Boss Cupid: Poems

Thom Gunn, Author
Thom Gunn, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $22 (128p) ISBN 978-0-374-11557-9
Paperback - 128 pages - 978-0-374-52771-6
Paperback - 114 pages - 978-0-571-20298-0
Acrobat Ebook Reader - 978-0-374-70174-1
Ebook - 978-0-374-70178-9
Open Ebook - 128 pages - 978-0-374-70605-0
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Gunn, who grew up in England in the '30s and '40s, and has long resided in San Francisco, remains deservedly famous for his poetic chronicles of gay male lust, love, grief and urban life, and for his masterful, unshowy, reader-friendly poems in traditional forms. In his first collection since 1993's lauded The Man with Night Sweats, Gunn treats his readers to lovely stanzaic lyric, amiable Ben Jonson-style epistles, cogent blank-verse essays and taut quatrains; he offers up, too, great descriptions of aging hustlers, versatile bartenders, cool kids, elective affinities and enduring affections, many in a muscular, terse free verse. His interests in disinterested judgment, on sociability and friendship, reappear along with his interest in sex. To his poems about people and places, Gunn adds a brace of short takes on Greek and Biblical stories and legends: Arachne, Arethusa, the loves and lovers of King David. (A brief set of poems in the person of gay serial killer, cannibal and necrophiliac Jeffrey Dahmer are overwhelmed by their subject.) The loose sequence ""Gossip""--about a third of the book--consists of quick, memorable, short-lined free-verse portraits: ""Frank O'Hara's last lover,"" the survivor of a brutal ""Los Angeles childhood,"" a Berkeley student ""fueled/ on wit and risk/ and Ecstasy."" Standalone short poems include a dignified and forceful ode about stained-glass windows and a capsule biography of a man ""Raised, he said, not at home but in a Home."" While all these ought to satisfy both neophytes and longtime Gunn fans, the latter may be most strongly affected by Gunn's pair of poems on his mother's suicide, a subject on which he has not before published verse: ""I am made by her,"" one poem ends, ""and undone."" (Apr.)
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