by W.S. Graham, selected and with an introduction by Michael Hofmann
One of the most unusual and original poets of the last century, the Scottish poet W. S. Graham had a career that fell into two distinct parts. His early work was rapt and wild and incantatory—poems filled with linguistic fireworks that can be set beside those of his near contemporary Dylan Thomas—and it culminated in 1955 with The Nightfishing, a long poem of spectacular resonance and a tour de force of twentieth-century verse. After that Graham, who lived almost penniless with his wife in a tiny cottage near the coast of Cornwall, did not publish another book until the 1970s, at which point his work underwent an extraordinary flowering. This later work, beginning with the celebrated volume Malcolm Mooney’s Land, is stark and quizzical and raw, a continual examination of thought and feeling that is also an ongoing exploration into the nature of poetic form, at once intimate and metaphysical, wry and elegiac. As Michael Hofmann makes clear in his introduction to his new selection of Graham’s work, this late achievement makes Graham one of the great poetic voices of the English language.