“For Instance,” by Robert McAlmon, from The Best Poems Of 1926


For Instance

and jewelry, rightly displayed,
have an equal amount of fascination.

Carrots, for instance,
ferntops, bodies, and hair roots
so bound together in bunches
bunches laid in rows
of oblong heaps with magnitude,
are sufficient to arrest any seeing eye.

Cabbages with a purplish tinge,
when of grandeur, with widespread petals,
as they rest in heaps
catching the dawn’s first filtering of sunlight,
compare satisfyingly with roses enmassed,
with orchids, sunflowers, tulips,
or variegated flowers
extravagantly scattered.

While as to onions,
little can excel their decorative effect
when green tubes, white bulbs, and grey hair roots
rest in well arranged, paralleled piles
about which buxom women congregate,
laughing and chattering in wholesome vulgarity.

a cool indifference to the gash of knives,
to the crush of kind,
or to any destiny whatsoever,
has granted the vegetables an arrogance of identity
one would be foolhardy to strive after
with heated impressionable imagination.

given their color,
scent and freshness,
too easily attain a cool supremacy of being
for our fumbling competition.

from The Best Poems Of 1926, edited by L. A. G. Strong
New York City: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1926

Robert McAlmon was a pivotal figure in the American avant-garde of the 1920s, both in Greenwich Village and Paris. His press, Contact Editions, published Hemingway’s first book of fiction, Three Stories & Ten Poems, as well as Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans, William Carlos Williams’ Spring and All, and Robert Coates’ The Eater of Darkness. After his death, Kay Boyle assembled his memoirs, along with some of her own, into one of the best accounts of the period, Being Geniuses Together (1970).

This is one in a series of neglected poems taken from the Internet Archive (link).

2 thoughts on ““For Instance,” by Robert McAlmon, from The Best Poems Of 1926

  1. If I may, I’d like to add that Sanford Smoller’s important biography of McAlmon, Adrift Among Geniuses (Penn State UP, 1974), is itself a neglected work. Highly recommended.

    No genius myself, I’m among those critical of Boyle’s Being Geniuses Together. Rather than assemble McAlmon’s memoirs, which had been published under the same title (Secker & Warburg, 1938), she bowdlerized by rewriting passages, dropping chapters, and imposing her own. I think Anthony Powell put it best in his review for the London Daily Telegraph (9 April 1970): “One absolutely gasps at Boyle’s including her own life. That she was there surely does not include the right to chop up his book and superimpose her own.”

    A final complaint: In pairing herself with McAlmon, Boyle alters the very title of McAlmon’s memoir. Gone is the clever flippancy; the geniuses become McAlmon and Boyle, whose portraits featured on the first cover of the reworked edition. In fact, McAlmon appears only once, while Boyle appears twice.

    The original Being Geniuses Together is a truly neglected book.

  2. Thanks for the comment and insights. I didn’t know the background on Boyle’s re-editing of McAlmon’s memoir. Pretty shocking–considering how understated Powell was by nature, his statement is quite damning.

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