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Young Gunn: Coming Out Fighting

Young Gunn: Coming Out Fighting

(p.19) Young Gunn: Coming Out Fighting
At the Barriers
Neil Powell
University of Chicago Press

Thom Gunn's autobiographical writings give us the portrait of a young man unusually sensitive and rather pliant. If he titled his first book Fighting Terms, a book containing poems with aggressive and often soldierly content, we can understand these as part of a program or strategy of “poses,” the choice and implementation of an identity not innate in the author. It's in Wishart's evocative if chronologically fuzzy autobiography, High Diver, rather than in Gunn's tactful memoir, that we catch our most revealing glimpse of the emerging adolescent poet: “Thom had a quicker wit than all the other boys.” The key imagery of Gunn's first three collections repeatedly alludes to the homosexual iconography of the 1950s, and its power is immeasurably increased by being strapped into tight verse forms.

Keywords:   Thom Gunn, Fighting Terms, High Diver, memoir, adolescent poet

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