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This article is taken from PN Review 70, Volume 16 Number 2, November - December 1989.

Introduction Clive Wilmer
I find it hard to believe that Thom Gunn is sixty. This is partly, for those of us lucky enough to know him, because he looks so young, but as all his readers will recognise, it has more to do with the youthfulness of his mind. This shows itself in the vigour of his poetry and its openness to new experience - its openness in particular to new literary experience, a fact that is documented in his marvellous essays.

The secret of this almost-eternal youth lies, I suspect, in a characteristic referred to by many of the friends who have contributed to this symposium: his refusal of all allegiances other than those he has consciously chosen for himself. It is no accident that the best known of all his poems is entitled 'On the Move'. Yet paradoxically this poet, so notable for his avoidance of emotional attachments - expatriate, homosexual, erstwhile existentialist, resister of literary movements - is also a strikingly homely person who finds it hard to separate himself from his house, the friends he shares it with and the city he adopted more than thirty years ago. He has indeed become something of a regional poet: when I first walked round San Francisco in his company I was struck by how many of the places we passed were familiar to me from having read his poems. My point, of course, is that he has chosen his home (America, San Francisco and his house) much as he has ...


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