W(illiam) S(ydney) Graham Critical Essays


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

W(illiam) S(ydney) Graham 1918–

Scottish poet.

Graham has elicited considerable critical interest throughout his career. With the publication of his first volume of poetry, Cage without Grievance (1942), Graham was recognized by critics as a disciple of Dylan Thomas. His early verse exhibited convoluted syntax and elusive imagery reminiscent of the work of the Welsh poet. Graham's primary consideration at the beginning of his writing career was with the internal experience of the poet, and, in striving to express that experience, he often produced poems which thwarted interchange with the reader. Critics generally consider Graham's early poetry too imitative and too self-conscious.

With the publication of The Nightfishing (1955), Graham began to receive recognition as a gifted, original poet. The title poem of this volume is widely regarded as one of the finest sea poems ever written in English. In The Nightfishing, Graham largely abandoned personal concerns and considered such themes as the difficulty of communication, death and rebirth, and the problems of shifting identity.

The two volumes which Graham produced in the 1970s, Malcolm Mooney's Land (1970) and Implements in Their Places (1977), are dominated by the themes of the limitations and failure of language. Critical reception to these works has been mixed, but many critics agree that Graham is still one of the most innovative, yet largely unknown, poets alive today. Graham's most recent volumes are Collected Poems 1942–1977 (1979) and Selected Poems (1980).

(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 73-76 and Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 20.)