I was cleaning up my place this morning and in the process got back into my seemingly eternal task of sorting old documents. My reward today was finding this original draft of Meanwhile, a poem I first published in my Mindfield chapbook and (re)posted on My Mnd last week. I know from the date on the copy that I was 18, in my 19th year actually, and my recollection is of me writing this in my college library with a stack of Biology textbooks on the desk. I should have been studying my sciences. Check how original draft and published version compare.
There was a time when I believed I could never forgot a poem once it had left my mind and made it’s way to the page, even as the roughest draft. My cleaning up exercise has proved me dead wrong on the one hand, but somewhat right in another sense. I have pulled up so many scribbles that I had completely forgotten existed. Like the one below, which I think was the raw, preliminary ideas coming out of my brain around a patriotic occasion in my birth country. (The year of writing – me at 16 going on 17 – and the thoughts I jotted down suggest so).
I did forget about that ‘writing’ over time, but it seems I remembered some of the core themes – like the idea of how big a small space (island) surrounded by sea can be once we factor in the breadth of the mind and things that can make us happy with our little versus the plenty of elsewhere. One of my poems in my Mindfield (I wrote it while studying in England a lot of years later – after a visit to a real housing place and after reading a really nasty newspaper article about “backward Third World countries”) has that very idea of an imagined big space in a small place in there. Here’s one of the drafts (and how’s that for my memory):
Unfortunate, the child of a metropolis,
Imprisoned in vastness, plenty’s terrors
Chain him to an apartment duplex,
His humanity atrophies.
A third world moron child, stunted by a diet
Of exposure that limits him in reach, knows
Only the corners of an island, too small
To hold a gallivanting mind, which strangely
Roams in boundless joy within a head minute
He makes the island stretch to walk his will.
With each new offspring, neighbours tack extensions,
Sheets of plywood to a shack, the jungle child
Looks out to sea, broadens shores to the horizon
All about him, lays sheets of waves,
Tacks unending pavement to the
Disappearing runway of his mind.