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This article is taken from PN Review 135, Volume 27 Number 1, September - October 2000.

His Perfect Hunger's Daily Changing Bread: W.S. Graham James Keery

One of the last books of the 1990s, The Nightfisherman1 consists of letters, poems (including many uncollected and draft pieces), photographs, drawings and manuscripts by W.S. Graham, together with his early aesthetic, 'Notes on a Poetry of Release'. In addition, the biographical pieces by the Snows that preface each of their seven chronological sections add invaluably to the material presented by Tony Lopez in The Poetry of W.S. Graham (1989). Friends with Graham for over thirty years, and with his wife, the poet Nessie Dunsmuir, until her death in May, 1999, the Snows have completed their labour of love to the highest standards. Reluctantly leaving the millennium out of it, I'd say that this selection of letters by one of the best poets of the century was the finest British book of the decade.

For a start, it's a beautiful object in its own right, a three-dimensional collaboration between painter Alfred Wallis and designer Stephen Raw, featuring an untitled painting from an unspecified private collection - a pity, since, apart from 'This is Sain Fishery, That use to be', with its miraculous blue, it strikes me as the most lyrical of his things. It is not amongst the forty-odd colour plates in Matthew Gale's excellent monograph on Wallis in the new St Ives Artists series, nor in St Ives 1939-64, the catalogue of the 1985 Tate exhibition (which, incidentally, allots seven pages, at the front of the book, to Graham's elegies for Roger Hilton, Bryan Wynter, Peter ...

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