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This article is taken from PN Review 139, Volume 27 Number 5, May - June 2001.

W.S. Graham writes Diana Hendry

I met W.S. Graham on an Arvon course at Totleigh Barton in 1979. The tutors were Edwin Brock and Jim Burns. Graham was the guest poet and I one of some fifteen orsixteen students. I was 38 and it was my first time away from my children and, from memory, the first time I'd had five days in which to do nothing but read and write poetry. By the time Graham arrived, with Nessie, on the Wednesday night, I was already high on the stuff.

I'd heard of Graham but had never read any of his poems. And so I was quite unprepared - 'undefended' is the word that comes to mind for the Graham persona, the Graham voice, the elegiac intimacy of some of his poems, his obsession with language. Of all poets, I think of Graham as the poet's poet.

With his sailor-blue eyes and his bushy brows ('my eyebrows have whitened and gone rogue', as he wrote in a later to Michael Schmidt) he appeared like the reincarnation of The Seafarer, storm tossed, sea-washed. Even as I write this, I find myself thinking, irrationally, maybe he was! I think he was wearing what looked like a much lived-in suit, though it could be just that he seemed very at home in his body. And of course he was drinking whisky, and of course Nessie was keeping an eye on him.

What I didn't realise then, but know now, is that ...


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