Thom Gunn (August 29, 1929 - April 25, 2004)
Born: 29th August, 1929
Died: 25th April, 2004
Nationality: British
Profession/Occupation: Poet
Region: Gravesend, England, San Francisco, California
Notable works: "The Sense of Movement", "Positives", "On the Move"

Thom Gunn Facts

Biography

Thom Gunn, original name Thomson William Gunn, (born August 29, 1929, Gravesend, Kent, England--died April 25, 2004, San Francisco, California, U.S.), English poet whose verse is notable for its adroit, terse language and counterculture themes.

The son of a successful London journalist, Gunn attended University College School in London and Trinity College in Cambridge, where he received a B.A. (1953) and M.A. (1958). In 1954 he moved to San Francisco, California, to study at Stanford University. He later taught at the University of California at Berkeley.

Gunn's first volume of verse was Fighting Terms (1954; rev. ed. 1962). The Sense of Movement (1957) won a Somerset Maugham Award, which he used for travel in Italy. "On the Move," a celebration of black-jacketed motorcyclists from that volume, is one of his best-known poems. In the late 1950s Gunn's poetry became more experimental. He published My Sad Captains in 1961, and Selected Poems, which also contains the work of his Cambridge contemporary Ted Hughes, appeared in 1962. Positives (1966) is a group of poems about Londoners, with photographs by the poet's brother Ander Gunn. In the 1970s Gunn began to explore themes of homosexuality and drugs, and notable collections came to include Moly (1971), Jack Straw's Castle (1976), and The Man with Night Sweats (1992), which focuses on the AIDS epidemic. Among his other works are Selected Poems 1950-1975 (1979), The Passages of Joy (1982), and Boss Cupid (2000). The Occasion of Poetry (1982) and Shelf Life (1993) are collections of autobiographical and critical essays. Gunn received numerous awards, including a Guggenheim (1971) and MacArthur (1993) fellowship.

Top 27 Thom Gunn quotes

As humans we look at things and think about what we've looked at. We treasure it in a kind of private art gallery.
About
Art
Gallery
Humans
Kind
Look
Looked
Private
Things
Think
Treasure
Deep feeling doesn't make for good poetry. A way with language would be a bit of help.
Bit
Deep
Deep feeling
Feeling
Good
Help
Language
Make
Poetry
Way
Would
Would-be
Ginsberg's Collected Poems contains a wonderful poem about making it with Neal Cassady.
About
Collected
Contains
Making
Poem
Poems
Wonderful
I admired what my students were writing, but I think their improvement doesn't directly result from me but from being in a class, being with each other.
Admired
Being
Class
Directly
Each
I think
Improvement
Me
Other
Result
Students
Think
Were
Writing
I deliberately decided to write a kind of guide to leather bars for straight people, for people not into leather, so that people could see what it was all about.
About
Bars
Could
Decided
Deliberately
Guide
Kind
Leather
People
See
Straight
Straight people
Write
I deliberately wrote a poem in my last book where I was suggesting that there are other passions as great as or more important than the passion of sex.
Book
Deliberately
Great
Important
Last
More
Other
Passion
Passions
Poem
Sex
Suggesting
Than
Where
I don't know how to sit outside myself and test against a hypothetical self who stayed home.
Against
Home
How
Hypothetical
Know
Myself
Outside
Self
Sit
Stayed
Test
Who
I don't think of sex as a self-destructive impulse.
Impulse
Self-destructive
Sex
Think
I had assumed that I would age with all my friends growing old around me, dying off very gradually one by one. And here was a plague that cut them off so early.
Age
All my friends
Around
Assumed
Cut
Dying
Early
Friends
Gradually
Growing
Growing old
Had
Here
Me
I haven't written anything in four years. I'm sort of dried up.
Anything
Dried
Four
Sort
Up
Written
Years
I notice that students, particularly for gay students, it's too easy to write about my last trick or something. It's not very interesting to the reader.
About
Easy
Gay
Interesting
Last
Notice
Particularly
Reader
Something
Students
Too
Trick
Very
Write
I think most men, heterosexual and homosexual, enjoy being considered sexual objects.
Being
Considered
Enjoy
Heterosexual
Homosexual
I think
Men
Most
Objects
Sexual
Think
I try not to observe myself in the process of composing a poem because I don't want to come up with a formula, which I would then be unscrupulous in using.
Because
Come
Composing
Formula
Myself
Observe
Poem
Process
Then
Try
Up
Using
Want
Which
I was at a benefit for some imprisoned students in the '60s at San Francisco State, and there were lots of poets reading for the benefit: one was Elizabeth Bishop.
Benefit
Bishop
Elizabeth
Francisco
Imprisoned
Lots
Poets
Reading
San
San francisco
Some
State
Students
Were
I was much influenced by Jean-Paul Sartre.
Influenced
Much
I work best in rhyme and meter. I was most confident of myself in that way.
Best
Confident
Meter
Most
Myself
Rhyme
Way
Work
It was difficult being a teacher and out of the closet in the '50s. By the time I retired, the English department was proud of having a gay poet of a certain minor fame. It was a very satisfactory change!
Being
By the time
Certain
Change
Closet
Department
Difficult
English
Fame
Gay
Having
Minor
Out
Poet
Many of my poems are not sexual.
Many
Poems
Sexual
My old teacher's definition of poetry is an attempt to understand.
Attempt
Definition
Old
Poetry
Teacher
Understand
There have been two popular subjects for poetry in the last few decades: the Vietnam War and AIDS, about both of which almost all of us have felt deeply.
About
Aids
Almost
Almost all
Been
Both
Decades
Deeply
Felt
Few
Last
Poetry
Popular
Subjects
We control the content of our dreams.
Content
Control
Dreams
Our
Our dreams
We learned in the university to consider Wordsworth and Keats as Romantics. They were only a generation apart, but Wordsworth didn't even read Keats's book when he gave him a copy.
Apart
Book
Consider
Copy
Even
Gave
Generation
He
Him
Keats
Learned
Only
Read
Romantics
We tend to put poems into factions. And it restricts our reading.
Factions
Our
Poems
Put
Reading
Tend
When I first started teaching at Berkeley in 1958, I could not announce that I was gay to anybody, though probably quite a few of my fellow teachers knew.
Announce
Anybody
Berkeley
Could
Fellow
Few
First
Gay
Knew
Quite
Started
Teachers
Teaching
Though
When I first started to write, I was aware of being queer, but I didn't write about it. Queer poems would probably not have been accepted by the editors I sent them to.
About
Accepted
Aware
Been
Being
Editors
First
Poems
Queer
Sent
Started
Them
Would
Write
When I was an undergraduate I had very badly annotated editions of Shakespeare's sonnets, all of which left out the important fact that will has a sexual sense in Shakespeare's sonnets.
Badly
Fact
Had
Important
Left
Out
Sense
Sexual
Shakespeare
Undergraduate
Very
Which
Will
While I don't satisfy my curiosity about the way I work, I'm terribly curious about the way other poets work. But I would think that's true about many of us.
About
Curiosity
Curious
Many
Other
Poets
Satisfy
Terribly
Think
True
Us
Way
While
Work

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