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This article is taken from PN Review 168, Volume 32 Number 4, March - April 2006.

W.S. Graham and 'Terrible Times': Conversations with Nessie Graham Margaret Snow

'I come alive when we talk about Sydney's poetry,' said Nessie Dunsmuir, Sydney Graham's widow. We were having a discussion about his work one day some few months after his death in 1986. I would often take lunch up to the small granite cottage in Madron, near Penzance, where she continued to live in the same barely furnished rooms and in some considerable confusion of papers, cups and bottles. She never ceased wanting to discuss the work and was keen to hear comments. When Anthony Astbury published the Greville Press pamphlet of Uncollected Poems in 1990, I remember helping Nessie to select them from sheets of mss. Her concern was always whether Sydney would have approved, for he was a tough critic of his own work, as she herself described in her foreword to Aimed At Nobody: 'I remember once joining him, helping to crumple up and throw on the fire a great number of drafts of poems. When I said, "Are you sure about all these?" he replied reassuringly, "Oh yes. I know what I'm doing."'1

Sometimes, when the weather was fine, we walked to the National Trust Garden at Trengwainton, where we sat in the sunshine and read from the various collections of Sydney's work. Later we strolled through the grounds admiring the displays. She especially loved the blue hydrangeas; our progress towards the eagerly expected cream tea was punctuated by exclamations of pleasure as she came upon another ...


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