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This article is taken from PN Review 167, Volume 32 Number 3, January - February 2006.

Remembering Thom Gunn Clive Wilmer

I have been lucky in my teachers. In 1962, when I was seventeen, at least three of my schoolmasters drew my attention to the poems of Thom Gunn and Ted Hughes. I remember being possessed by the newness and the force of both of them. It was actually Hughes who seized me first - with the animal power of his work - but by the time I arrived at King's College, Cambridge, in 1964, Thom with his more subtle verbal intelligence had begun to take over. Imagine my pleasure and surprise, therefore, when halfway through my first term I received an invitation to attend a reading by 'Mr Thom Gunn' and a wine-reception for him afterwards. My Director of Studies in English, Tony Tanner, was, as it turned out, one of Thom's closest friends. Tony was undoubtedly the best teacher I have ever known and I owe a vast range of literary enthusiasms largely to him. It would be no exaggeration to say that he and Thom between them changed my life - or rather, that they took my mind at that most exciting phase of development and directed it fruitfully for me. So that evening was a momentous one. By coincidence, the other teacher I was working with that term, the medievalist Helena Shire, had been Thom's main supervisor at Trinity some fifteen years before. She adored him and he thought her the best teacher he had encountered at Cambridge. When you think of the depth of Thom's ...


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