Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Top Gunn

One of the occasionally, sometimes quite unexpectedly, rewarding aspects of my work is getting to see all sorts of poems and prose extracts that colleagues dig out to use as 'unseens' in tests and the like, some of which are so good as to illuminate the whole day on which I get to read them. A few weeks back I was taken aback, in the best sense, to read a poem entitled A School of Resistance by Thom Gunn - which we subsequently went on to use. The surprise came from the fact I'd never come across the poem before, despite being reasonably cognisant with Gunn's work, and it was obviously, for me at least, an absolute gem, possibly the best thing I've read from him in his early period.

The poem has grown in my mind since, as poems sometimes do, as a definitively wonderful piece, one that proves we're dealing with a master of his craft. Yet, and this is the puzzle, I haven't been able to find it in my Collected, and the only link I've found to it so far is, what seems to have been its original publication in the 1961 Winter/Spring Paris Review. I might be completely wrong about this, but as far as I can tell Gunn felt he could afford to leave it out of his works, presumably as a minor piece, not worth further consideration. Good grief! If I'd ever written something half as good as this I'd have made darned sure the world would never forget it.

It's a secret I suspect all poetry lovers share: we get to experience these little explosions of joy over wonderful poems at fairly regular intervals, because there's just so much that's wonderful out there, lying in wait.

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