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This review is taken from PN Review 191, Volume 36 Number 3, January - February 2010.

QUEST FOR IDENTITY STEFANIA MICHELLUCCI, The Poetry of Thom Gunn: A Critical Study, translated by Jill Franks (McFarland) £35.95 ($39.95)

A single-author study of Thom Gunn’s poetry has been long overdue. Indeed, of all his literary contemporaries (‘Movement’ poets or otherwise), Gunn is the only one to have neither a monograph nor a biography published about him in English. This is a profound discrepancy that does not correspond to the number of times that Gunn’s poetry is analysed in dual- or triple-author studies, in edited collections, or in the large number of high quality articles available. Even so, very few of these articles or chapters deal with Gunn’s poetry as a whole - from the poetry of Cambridge, Fighting Terms (1954) and earlier, to that of Los Angeles, Boss Cupid (2000). Stefania Michellucci’s book The Poetry of Thom Gunn: A Critical Study attempts to redress this imbalance. The book’s ambition is to include all of Gunn, and, although it promotes itself as a critical study of the work of the poet, its trajectory, as Clive Wilmer highlights in his perceptive introduction, is largely to engage with ‘the quest for identity’ in Gunn’s poetry.

This broad critical trajectory brings with it, it seems, certain cultural and biographical complications. The book opens with an exposition of ‘The Movement’, with little mention of Gunn for the first ten pages. Once Gunn is mentioned (in a subsection ‘Thom Gunn and the Movement’) the material of the preceding pages is relegated to a ‘legitimate point of departure’ for Gunn’s poetic, no more. It is interesting that Michellucci should choose to open the ...

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