Thom Gunn has been described as “one of the most singular and compelling poets in English during the past half-century” (Times Literary Supplement). Gunn was an Elizabethan poet in modern guise, though there’s nothing archaic, quaint, or sepia-toned about his poetry. His method was dispassionate and rigorous, uniquely well suited for making a poetic record of the tumultuous time in which he lived. Gunn’s dozens of brilliantly realized poems about nature, friendship, literature, sexual love, and death are set against the ever-changing backdrop of San Francisco—the druggy, politically charged sixties and the plague years of AIDS in the eighties. Perhaps no contemporary poet was better equipped—by temperament, circumstance, or poetic gift—to engage the subjects of eros and thanatos than Thom Gunn. This New 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 huge wound in my head began to heal
About the beginning of the seventh week.
Its valleys darkened, its villages became still:
For joy I did not move and dared not speak,
Not doctors would cure...