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Lament

Thom Gunn, 4 October 1984

... Your dying was a difficult enterprise. First, petty things took up your energies, The small but clustering duties of the sick, As irritant as the cough’s dry rhetoric. Those hours of waiting for pills, shot, X-ray Or test (while you read novels two a day) Already with a kind of clumsy stealth Distanced you from the habits of your health.   In hope still, courteous still, but tired and thin, You tried to stay the man that you had been, Treating each symptom as a mere mishap Without import ...

Thom Gunn in New York

Michael Nott, 22 October 2020

... ThomGunn spent the summer of 1958 in New York City. ‘It was wonderful, and revelatory as it always is,’ he told his friend Tony White. ‘I learn more about people and myself in NY than anywhere else. I got offered a job in a tough-queer 3rd Avenue bar the day before I left, and if I hadn’t been under contract to Berkeley I’d have accepted it’ (he’d been given a visiting lectureship at Berkeley on the strength of his second collection, The Sense of Movement ...
The Man with Night Sweats 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 88 pp., £5.99, February 1992, 0 571 16257 6
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... 28 says, have only pretended families. The largest gathering of the decade in San Francisco, where Thom Gunn lives, and in many cities, is made up of people with, or who have died of, Aids. The phrase occurs in ‘Courtesies of the Interregnum’, where Gunn tells how a friend, who once had hosted weekly gatherings, is ...
Shelf Life: Essays, Memoirs and an Interview 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 230 pp., £14.99, July 1994, 0 571 17196 6
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... Fame is difficult for a writer to deal with,’ Thom Gunn writes in his essay on Allen Ginsberg’s poetry. ‘It dries you up, or it makes you think you are infallible, or your writing becomes puffed out with self-esteem. (Victor Hugo thought himself superior to both Jesus and Shakespeare.) It is a complication that the imagination can well do without ...

Out of the Eater

Jeremy Noel-Tod: Thom Gunn, 6 July 2000

Boss Cupid 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 115 pp., £7.99, March 2000, 0 571 20298 5
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... Thom Gunn has an intelligent rock star’s ear for titles: Fighting Terms, My Sad Captains, Touch, Moly, Jack Straw’s Castle, The Man with Night Sweats. Punchy and enigmatic, they read like the back catalogue of a highbrow, low-life singer-songwriter. The career they mark has always had an air of rock rebellion about it, too: soon after publishing his debut collection (which appeared while he was still an undergraduate), Gunn moved to California and produced poems influenced by the emergent youth culture, hymning Elvis and black-leather ‘boys’ on motorbikes ...

Looking Up

Donald Davie, 15 July 1982

The Passages of Joy 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 93 pp., £4, June 1982, 0 571 11867 4
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The Occasions of Poetry 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 188 pp., £6.95, June 1982, 0 571 11733 3
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... In the past, I have been persuaded by those like Colin Falck who have thought Thom Gunn’s distinctive and great achievement was to have re-established creative connections with at least one aspect of Shakespeare, and with some of Shakespeare’s great contemporaries, notably Marlowe and Donne. Gunn, I believe, liked this notion, and Clive Wilmer endorses it in his excellent and too brief Introduction to The Occasions of Poetry ...

Diary

August Kleinzahler: Remembering Thom Gunn, 4 November 2004

... go with anything else. But I hated to lose them. Like Paris, they looked their best in grey light. Thom Gunn brought over a sackful of the bulbs (amaryllis belladonna) I don’t recall how many years ago, ten or twelve perhaps. He was always doing things like that. He liked gardening and wanted me to partake more fully of its pleasures. After his teaching ...

Facts and Makings

John Bayley, 21 February 1980

Moortown 
by Ted Hughes.
Faber, 176 pp., £5.25, October 1980, 0 571 11453 9
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Selected Poems 1955-1975 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 131 pp., £4.50, October 1980, 0 571 11512 8
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Collected Poems 1942-1977 
by W.S. Graham.
Faber, 268 pp., £8.50, November 1980, 0 571 11416 4
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... before, with its ‘symbolic food eaten by symbolic faces’, its ‘symbolic eating movements’. Thom Gunn, too, has a poem about a meths-drinking hobo, which is moving, and as finished in its own way as the poem by Hughes. The finished quality in Gunn’s case is that of its being more obviously a poem, an effective ...

