W(illiam) S(ydney) Graham Edwin Morgan - Essay

Edwin Morgan

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

With the publication of The White Threshold …, W. S. Graham moved into the front rank of those who are striving to light up the imaginative dialogue of poet and reader without resort to well-laid fuses of moral or social response and also without the adoption of any attitude (whether fashionable or institutional: masochistic-elegiac, fission-happy, or chat-and-dogma) towards personal experience except the bedrock attitude of acceptance, of patience, interest, exploration, wonder, and vigilance. The difficulty of this attempt to remain undistracted and unwooed in our time can be met only by a strong integrity in the artist, by an undeviating and dangerous singlemindedness which will pitilessly test whatever faith he has in his ability to record, to speak, to leave the dead and gesture to the unborn. Only out of what Graham calls 'the centre loneliness' will good communication come; only when we cast off from the shore will 'home' have any meaning; only by denying the importunate remedies of aesthetics or sociology will cures be found for the dying poem and the divided people. The art of poetry becomes a voyage of discovery: the poet writes to find himself, not to integrate his idea of himself with his idea of the world, and in the act of finding the self he is stung and irradiated with feeling, drenched, 'drowned', assimilated in a sea-change, so that the voyager becomes a different voyager and the next discovery of the self is of a richer face, with its past in its eyes, and the reaction to it is again different, and (if honest) more significant.

To the reader, therefore, who may ask 'But what is the poetry of Mr. Graham about?' we shall have first to reply rather as Mr. Eliot replied to his Cocktail Party questioners, by referring them to...

(The entire section is 733 words.)