William Sydney Graham (1918-1986) was born in Greenock, Scotland, ‘beside the sugar house quays’ – a setting open to the sea. He remained a Celt, moving from Scotland to Cornwall where he found seascapes without urban clutter, just an occasional ruined tin-mine with its human echo. In the 1950s and 1960s he became a key member of the artistic scene in St Ives. A friend of T.S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Edwin Morgan, Roger Hilton, Peter Lanyon and many others, he could be demanding, but he gave back generously.
A great poet, he is also a wholly original letter-writer, who can be traced from his twenties to his final years (1938-1985) through snow-drifts of correspondence interspersed with poems, drawings and prints. We begin in the passionate apprentice years, then Fitzrovia, the Apocalypse, his years in Cornwall after The Nightfishing (1955), and come at last to his apotheosis in a volatile brilliance and a wry wisdom of his late work. There is a ‘Scots timbre’ to his voice, a suppleness in tonal change, from raucous to tender, from elegy to anger and back again.
He never set out to make his living from poetry – poetry made his life. Dedication and commitment to his craft produced an extraordinary body of work during a life lived wildly and to the full. These letters (interspersed with poems, drawings and prints) are a testament to the close intellectual and spiritual bonds which nourished his writing over many years.