunelope, Yes, Rhda,

Rese.

3

Honorificabilitudinity,

Incircumscriptibleness, Anitdisestablishmentarianisms.

4

Take the word Sun

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

9a.jpg (96352 bytes)
marriage of invulnerability with Yes

of the Red Wolf, with the Gold Bumblee

of Madness with R.

5

Birdileaves, Goldabbits,

Fingertoes, Auroramor, Barabarific,

Parabolaw, Peaglecock, Lovegown,

Nombrilomane.

7

I understand certain

words to be single and by themselves

and deriving from no other words

as for instance the word I.

6

Actress and Poet,

Prizefighter and Princess, Aviator and Nun.

8

Certain words must

be avoided altogether.

9

The intoxicating

promise of words such as the

words in her eyes.

9b.jpg (83457 bytes)

10

Names of horses: The Arrow,

Locomotive, Firecracker, Tornado, Galloper Light,

Trajectory, The Meteor, Fleetness, Velocity.

11

Slang: snifetr = a little drink,

kiss-pretties = go to hell, jumping =

jumping into bed with someone hence

the expression ‘she’s a jumper,’

what’s the crpe = 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 = of 69,

d.b. = dumb blonde.

12

I believe that certain

physical changes in the brain

result in a given word—this

word having the distinguished

characteristics of unreality

being born neither as a result

of connotation nor of conscious

endeavor     Starlash

9c.jpg (87875 bytes)

13

The evolution of a word

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

14

A word should be not

merely an image but a directive

force which guides the flight of

the soul

15

I believe that the

constant repetition of certain words

is as necessary as eating or as

taking exercise

16

Calendar

January          Fire

February       Barbaric and Catapult

March           The Arrow

April             Amor and Ra

June               Invulnerability

July               Meteoric Madness Velocity Sorcerers

August         I          Yes

September    Slipper         New Moon

9d.jpg (81955 bytes)

17

There is the automatic

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 sorceress

18

The spiritual source of

the word is too often ignored—any

word that will serve for any other use

is seldom satisfactory.

19

Time in regard to the word

should be qualitative rather than

quantitative.

20

The significance of the

word must differ from that of

daily life. This is important.

9e.jpg (88265 bytes)

21

The word Aphrodisiac

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.

22

Always     dominate

the word.

23

For the body of man a

hareem of houris for the brain of

man a hareem of words.

24

Very Nice To Look At And

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.

25

The flesh of lions is fit

meat for brave men because they

at the same time transfer its

courage to themselves. So is the word

9f.jpg (78105 bytes)
fit meat for brave minds because

they at the same time transfer

its courage to themselves. Take

the words Conqueror Meteoric

Attack     Magnificent.

26

An aeroplane over Paris

trailing a long white banderole

on which is written in huge

letters the words Dry Gin.

27

I believe that inanimate

words as well as living words

contain stores of magical

force        Stone or Star.

28

The root of the word

is to be sought in one’s own mind.

29

A word should be

absolute in its application

Phallic    Thrust    Propellor

30

Explosion

9g.jpg (77297 bytes)

Delivering the Word

[Crosby’s 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 can’t 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 don’t 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.


Return to Harry Crosby