Thursday, February 17, 2005

when I first really began to read the poetry of Thom Gunn I checked out the hardcover edition of The Passages of Joy from the university library. I don't recall how I found his work but like Crag Hill in his post on Gunn I thought he was a "mainstream" poet, and by mainstream I mean he was published by FSG and Faber and Faber, and he wrote mainly in meter and rhyme.

but there is nothing mainstream about him at all. I would hazard to guess that Gunn, from his appearance, to his choice of giving up a tenured position in Berkeley's English Department so he wouldn't have to attend meetings, or his subject matter, or the fact that his syllabic poems transitioned the way toward free verse poetry (tho now that I think about it that practice was fairly common among poets of his generation), or that he championed writers as diverse as Mina Loy and Robert Duncan is in his own stream. I admit it, I had fallen in love with him as a poet and a man. no shit.

what clinched it was the beautiful drawing of Gunn I saw after I read the poems in Joy. yes, somehow I didn't look at the back of the book until after reading it in one gulp on a hot, sunny day stationed in my office at the university recycling center, a job I had when I was an undergraduate. that book became a favorite of mine and I photocopied the drawing and hung it up above my desk at home. I'm not sure where it is now, the drawing, but I know it is dated 1981, and that Gunn looks like a very young man, tho he was in his early 50s. he has an earring in his left ear and a panther inked on his right forearm. and his expression is both of happiness, yes happiness, and curious vigor. I was head over heels that moment on.


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