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W. S. Graham (William Sydney Graham) Biography

(1918–86), (William Sydney Graham), Cage without Grievance, 2nd Poems, The White Threshold, The Nightfishing

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Ellen Gilchrist Biography to Grain

British poet, born in Greenock, Renfrewshire, educated at Greenock High School. He subsequently studied at the Workers' Educational Association College, New-battle Abbey, Edinburgh. After a period as a journey-man engineer he settled in Cornwall, often referring in his poetry to the topography around Zennor and his acquaintances in its community of artists. His early poetry, principally represented by Cage without Grievance (1942) and 2nd Poems (1945), tended towards a cryptic compression indicative of Dylan Thomas's influence. The work remained, however, perceptibly grounded in his experience of Clydeside's shipyards and countryside and possessed considerable verbal vitality. The assured individuality of tone and philosophical orientation characteristic of his later writing began to emerge in The White Threshold (1949). The long title-work of The Nightfishing (1955) forms the culmination of the use of maritime imagery in his verse, the literal and symbolic senses of the sea providing a focus for the poem's passionate fusion of elegy and contemplation. Although the book was favourably received, he published no further collections until Malcolm Mooney's Land in 1970, which was followed by Implements in Their Places (1977). Collected Poems: 1942–1977 was published in 1979. Graham's later work shows a recurrent concern with the nature and functions of language and communication, such essentially abstract themes becoming entertainingly accessible through the incorporation of local elements and the subdued with of his manner. A further edition entitled Uncollected Poems appeared in 1990.

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