by Henry Miller

The constant battle to stay alive to stay fed, that’s what made me. I wouldn’t let it destroy me; I couldn’t let it get the best of me.

Jesus! When I think of what June and I went through to make a few lousy bucks – it was nightmarish.

We printed some of my poems and June went from bar to café selling them while I waited outside. We knew she’d make more money if I wasn’t around. Sometimes she wouldn’t come out of a bar for a couple of hours. She’d sit and talk to some guy who’d buy her drinks and even pay her just to listen to him. She’d come out with maybe only fifty cents, once in a while she’d show up with fifty dollars and there I’d be, huddled in a doorway freezing to death with a valise of printed poems in my hand…

June was such a beauty. She usually went with me when I’d ask for writing jobs. We got sympathy and favors more often than if I went alone.

One day we met the head of Liberty magazine. I asked him for a job as assistant editor. He looks June and me over very carefully and he says, “Write me an article on words!” I jumped at the chance to prove myself to someone who could give me a good job, and it was a broad subject – I could write just about anything I felt like…

Well, it took a long time for Liberty to pay me. They didn’t know whether or not to use the article because, as they explained to me, it was “too good,” “too high brow.” That bucked me up tremendously. The recognition and encouragement was extremely important to me. Eventually they did pay me, though the article never was published. Three hundred dollars was a windfall in those days.

June was with me when I went to pick up the check. On the way to the elevator the editor shook my hand, wished us luck, and pressed a twenty-dollar bill into my hand. It was people like that who bolstered my efforts, encouraged me to forge ahead. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am today. 

Excerpted from Reflections by Henry Miller (Capra Press, 1981), Edited by Twinka Thiebaud