Thom Gunn, to rest

Thom Gunn, British writer transplanted to San Francisco, formalist poet of highly informal topics, is dead. New York Times, SF Chronicle obituaries. Neither captures the full impact of the man and his poetry.

As a young soon-to-be-ex-poet in 1992, I was blown away by The Man With Night Sweats. Such highly formal structure (rhymes, even), on such highly personal subjects. Love, AIDS, mature relationships, all through a lens I had never experienced before (at that point in my life, I didn’t know that I knew gay people), through such highly disciplined language that I didn’t understand it for years. But I already knew it trumped whatever meager potential for highly distilled language I had in me.