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Selected Poems of Thom Gunn

Thom Gunn

A beautifully produced collection of Thom Gunn’s classic poetry, illuminated by insightful notes.

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Thom Gunn has been described as ‘one of the most singular and compelling poets in English during the past half-century’ (TLS). This Selected Poems, compiled by his friend Clive Wilmer and accompanied by insightful notes, is the first edition to represent the full arc of Gunn’s inimitable career.

‘The poetry of Thom Gunn was much admired in his lifetime, and at the same time often misunderstood and underestimated. The scale of his achievement, and its uniqueness – a masterful Elizabethan lyric poet writing in the second half of the twentieth century – is just now becoming properly appreciated. Anonymous in voice, even in the service of the most intimate subject matter, acute in observation, particularly the urban experience, with San Francisco the principal site, Gunn is not merely the poet of the druggy ’60s in California or the plague of the AIDS epidemic, but of the deeper-running themes, shared by Shakespeare, Baudelaire, William Carlos Williams and all his greatest exemplars, of the artist’s moral and imaginative engagement with the world as it actually is, in the broadest possible sense, not as contemporary fashion might have it be. Which strikes me, who knew and loved the man and poet, as a kind of heroism.’ August Kleinzahler

‘Thom Gunn smuggled the lyric tradition out of post-war Britain, and gave it cool, gracious renaissance in California. His poetry evokes the wild life of the body with madrigal-like elegance.’ Fiona Sampson

‘Gunn’s work illustrates with unusual clarity some of the debates poetry in English has pursued in [the twentieth] century – form versus improvisation, diction versus talk, the American way versus the English tradition, even, at times, authenticity versus art. To contain these contradictory impulses and . . . to have generated a body of work which anybody wanting to understand the period and identify some of its best poems will find essential reading – this is quite an achievement.’ Sean O’Brien

Critic Reviews

Thom Gunn is a supremely paradoxical poet: a brilliant exponent of traditional forms who also wrote some of the best free verse of the late twentieth- and early twenty-first century; a deliberate un-confessional poet whose elegies for AIDS victims are unflinchingly direct and personal; a marvellous provider of particular instances who is also restlessly mobile. This selection from his work captures all these facets of his poetic personality, among many others, and proves beyond doubt that Gunn is one of the most free-spirited, intriguing, intelligent and emotionally engaging poets of his time – and ours.

Andrew Motion
Critic Reviews

A poet who deserves to be much more widely read and remembered than he currently is. Let us hope this Selected is the first stage of a Gunn renaissance, where everyone . . . will fall in love and carry his words with them for the rest of their lives.

Andrew McMillan
Critic Reviews

Offers the opportunity for uninitiated readers to be introduced to Gunn and for others to remember and reconsider a man who was once at the centre of postwar British poetry but who hasn’t yet attained the posthumous reputation that he deserves … This Selected Poems is the first step towards the rehabilitation of Gunn into the national consciousness.

New Statesman
Critic Reviews

‘He left England for California and, as an observer of gay life, became a uniquely Anglo-American poet. The new selected edition of Thom Gunn’s poetry reveals a writer as good as Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney’

Patrick McGuinness, Guardian
Critic Reviews

Anyone who loves the poetry of Thom Gunn will want to have the new Selected Poems which Faber brought out this year (£16.99), with its terrific introduction by Gunn's most thoughtful interpreter, Clive Wilmer, and the novel inclusion of extracts from his essays, interviews and unpublished letters, all in portable size.

Claire Harman, Evening Standard
Critic Reviews

Informative and carefully annotated ... framing [Gunn's] work through illuminating biographical material ... The selection weaves together highlights from his astonishing career.

Kit Fan, Poetry Review

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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