Collected Poems

Collected Poems

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by Thom Gunn

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This collection covers the span of Thom Gunn's remarkable poetic career over almost forty years. Gunn has made a speciality of playing style against subject as he deals with the out-of-control through tightly controlled meters and with the systematized through open forms.


This collection covers the span of Thom Gunn's remarkable poetic career over almost forty years. Gunn has made a speciality of playing style against subject as he deals with the out-of-control through tightly controlled meters and with the systematized through open forms.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“[Gunn] has always been elusive, hard to place both as to nationality and as to poetic affiliation. His Collected Poems are sane, accessible, impressive in their versification and command of language--testaments to intelligence, warmth, and integrity.” —Richard Tillinghast, The New York Times Book Review

“[Gunn is] an exceptional and fascinating poet with a formal range to rival Auden's, a sensuality to rival Ginsberg's, and a profound yet daily humanity that surely surpassess that of any other poet of our times . . . [There is] a unity of purpose that extends throughout [this] work, from the watchful early metrics through the syllabics, the reach and skill of the free verse and, in much of the latest work, a return to strong form that might be termed triumphant had it not been called into the service of matter so saddening. Always Gunn has written from that lost and loving center between brain and body, which thinks while it feels, and feels while it learns: that species of poetic consciousness, perhaps unique to him in contemporary verse, has never flinched from joy or mortality, and does not flinch from the lengthy raw detailing of hopeless sickness that has been so much of its work in recent times. The human frame, fighting its dirtiest war for years, has at least got its strongest poet in the lists.” —Glyn Maxwell, The Times Literary Supplement

“How to speak about poems which have gained such a central place in imagination that they are often like the voices of one's own most private and valued reveries? . . . To keep open to the spontaneous visitations and seductions of the cunning Hermes--inventor of the lyre, god of crossroads, of thieves, luck, wealth, and fertility, conductor of souls to Hades--requires what Gunn's poems show him particularly fit for: the ability to give up the self to change in others, to change in oneself and in the world. In that sense, all for Gunn's reticence in putting himself foward as a lover, his devotedly impersonal attachments make him one of the great love poets in English.” —Tom Sleigh, Boston Review

“Gunn's Collected Poems run to almost five hundred pages, and all of them have virtues that a serious teacher, like [Yvor] Winters, or Gunn himself, could recognize and teach: technical skill, lucidity, discipline.” —A. Alvarez, The New Yorker

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Whether describing the countryside of his native England or an acid trip in his adopted California, Gunn's ( The Passages of Joy ) poems have a singular purity of measure and tone. He seems to have realized early on that words are not like ``dependable friars on the Alp / Saving with wisdom and with brandy kegs,'' and to have made a peace with art, its beauty and inherent artifice. Thus he avoids both naive realism and modernist self-referentiality. Gunn is reminiscent of Hardy in his style and in his interest in character--his own, but also that of strangers and historical and mythological figures, whose inner lives he invents. Hence the kinship of the poem ``Jesus and his Mother'' (``Are you the boy I bore alone, / No doctor near to cut the cord? / I cannot reach to call you Lord, / Answer me as my only son'') and ``Breaking Ground,'' which hits closer to home: ``. . . going down to earth, that's / what I can't accept / her kind hand, her / grey eyes, her voice / intonations I've known / all my life--to be / lost, forgotten in / an indiscriminate mulch, a / humus of no colour.'' The quality that comes through most clearly in Gunn's poetry is care, both in the making of the poem and in the concern for people. Nowhere is this more evident than in ``A Sketch of the Great Dejection'' from The Man with Night Sweats . As for Hardy, nature and character illuminate each other: ``I sat upon a disintegrating gravestone. / How can I continue? I asked. / I longed to whet my senses, but upon what? / On mud? It was a desert of raw mud.'' The conclusion is, appropriately, modest and unsentimental: ``So I remained alert, confused and uncomforted. / I fared on and, though the landscape did not change, / it came to seem after a while like a place of recuperation.'' (Apr.)

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Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.14(d)

Meet the Author

Thom Gunn, born in 1929, has received many awards, including a Lila Acheson Wallace/Reader's Digest Fellowship and a MacArthur Fellowship.

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Collected Poems 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Thom Gunn is definitely one of my favorite poets, and this book collects his work up to _The Man with Night Sweats_, which is one of the better poetry collections there are. Gunn is a very uneven poet, and when he is bad, he is truly awful. But he has some of the best poems I've read. And this collection is a fun one to read, one best read slowly, over a long period of time, so that it can be savored. Gunn writes well in both free and formal verse, and he does interesting things with syllabics. He is one of the best poets we have.