21 July 2009

the last of the commune dwellers

"Gunn, who died in 2004, began his career as a hot young poet in England (he published his first book, “Fighting Terms,” when he was only 25) and was generally associated with the taut, plainspoken aesthetic favored by writers like Philip Larkin and Donald Davie. In 1954, he left England for San Francisco, where he eventually settled after studying with Yvor Winters at Stanford. Gunn embraced the city’s bohemian lifestyle — Edmund White called him “the last of the commune dwellers ... serious and intellectual by day and druggy and sexual by night” — and he grew increasingly interested in syllabics and free verse even as he continued to hone the metrical forms that distinguished his early career."

David Orr on Thom Gunn (Gravesend, Kent, 1929-San Francisco, CA, 2004), excerpt from Too Close to Touch, published in the Sunday Book Review, The New York Times, July 10, 2009

Further reading:

Poems by Thom Gunn on The Poetry Archive

Profile: Moving voice (The Guardian)

A Poet's life, part one, part two (San Francisco Chronicle)