I'll skip "Rites of Passage: I" for the moment and examine the next poem in the sequence, "Moly," which is more directly related to "Near Circe's House." The subject matter of Duncan's "Moly" is identical to "Near Circe's House"--the transformation of men into beasts by Circe's magic--but the person being addressed in the poem seems to change from Odysseus the mythological character to Thom Gunn
the twentieth-century poet.
In the AIDS era, there was Thom Gunn
's collection, The Man with Night Sweats (1992), a threnody for the plague victims that can only be read with pauses for reflection; Michael Cunningham's novel, The Hours (1998); and especially Larry Kramer's justifiably angry documentary-style drama, The Normal Heart (1985).
En route, Duncan had dropped by Marguerite Cohn's legendary House of Books in Manhattan to purchase a set of the British journal Blast that Jess had requested, and picked up the new Thom Gunn
volume as reading material for the trip.
The Hampstead pub was a favourite of authors like Dickens, rated a mention in Dracula and inspired a poem by Thom Gunn
. The legend is that Jack Straw took refuge here.
In this context, Thom Gunn
's teasing couplet, 'I praise the overdogs from Alexander | To those who would not play with Stephen Spender', has an extra resonance: though Spender positioned himself as isolated by his parents from 'children who were rough', his career implies that he was more of an 'overdog' than he ever admitted.
Leaving aside the fact that there will always be some who disapprove of Thom Gunn
on principle, it would be easy to read his life and career as a cautionary tale: the young poet of prodigious assurance and power, a modern Metaphysical, who squandered his gifts on the hippydom of 1960s California, slackened his line, coarsened his feelings, and banalized his diction.
Besides his discussion of surrealist painters, Giles provides only passing accounts of topics such as Thom Gunn
's "camera style" and Sylvia Plath's early poetic meditations on the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico.
British poet Thom Gunn
has died on 25 April 2004 aged 74.
I retain and update Dylan Thomas, Donald Davie, Richard Wilbur, Anthony Hecht, Howard Nemerov, Donald Justice, John Hollander, Thom Gunn
, and Marilyn Hacker.
Dana Gioia, currently chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, was quoted in the online Stanford Report (28 November 2000) as saying that "Winters is probably the most influential teacher of poetry in the history of American letters." The list of poets who studied with the "hard-edged and often iconoclastic critic of literature" includes Philip Levine, Donald Hall, Ann Hayes, Donald Justice, Edgar Bowers, Timothy Steele, Robert Pinsky, Thom Gunn
, Robert Hass, and Helen Pinkerton.
Smith, "Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997)" (178-87); George Klawitter, "Thom Gunn
(1929-)" (188-97); Douglas Steward "Essex Hemphill (1957-1995)" (198-204); Dean Shackelford, "William M.
She shared the biennial David Cohen British Literature Prize with poet Thom Gunn
, each taking a cut of the pounds 40,000 award.