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The Letters of Thom Gunn

Thom Gunn

This selection of correspondence presents, for the first time, the private life and reflections of a maverick figure in the history of British and American poetry.

Date Published
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‘I write about love, I write about friendship,’ remarked Thom Gunn: ‘I find that they are absolutely intertwined.’ These core values permeate his correspondence with friends, family, lovers, and fellow poets, and shed new light on ‘one of the most singular and compelling poets in English during the past half-century’ (Times Literary Supplement).

These letters reveal the evolution of Gunn’s work and illuminate the fascinating life that informed his poems: his struggle to come to terms with his mother’s suicide; his changing relationship with his life partner, Mike Kitay; the LSD trips that led to his celebrated collection Moly (1971); and the deaths of friends from AIDS that inspired the powerful, unsparing elegies of The Man with Night Sweats (1992).

Critic Reviews

The Letters of Thom Gunn (Faber) is a book to last all the rest of life, every page a blast of some kind – mostly of wit and honesty. There’s no biography yet of this resolutely un-public man (I think the greatest English poet of his generation), so being given even partial access to his brilliantly capacious mind is bracing and enriching, like an intimation of actual friendship. Gunn writes about his excesses – of drugs, sex, literature – with control but no restraint, and what’s really exciting here is to feel his lavish focus on each of the lucky real friends who received these letters. It makes an utterly absorbing read.

David Abulafia, The Literary Supplement

Thom Gunn was born in Gravesend, Kent in 1929. He published his first book of poems, Fighting Terms (1954), while he was still an undergraduate at Cambridge. That same year, he moved to California and stayed there for the rest of his life, teaching at Berkeley and living in San Francisco. He published nine books of poetry, including The Man…

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