May 27, 2011 Leave a comment
So different have the American and British poetry scenes been in the second half of the 20th century that finding a poet that straddles both of them seems miraculous. Thom Gunn was a British poet who initially came to fame as part of “the movement” but moved to San Francisco in the late 1950s. His poetry is clear, lucid and often formal, but with a willingness to cover subjects that are far from the usual staid ones. Therefore a poem such as “On the Move” is an observational piece about Hell’s Angels. Being in San Francisco made him a writer in tune with the counter-culture which would have been unimaginable for his British peers, and in 1992, with many friends having died from the AIDS epidemic he wrote the brilliant. “The Man with the Night Sweats” – it was one of the first and best artistic responses to that tragedy. He’s a writer I’ve enjoyed reading since then, but have recently gone back to, impressed by the calm authority of his writing. Gunn died in 2004, and there doesn’t seem to be a biography him yet.