My father wrote an enormous amount of poetry, as well as four unpublished novels. Before he died 6 years ago, he asked me to act as his literary executor. My mother died 5 months later. My parents lived in a large four bedroom house, with books in virtually every room as well as all his writings - hundreds of poems, notebooks, journals plus the novels. At the time, all I could face doing was pack up everything so the house could be sold. The entire literary archive was transferred to our own attic but it was years before I was ready to look at it. Last summer I decided to enter some of his poems in a poetry competition. This was the first poem I came across - it was as though he was talking to me directly and I have to say it took a while before I recovered my composure enough to go through the rest:
To rearrange the work of others seems
to need only a sharp eye, some scissors,
a taste for putting elements in place
and a necessary certainty.
‘Look at this! Whatever made him do that?
Good lines thrown away, ideas squandered!
Was he so blind to treasures close at hand?'
Ah well, I suppose it’s up to me now.
A new broom to put his house in order.
A felicitous tying of loose ends.
A sympathetic caring for his needs,
and no wastebaskets for the prying kind.
All these notebooks, wild oceans of driftwood,
how they muddle and confuse accepted texts.
They’ll have to go - such imprecision blurs
the ordered pattern of his greatest works.
And last, to set the record straight and true,
an authorised biography. The estate
will make available the manuscripts
and letters. I’ve finished tidying up.
Causes Deja Whitehouse Supports
MacMillan Nurses, Princess Alice Hospices, Cancer Research, Centrepoint (all UK based charities)