on 5 January 2005
Just to add a note of disagreement on the one star review above. This was my first introduction to Gunn's poems, and I found them accomplished, elegant and deeply moving.
Gunn maintains the formal poetic structures of his english roots (he went to Cambridge during the 50s and was influenced by his english contemporaries) with delicate metres and rhyme schemes. But he enthuses these with the informalism of theme and idiom from his Californian and American neighbours and friends after moving to the states in the sixties - admiring the beats, and their lifestyle, but never letting his own structured verse collapse.
This collection reflects the strengths of both these approaches, and with laments and memorials to lost friends and lovers to HIV (and puzzlement at his own survival) it sounds immediately fresh, honest and also with depth and wonderful surprises unveiled by reading aloud (preferably in bed at night to those you love). If in doubt read 'To Isherwood Dying'.
on 15 November 2006
Fantastic. I can't think of a more moving book of poems about human frailty, love, friendship and death. I'd also like to contradict the information in the one-star review: there's very little to do with nature in this book and neither is there really that wide a variety of disparate themes. The vast majority of poems are actually urban elegies addressed to dead or dying friends. Gunn is gay and many of the poems address the AIDS crisis in its first Western manifestation in metropolitan centres in the 1980s. It's an incredibly powerful and heart-breaking collection, partly because it is so focussed on the human body and the pains it goes through. Highly, highly recommended.
on 28 December 2004
The best of this group of poems was powerful and tender, but they did seem to have a variety of disparate themes, which didn't help. There was also a feeling that the descriptions of nature were acting as a block instead of a conduit to the actual sense of them.
That said, I would certainly buy other works by this poet.