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I Can Manage Multiplicity

The Holmes collection contains a number of drafts of this poem which appeared in the New Yorker in 1953.

Holmes commented on the origins of the poem in Volume 25 of the scrapbooks, on page 144:

I had sent the New Yorker a poem about which Moss had said that I was talking about two things, multiplicity, and the incoming mail, and that I should make the mail the chief thing, and multiplicity would naturally follow. I had a line, "George thinks I have the most interesting mail on the whole street." That is the real name of our mail-man, and so I got more of George into the revision, and then called the piece "Incoming Mail." Moss liked the revision, but liked the original title, hence the letter of Oct. 9. I had "the very present" for some sort of rhythm, or line-length, I was trying to keep; Howard wanted it out. I took it out. This was much-advised, or edited, piece by the time Moss got through with it, and the check came, and the galley-proof. Long before Oct.1953, I had begun some lines naming the incredible variety of screws, apparently having been reading a hardware catalog. I carried on for a dozen or more lines, about the infinite varieties in other things, and gave up. In the fall of 1953, two years later, the sheet turned up again, and I made a fresh start, and finished, and sent the piece to the New Yorker....

Excerpts from the letters mentioned above are paired with the relevant drafts. The original letters can be found in Volume 25 of the scrapbooks.

             
   
   
View typescript draft 1
View typescript draft 2
View typescript draft 3
View typescript draft 4
View typescript draft 5
   
Listen to a recording of the published version of "I Can Manage Multiplicity":
MP3 1 MB
   
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