Clive Wilmer edits collection for Faber and Faber

Fellow in English Clive Wilmer has edited a selection of the poems of English-born and Cambridge-educated poet Thom Gunn (1929-2004). Published by Faber & Faber, Thom Gunn: Selected Poems includes a dedicated introduction and critical source commentary that draws on the poet’s notebooks, held in the University of California at Berkeley, as well as Wilmer’s own recollections of a long friendship.

Thom Gunn had changed his name from William Guinneach Gunn before studying at Cambridge. He took as his forename a contraction of his mother’s maiden name Thomson. This reinvention of himself coincided with a growing awareness of his homosexuality, Wilmer notes in an essay in the latest issue of the Times Literary Supplement, and sealed his bond with his mother, though she was now dead. It also marked a distancing from his father, tabloid editor Herbert Gunn, whose Scottish familial name he symbolically jettisoned.

Gunn’s developing lyric voice placed his mother Charlotte in the role of muse. That work, marked by lessons of life loss, was profoundly shaped by his discovery of his mother’s body after her suicide in December 1944. Gunn’s first collection of poems was published in 1954, the same year that he relocated to the United States. In bringing together work from across his career, from the tormented poems of his youth to his later commentary on the ravages of AIDS, Wilmer identifies in Gunn a sensitivity and seriousness that clearly impresses.

Thom Gunn: Selected Poems, is published by Faber & Faber, at £16.99.

You can read more about Gunn in ‘Poor lovely statue! Thom Gunn and the death of his mother’ by Clive Wilmer in the 23rd of June issue of the Times Literary Supplement.

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