[A] fine, vital, note-enriched edition ... Wilmer’s selection is the ideal place to begin with Gunn — the major poems are here, and the facts of their provenance (over seventy pages of this book are given over to notes); sequences arrive happily entire. Wilmer is truly selective — he rightly takes just five poems from Gunn’s first book.
Wilmer’s informative and carefully annotated book is more interested in representing the arc of Gunn’s career as it relates to his life, framing his work through illuminating biographical material ... provides enlightening glimpses of Gunn’s half-century career across both sides of the Atlantic, which coincided with increasing tensions within the poetry establishment about the importance of tradition versus individual talent as well as ferocious conflict over identity politics, fought out in terms of race, gender, and sexuality, particularly in the US ... Arguably, this new selection could have given more space to the poems than the notes. Nevertheless, the selection weaves together highlights from Gunn’s astonishing career, reminding us that in refusing many of our confident labels about styles and movements and resisting the poetics and politics of ‘identity’, Gunn has left us a memorable body of work unparalleled among his contemporaries.
A new must-have for all LGBTQIA libraries everywhere! But it’s not meant to stay on the shelf, no. This new selection, edited by Thom Gunn’s friend Clive Wilmer, has been thoughtfully designed to be held and read, studied and enjoyed, page by page. It doesn’t pretend to be comprehensive or definitive; instead, it’s a splendid introduction to Gunn’s poetry, with a smart sampling of his work over the many years, which slowly brings the reader into Gunn’s large and restless world ... this thoughtfully selected span of Gunn’s poetry is not only an immensely pleasurable read but also a master-class in poetic form. Whether queer poets know it or not, Thom Gunn opened doors for all of us reading and writing today. Lucky for us, this new selection of poetry opens a door into his world—and what a world it is.
Clive Wilmer’s choices in a new Selected are judicious, while his introduction and notes are full of new material culled from Gunn’s letters, notebooks and archives ... Gunn’s life deserves to be written – not just because the mind behind the poems is so absorbingly interesting and so subtly compartmentalised, but because his life spans so many of the major changes in Britain and the US since the war ... Gunn’s poetry, like his life, is a story of inclusions and enlargements – of excess but also of order.
A compendious selected volume drawn from 11 of Gunn’s books, and his crisp introduction fills in many biographical gaps in the life of one of the finest poets in the English language ... Though he may be best remembered by the reading public for The Man with Night Sweats (1992), poems from the epicenter of the then-growing AIDS epidemic hit an exacting note still heard and felt today.
There are some poems I miss in Wilmer’s selection ... [but] what is remarkable about his book are the often detailed notes on each poem, using letters and diaries and notebooks from Gunn’s archive that Wilmer, who first read his work in Alvarez’s anthology and was a friend for forty years, has carefully gone through. Wilmer includes a not very good poem called ‘Expression’, which Gunn might have been wiser not to have published at all. But it remains interesting because it throws light on his reticence and impersonal tone.
Encountering a sampling from Gunn’s 1992 masterpiece The Man with Night Sweats within the broader context of his career is a shock to the system, no matter how aware the reader is of the mercurial literary life that led up to it ... Read from cover to cover, the anthology suggests that to express suffering with such exquisite dispassion, it helps to have been a bit old-fashioned to begin with, and to have undergone a long apprenticeship in those Elizabethan literary ideals that discourage idiosyncratic personae and assertions of individual feeling ... It’s not to diminish his extraordinary gifts that I reiterate how much these late poems eclipse his others. In them, death gives his formalism a new, vengeful life, allowing the music of rhyme and meter to operate less as a signifier of aesthetic refinement and more as a desperate shield against grief.