give me your painting hand:

W. S. Graham & cornwall


The poet W. S. Graham (1918-1986), though born in Greenock, Scotland, spent most of his adult life, with his companion Nessie Dunsmuir, in Cornwall. Since his death his reputation as one of the most distinctive and essential voices of twentieth-century literature has steadily increased.

David Whittaker’s essay chronicles Sydney Graham’s mature years in Mevagissey, Gurnard’s Head, Zennor and Madron. Throughout his work Graham’s poems provide a persistent sense of place – especially the ever-present sea in all its shifting moods. He also frequently referred back to his native Scotland with a certain sense of self-exile’s guilt.

It was Graham’s luck to be a part of the dynamic post-war St Ives community of visual artists. His friends included Peter Lanyon, Roger Hilton, Bryan Wynter (for whom he wrote outstanding elegies), Ben Nicholson, Sven Berlin, Tony O’Malley, Terry Frost, Nancy Wynne-Jones and Alan Lowndes, plus many more. Graham’s uncompromising dedication to his own writerly art would not have been possible without the abundant generosity and loyalty of this good-fellowship and this book traces his vital relationships with these artists. Most of the painters he associated with were challenging the habits of pictorial representation and their ideas and methods of working further shaped Graham’s development as a poet.

Give Me Your Painting Hand is illustrated throughout and includes material not previously published, along with four of Graham’s notable poems for painters.

Paperback – 64 pages – including 35 illustrations

£10 plus postage £1.50 – single copy, for overseas contact us.

trade terms available.

Payment by sterling cheque made out to David Whittaker

or via paypal.

Book launch was in st ives in november 2015.


click on some decent reviews below:

The book has been nominated for a holyer an gof award:

Photo below of me receiving the runner-up certificate at waterstones in truro at the very jolly awards evening.

the book was also featured in the times literary supplement

on february 5, but i can’t do a link to that (drat!).

The judges’ summing up of ‘give me your painting hand’:

This is a very well produced and attractively presented publication. It gives a short but vivid account of the life of the poet WS Graham who befriended most of the members of the St Ives colony of artists during the nineteen fifties, sixties and seventies.

The photographs are an interesting mixture of portraits and snap-shots. All are of very high quality in terms of composition and shed real light on the various personalities described. Good use has been made of original letters and doodles by the subject to provide variety and to give additional insight into Graham’s personality.

Whittaker effectively draws on correspondence, interviews, photographs and the poet’s own words to flesh out the bare bones of Graham’s life. The four featured poems, each written on the death of a major artist, Wallis, Lanyon, Hilton and Wynter are very moving and show the depth of his respect and friendship for these four men. This a vivid portrait of a committed local artist, his talent, his struggles and his faults.


                  ‘A little Masterpiece’

                                                      brian wall

                                                              sculptor & former professor

                                                              of art – university of california