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This article is taken from PN Review 187, Volume 35 Number 5, May - June 2009.

'Nikos is an Artist': W.S. Graham, Penguin and Faber William Wootten

Between 1955 and 1970, W.S. Graham was a poet hard to notice. Association with the neo-romantic poetry of the 1940s had made his an unfashionable voice. Moreover, Graham had quit London for Cornwall and now kept the company of artists far more than that of writers. Most significantly of all, Graham was publishing no books. In fact, Graham wrote throughout much of this period. Yet, refining the more lucid style and internally directed subject matter that would be characteristic of his later work made for a slow completion rate, and Graham evidently did not believe himself to have completed enough good poems to justify a volume. Instead, his new work remained scattered amongst various periodicals.

So, as The Nightfishing (1955) fell out of print, Graham had little reason to contact his publishers, Faber & Faber, and would have had even less reason to do so following the death of his editor, T.S. Eliot, in 1965. On Faber’s side too, there may not have seemed much cause to re-establish contact. Graham had shown no interest in publishing a book for a long while. And, though Eliot’s replacement as editor, Charles Monteith, would later become very supportive of Graham, Monteith, a director at Faber from 1954, had taken over responsibility for an author whom he would have had little chance to get to know.

Explanations for W.S. Graham’s apparent fifteen years of neglect are then not that hard to come by. The circumstances of his coming back ...

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