About to arrive at the age of 86, so suddenly after being born, I recognize very clearly that I am slowing to a jog, approaching a hobble.

I have good memories of my old days on the courts of tennis and squash when I was pretty quick and agile and how good it felt to test one’s body to the limit. The good tiredness and muscle ache at the end of play was always welcome.

Such days are long gone of course. Yet one should beware of slowing to a halt. My old Welsh friend and very fine poet John Barnie issued the right warning in his lovely poem The Sun Is Shining:

The Sun is Shining

Get the old men up,

no sleeping in chairs, out

to the bluebell wood

and the thin shimmer of its

scent; get them up, no

shuffling in slippers to the

kitchen to glance at the clock;

get them up, the buzzard

in a deft swoop grapples

the rabbit; life never is past

tense (the photograph

album is memory’s arthrit-

is); get them up.

Nearing 86, there are a number of tasks to be undertaken. One I have tried to tackle is the clearing up and re-organisation of my study/library. I have been procrastinating in this regard since the Great Flood of 2005 sent water waist deep into the room and books and papers and files had to be rescued from lower shelves and bundled any old way in high nooks and crannies. The archives of my life were scattered into chaos. Treasured books and records became untraceable. The place became a disorganized Augean stable.

Soon I was using this once well- ordered library as a dumping ground. I retreated to my small and beautiful studiolo upstairs overlooking my wife’s garden and gradually gathered around me a new and more intimate collection of books and writing material and memorabilia. It is where I like to sit and think and read and write and the hours there pass in great contentment.

But then I found a new resolve and have applied myself to the task of sorting out the jumble in the old, neglected library/study. In this I have been guided by the basic rule which I set down long ago in a poem:

Zeroic

Still alive

at seventy-five?

Do not wait

eliminate

put an end

to ever more.

Lovely thought

nothing sought

no excuse

reduce, reduce

life’s store

to the core

how you came

leave the same

the enemy is clutter.

Every day

throw away

aim to be

completely free.

Simplify

to zero.

It remains a testing but satisfying exercise. Having carefully gone through the piles and piles of old magazines and papers and files, I threw away a great mass of stuff that I judged for better or worse were not worth keeping or donating. I kept anything I even half-considered might be interesting historically or from a family perspective. A massive clean-out was still involved. Space and orderliness returned. The room was filled with light again. Dust settling from the musty air was swept away.

I have preserved what I believe may be important as sources of interest and historical value to those who come after me. For the record – and for scholars who may be interested to note – my remaining archive of material contains my own papers and manuscripts but also, very importantly, correspondence and papers to do with A.J. Seymour and originals of his many publications and copies of the more than 500 poems he wrote; a full set of Kyk-Over-Al since the first issue in 1945 and numerous files concerning this seminal magazine which I helped to edit from 1984. My archive also contains correspondence and papers in relation to my old friend and our great national poet Martin Carter.

I am dispersing my great library of books. It is time. I am gifting them to schools and community libraries. I hope with good cause, I see in my mind’s eye here and there a young boy or girl set aside his or her computer, pick up one of my beloved books and enter a world of dreams and treasure. I am keeping only books about Guyana and the West Indies or written by Guyanese and West Indians. And I am keeping also all my books of poetry, perhaps a thousand in number by now. These I will keep as long as I last. I cannot imagine them not being there, shining in their special shelves.

 

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