W.S. Graham: Speaking towards You

By Ralph Pite; Hester Jones | Go to book overview

3
Graham and the 1940s
TONY LOPEZ

W.S. Graham and Dylan Thomas met in 1942 in Glasgow when Thomas stayed for a week in David Archer's house. 1 Archer, sometime bookshop owner and publisher of the Parton Poets (including David Gascoyne and George Barker as well as Thomas and Graham), was independently wealthy and a very generous patron to a whole crowd of Glasgow bohemians, as he had previously been in London when he owned and ran the Parton Street bookshop, the centre of the London poetry scene in the late 1930s. He moved to Glasgow to get away from the blitz, opened another bookshop and the Scott Street Arts Centre, and bought a large flat in Sandyford Place, Sauchiehall Street, where he allowed various artistic people to live and work for little or no rent: Jankel Adler, Helen Biggar, Douglas Campbell, Benjamin Creme, Robert Frame, Graham himself, and the actress and poet Julian Orde (a girlfriend of Graham's) were among those who lived in Archer's flat.

Graham had been moving around to avoid conscription. He had been at Newbattle Abbey College, near Edinburgh, where he got a year of formal education paid for by a trade union bursary; the college showed him a way out of the shipyards where he had served an engineering apprenticeship. It was in 1938 at Newbattle that he met his life companion, Nessie (Agnes) Dunsmuir, and they were eventually to marry in 1954. He had also been over to southern Ireland for a while, and had later worked briefly as a machinist in a torpedo factory in Fort Matilda, near Greenock; from there he moved to Glasgow and joined the Scott Street scene.

Robert Frame writes of Graham's time in the rent-free flat in Glasgow, of the poverty and hunger of their life there but also of the social freedom, the music, excitement and fun. 2 He remembers Graham's use of the scrubbed-wood kitchen table where he set himself up to write with his dictionary, his pile of Oxford classics and, tellingly, a pamphlet edition of Joyce's Anna Livia Plurabelle. He would play music from a small record collection as he worked: Richard Tauber's Mozart and Schubert, Sydney

-26-

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W.S. Graham: Speaking towards You
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Notes on Contributors vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Abbreviations x
  • 1 - Introduction: Contacting Graham 1
  • Notes 7
  • Listen. Put on Morning 9
  • 2 - Listen. W.S. Graham 11
  • Notes *
  • From the White Threshold: 4 25
  • 3 - Graham and the 1940s 26
  • Notes 41
  • The Nightfishing: 5 43
  • 4 - ‘roaring between the Lines’: W.S. Graham and the White Threshold of Line-Breaks 44
  • Notes *
  • From the Dark Dialogues: 4 63
  • 5 - Abstract, Real and Particular: Graham and Painting 65
  • Notes *
  • Implements in Their Places: 35–38 85
  • 6 - Syntax Gram and the Magic Typewriter: W.S. Graham's Automatic Writing 86
  • Notes *
  • From to My Wife at Midnight 107
  • 7 - Dependence in the Poetry of W.S. Graham 108
  • Notes *
  • From Dear Bryan Wynter 131
  • 8 - Achieve Further through Elegy 132
  • Notes *
  • Letter X–my Dear So Many Times 159
  • 9 - Graham and the Numinous: ‘the Centre Aloneness’ and the ‘unhailed Water’ 160
  • Notes *
  • From Johann Joachim Quantz's Five Lessons 185
  • 10 - The Poetry of W.S. Graham 186
  • Further Reading 195
  • General Index 197
  • Index of Graham's Works 203
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