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Thom Gunn’s controlled used of form and the metaphysical was in evidence from his first collection, Fighting Terms, in 1954, which was widely regarded – perhaps not entirely accurately – as a contributor to ‘The Movement’ and the opposition to modernism.
The same technical ability and formal prowess endured after he moved from Cambridge to San Francisco, though became, from The Sense of Movement (1959) onwards, shot through with a new mood of hedonism, freedom and the excesses of the gay and counter-cultural scenes of 1960s America in poems written in celebration of rock and roll, myth, and hallucinogenic drugs. The ’80s saw a shift in this life with the devastation of the Aids epidemic, which claimed the lives of a number of Gunn’s friends. Many of these friends are memorialised in the moving, passionate and humane collections of his later years; the Forward Prize-winning The Man With the Night Sweats, and Boss Cupid, Gunn’s last collection, published in 2000.
This Selected Poems, compiled by his friend Clive Wilmer and accompanied by insightful notes, serves to honour a true original, a thrill-seeker in the language, and to exhibit the best of Thom Gunn’s electric, powerful, intensely joyful poems.
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