This book surveys Thom Gunn's career from his youth in 1930s Britain to his final years in California, from his earliest publications to his later unpublished notebooks, bringing together some of the most important poet-critics from both sides of the Atlantic to assess his oeuvre. It traces how Gunn, in both his life and his writings, pushed at boundaries of different kinds, be they geographic, sexual, or poetic. The book brings the early Gunn further into focus with chapters by Eavan Boland, Neil Powell, and Alfred Corn. Boland gives us a young Irishwoman's unique account of first encounters; Powell analyzes the variety of early poses Gunn strikes, inflected by his homosexuality; and Corn connects the homosexuality to Gunn's growing commitment to existentialism during the 1950s. Not unrelated to the Corn chapter, David Gewanter enlarges the issue of sexuality by tracing it to mortality in a meditation on how Gunn figures the human body throughout his work.
Keywords: Thom Gunn, 1930s Britain, unpublished notebooks, poet-critics, boundaries, homosexuality, California