Colloquially Speaking

Patrick McGuinness: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945, 1 April 1999

The Penguin Book of Poetry from Britain and Ireland since 1945 
edited by Simon Armitage and Robert Crawford.
Viking, 480 pp., £10.99, September 1998, 0 670 86829 9
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The Firebox: Poetry from Britain and Ireland after 1945 
edited by Sean O’Brien.
Picador, 534 pp., £16.99, October 1998, 0 330 36918 0
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... anthologies, while Basil Bunting, Dylan Thomas, Edwin Morgan, R.S. Thomas, Iain Crichton Smith, Thom Gunn, Hugh MacDiarmid and Norman MacCaig are unassailably part of our consciousness of the poetic landscape. Auden and MacNeice, too, though the omission in both books of Stephen Spender suggests that he has slipped out of contention – either because ...

On Not Being Sylvia Plath

Colm Tóibín: Thom Gunn on the Move, 13 September 2018

Selected Poems 
by Thom Gunn.
Faber, 336 pp., £16.99, July 2017, 978 0 571 32769 0
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... and refined place with factories and offices where Irish people could easily find work. Thom Gunn photographed by Rollie McKenna in 1957 It was strange being alone with these two books; even the names of the poets – Charles Tomlinson, or David Gascoyne, or Robert Conquest, or John Holloway, or Christopher Middleton, or Geoffrey Hill ...

Enormities

C.H. Sisson, 27 September 1990

Collected Poems 
by Donald Davie.
Carcanet, 475 pp., £25, September 1990, 0 85635 875 4
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... of the Movement poets of the Fifties, which marks him as originally associated with, among others, Thom Gunn, Elizabeth Jennings and Philip Larkin. No less than they, he has gone his own way and no purpose is served by hanging this historical label round his neck now. Even in its time it contributed more to publicity than to enlightenment. Robert ...

On the Feast of Stephen

Karl Miller: Spender’s Journals, 30 August 2012

New Selected Journals, 1939-95 
by Stephen Spender and Lara Feigel, edited by John Sutherland.
Faber, 792 pp., £45, July 2012, 978 0 571 23757 9
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... in John Sutherland’s biography.* Nevertheless, a suspicion persisted. Sharp little verses – by Thom Gunn and John Coleman – were flighted; and Ian Hamilton capped it all with a brilliant and damaging New Yorker profile. Stephen grew used to being abused. He abused himself. He could seem generous and long-suffering, but could hardly be blamed for ...

Best Things

Alan Hollinghurst, 20 August 1981

Viewpoints: Poets in Conversation with John Haffenden 
Faber, 189 pp., £7.50, June 1981, 0 571 11689 2Show More
A Free Translation 
by Craig Raine.
Salamander, 29 pp., £4.50, June 1981, 0 907540 02 3
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A German Requiem 
by James Fenton.
Salamander, 9 pp., £1.50, January 1981, 0 907540 00 7
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Caviare at the Funeral 
by Louis Simpson.
Oxford, 89 pp., £4.50, April 1981, 0 19 211943 5
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... subjects/performers, but the influences will often be far from straightforward. Geoffrey Hill and Thom Gunn impress by their quiet responsiveness, their unembarrassed exploration of their own complexities – but equally they are given by Haffenden the benefit of long interviews and of questioning which follows up both intellectual contexts and precise ...

Cambridge Theatre

Donald Davie, 19 August 1982

Swansongs 
by Sue Lenier.
Oleander Press, 80 pp., £7.50, April 1982, 9780906672044
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Collected Poems 
by Sylvia Plath, edited by Ted Hughes.
Faber, 351 pp., £10, September 1981, 0 571 10573 4
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Devotions 
by Clive Wilmer.
Carcanet, 63 pp., £3.25, June 1982, 0 85635 359 0
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... a central section of short-lined free verse that owes much (and very properly) to the practice of Thom Gunn. There are three poems – ‘Among Bric-a-brac’, ‘An Autumn Vision’ and ‘Homecoming’ – where the effort after metrical tightness betrays Wilmer into the too choicely archaic diction that disfigured his earlier work: otherwise these ...

Some More Sea

Patrick O’Brian, 10 September 1992

The Oxford Book of the Sea 
edited by Jonathan Raban.
Oxford, 524 pp., £17.95, April 1992, 9780192141972
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... life/Abides ’midst burghers some heavy business’). Elizabeth Bishop is a delight to read; Thom Gunn contributes a charming piece on surfriding; and Marianne Moore, considering the sea as a grave, has a linethe birds swim through the air top speed,            uttering catcalls as hereforethat completely deflates A.R. Wetjen, who comes ...

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