|A draft of the first stanza of ‘Willow song’,
by Anne Stevenson, written on the reverse of a shopping list, 1983.
From MS Add. 9451.
Drafts allow the exploration of the creative process. Deletions and amendments
are evidence of the shaping and refining of ideas, and the trains of thought
and verbal associations that gave rise to a poem may be more plainly apparent
in early versions than in the final published text.
It is compelling to read a poem in its formative state, in the author’s
own handwriting, as it existed before the printing press carried the words
away to the wider world. Even so, drafts have often been regarded as waste
paper, and few examples survive from before the eighteenth century. Only
in the last fifty years have poets regularly found their worksheets to
be of interest to scholars, archivists, and the public.
Items on display:
MS Add. 4422: George Crabbe, notebook,
1810s, open at ‘The amours of G[eorge]’. MS
Add. 2588/585: Alfred, Lord Tennyson, draft of ‘The princess’,
1847. MS Add. 4444: Percy Bysshe Shelley,
corrected fair copy of ‘To Jane. The invitation’, c. 1821.
MS Add. 6850: Rudyard Kipling, ‘Rewards
and fairies’, 1920s, open at a corrected fair copy of ‘If—’.
From MS Add. 9451: Seamus Heaney, annotated
typescript of ‘The figures at Kilpeck’ (‘Sheelagh na
Gig’), 1981. Adv.d.38.5: Justa Edovardo
King naufrago... (Cambridge: Thomas Buck and Roger Daniel, 1638), printed,
open at John Milton’s autograph corrections to ‘Lycidas’.
From MS Add. 9451: Anne Stevenson, draft
of the first stanza of ‘Willow song’, 1983.