The Letters of Thom Gunn

Thom Gunn

This enthralling selection of correspondence is the first edition to present Thom Gunn’s private words for public consideration.

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‘Gunn’s letters serve as one of the most indispensable epistolary chronicles of an era, especially in the US, of the Eisenhower fifties transforming into the revolutionary sixties and seventies, and then the revanchist, reactionary Reagan eighties and the AIDS epidemic, all seen through the lens of a gay, ex-pat English poet.’ August Kleinzahler

Gunn was not just the leather jacket-wearing, motorbike-riding tough that he is sometimes made out to be; nor the rambunctiously laughing happy-go-lucky bon vivant that he often showed to the world. This correspondence, meticulously transcribed and annotated by the editors, charts his contradictions and complexities, bringing alive the biographical, political and poetic landscape that informed his imaginative and heroic body of work. The letters demonstrate not only the poet’s role-playing and theatricality – recounting in various voices to share his experiences as fully as possible – but also a deep literariness and humane intelligence: friendship, Gunn himself remarks, ‘must be the greatest value in my life’.


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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