Drafts of “Me up at does” (CP 784)
- It takes 115+ drafts to get the poem “just so.” (Counting the drafts is problematic, though, for what constitutes a draft? 115+ is a loose number.)
- The numbering of the sheets follows the archives at Houghton Library, Harvard University. Sheet 8 contains the first drafts; sheet 1 contains the final drafts. The gallery above begins with sheet 8, that is, with the first drafts of the poem.
- The word choice of one of the first drafts on sheet 8 (marked by a red and blue slash near the top left corner of the poem . . . when did he make those marks?!?!?) closely resembles the final draft found on sheet 1 (first thought best thought?). The drafts in between seem to want to add more narrative (“I took a bite”; “it tasted like grain”; “dark swallowed quite / the light i dropped / as / my own heart stopped”) or to explain more (“this murdered he”) or to grapple more with the guilt and implications of poisoning a mouse (“whose innocence / hurls me immense / to hell alive”). But the final drafts return to sparser phrasing. (We might still feel the “hurling” motion, though, due to the reversal of syntax and the reversal of power that occurs through the ungrammar of the syntax and the reversal of capital letters.)
- The word “diminutive” emerges in the bulk of the drafts, but then disappears shortly after Cummings starts capitalizing the “You” which, of course contrasts with the diminutive i (see bottom of sheet 3 and top of sheet 2).
- Up until the final drafts on sheet 1, Cummings works within two stanzas of four lines each. It takes him only one draft to shift to a 1-2-1 // 1-2-1 pattern of lines per stanza in the final moments of the making of this poem.
- Since the final draft appears on sheet one, we can juxtapose how it looks in The Complete Poems. Doing so readily reveals the drastic difference between what the white space looks like on Cummings’ typed sheets versus what it looks in another font and font-size.
- Back on the sheet of first drafts (Sheet 8) we find drafts for another poem. In this draft, we see Cummings playing with “no, where, nowhere” iterations as well as his recurrent explorations of “am” and “dream.”