Thom Gunn has been described as 'one of the most singular and compelling poets in English during the past half-century' (Times Literary Supplement). 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.
[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.
Clive Wilmer...is Gunn’s most devoted and judicious, perceptive and illuminating critic. The sources for his extensive introduction and notes include Gunn’s unpublished papers, notebooks, diaries, and letters in the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley. But Gunn’s poetic mine is so rich with allusions and echoes, which enhance and fortify his work, that more ore can still be found ... This valuable edition places Gunn with the finest postwar British poets: Ted Hughes and Philip Larkin, Seamus Heaney and Geoffrey Hill.
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 U.S. ... 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.