PN Review Print and Online Poetry Magazine
News and Notes
Digital Access to PN Review
Access the latest issues, plus back issues of PN Review with Exact Editions For PN Review subscribers: to access the PN Review digital archive via the Exact Editions app Exactly or the Exact Editions website, you will first need to know your PN Review ID number. read more
Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Drew MilneTom Raworth’s Writing
‘present past improved’: Tom Raworth’s Writing

(PN Review 236)
Alejandro Fernandez-OsorioPomace (trans. James Womack)
(PN Review 236)
Kei MillerIn the Shadow of Derek Walcott
1930–2017

(PN Review 235)
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Gratis Ad 1
Gratis Ad 2
Next Issue Peter Scupham at 85: a celebration Contributions by Anne Stevenson, Robert Wells, Peter Davidson, Lawrence Sail

This report is taken from PN Review 158, Volume 30 Number 6, July - August 2004.

Thom Gunn (1929-2004) Clive Wilmer

Thom Gunn, who has died aged 74, was a major poet from the extraordinary generation that included Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath and Geoffrey Hill. Though in later years he attracted less admiration than some of his coevals, he was regarded by a minority as the finest of them all.

He was first and foremost the poet of the modern city. In love with its speed, anonymity and unpredictable eroticism, he could communicate the intense excitement a traveller feels on reaching a new town as night is falling. He enjoyed this power to excite - and at times to shock - but there is always more to his poems than sensation. They are also attempts to understand experience: which is to say that he was, for all his outrageousness, a complex and subtle moralist. Much of his emotional power derived from what might seem its opposite: his control of form and his subtle verbal intelligence. There was always a sense of strong emotion contained and a powerful intellect brooding over feeling.

He became famous young, but his celebrity declined in middle age. One reason for this is that, though self-consciously modern in his life, he stood aside, as a writer, from the currents of his time. He disliked the cult of personality, preferring to keep a distance from his subject-matter; he once praised William Carlos Williams for caring more for his subject than for himself. Moreover, he lacked a national identity, something poets need if they ...


Searching, please wait... animated waiting image