William Sydney Graham

[W. S. Graham] (1918 - 1986 / Scotland)

Biography of William Sydney Graham

William Sydney Graham (19 November 1918 – 9 January 1986) was a Scottish poet who is often associated with Dylan Thomas and the neo-romantic group of poets. Graham's poetry was mostly overlooked in his lifetime but, partly due to the support of Harold Pinter, his work has enjoyed a revival in recent years.
Graham was born in Greenock. In 1932, he left school to become an apprentice draughtsman and then studied structural engineering at Stow College, Glasgow. He was awarded a bursary to study literature for a year at Newbattle Abbey College in 1938. Graham spent the war years working at a number of jobs in Scotland and Ireland before moving to Cornwall in 1944. His first book, Cage Without Grievance was published in 1942.
The 1940s were prolific years for Graham, and he published four more books during that decade. These were The Seven Journeys (1944)' 2ND Poems (1945), The Voyages of Alfred Wallis (1948) and The White Threshold (1949). The style of these early poems led critics to see Graham as part of the neo-romantic group that included Dylan Thomas and George Barker. The affinities between these three poets derive from a common interest in poets like Gerard Manley Hopkins, Arthur Rimbaud and Hart Crane, and, in the cases of Thomas and Graham, a taste for the Bohemian lifestyle of the London literary scene.
In 1947, Graham received the Atlantic Award for Literature, and lectured at New York University whilst spending a year on a reading touring of the United States. He moved to London to be nearer the hub of that Bohemian world. Here he came into contact with T. S. Eliot, then editor of Faber and Faber who published The White Threshold and who were to remain Graham's publishers for the rest of his life.

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O gentle queen of the afternoon
Wave the last orient of tears.
No daylight comet ever breaks
On so sweet an archipelago
As love on love.

The fundamental negress built
In a cloudy descant of the stars
Surveys no sorrow, invents no limits

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