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This review is taken from PN Review 159, Volume 31 Number 1, September - October 2004.

TAKING GRAHAM SERIOUSLY (2) W.S. Graham: Speaking Towards You, edited by Ralph Pite and Hester Jones (Liverpool University Press) £20pb/£45hb

It's good to see continuing signs of Graham being taken seriously by the academy and efforts being made to introduce his poetry to a bigger audience. The ten essays in this book are all extremely competent studies of Graham's work, emphasising the subjective side of it, pinpointing major features from the earliest writings through to the last, and constantly aware of the subtleties of Graham's very individual attitudes to his art. The book will make an excellent companion for many readers and students.

It is with this in mind that I want to concentrate on a problem I see in this book and others like it. This is, that the recognition of a poet such as Graham also has to be an act of assimilation. If he is to be taken seriously he cannot remain a maverick poet; he has to be subsumed into the canon, or even the `mainstream'. He cannot be allowed to represent anything like a radical departure from accepted norms. At its worst this means the reduction of Graham to the standard or average poet of his generation (or of current taste) with the resulting loss of his distinctive features.

In practical terms what it means is that Graham must be wrenched away from Dylan Thomas and donated to Philip Larkin, for the academy, or a powerful sector of it, is still distinctly uncomfortable about Thomas (not to mention some frightful troll-like beings called Apocalyptics, whom we don't mention). In spite ...


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