Thom Gunn Poetry: British Analysis
Thom Gunn first achieved notoriety in England, as part of what was called the Movement, an unofficial tag applied to some poets of the 1950’s who were, in Gunn’s words, “eschewing Modernism, and turning back, though not very thoroughgoingly, to traditional resources in structure and method.” Poets of the Movement included Philip Larkin, Kingsley Amis, and Donald Davie, among others. Gunn continued to achieve critical acclaim by approaching a diverse number of subjects previously excluded from poetry, with a similar regard for structure and meter.
Having moved to the United States in the late 1950’s, Gunn is somewhat of an amphibious poet. One might say that while his poetry has its formal roots in the English tradition, his subject matter has been taken largely from his American experience. He is known particularly for his exploration of certain counterculture movements from the 1950’s to the 1980’s. He is comfortable on the fringes of society, where popular culture thrives; rock music, motorcycle gangs, leather bars, and orgies have been his milieu. He is also considered one of the poets who deal most frankly with gay subject matter and themes. What distinguishes Gunn from other poets working with the same material is that he has refused to abandon structure and meter, preferring to impose form on chaotic subjects. Since the mid-1960’s, however, Gunn has been increasingly influenced by American poets, notably William Carlos Williams; he...
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