William Sydney Graham (1918-1986) was a neo-romantic Scottish poet. He was born and brought up in Greenock. He studied structural engineering at Stow College, Glasgow, before winning a bursary to pursue a literature course at Newbattle Abbey, then a newly founded college for adult education, in 1938. After a long nomadic period in Ireland, and Scotland, in 1948 Graham moved to London where he adopted a Bohemian lifestyle. His friends included the playwright Harold Pinter and poets Dylan Thomas, George Barker, and T.S. Eliot. The affinities between these three poets derive from a common interest in poets like Gerard Manley Hopkins, Arthur Rimbaud, and Hart Crane,
The poems in Cage without Grievance (1942), Seven Journeys (1944), and 2ND Poems (1945-the title is a punning dedication to his wife Nessie Dunsmuir) are often said to resemble those of Dylan Thomas, though they lack the acoustic force and syntactical discipline of the Welsh poet’s work. The White Threshold (1949), a breakthrough volume, makes use of marine images drawn from Graham’s youth on the Clyde estuary and includes the serene, verbally playful meditation ‘Listen. Put on Morning. The long title poem of The Night-Fishing (1955) resourcefully deploys the metaphor of a herring fishing expedition to explore the poet’s struggle with language and vocation. Malcolm Mooney’s Land (1970) and Implements in their Places (1977) bring a new lucidity and inventiveness to Graham’s characteristic preoccupation with solipsism, community, and communication. Perhaps because of this alleviation of his financial circumstances, Graham began to publish with more frequency, with Implements in their Places (1977), Collected Poems 1942–1977 (1979), and an American-published Selected Poems (1980). Several collections of his work were published after his death, including ‘New Collected Poems’ (2004).
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