Friday, June 5, 2009

A Thoughtful Reply Regarding My Last Post from Joshua Weiner, The Editor of "At the Barriers: On the Poetry of Thom Gunn"

Dear Steve Fellner,

I think you ask some fair questions, which may be answered more fully in the full version of the essay--it contains a fuller critical response to specific poems than the excerpt suggests. As the editor of the book that Tom Sleigh's essay appears in, I very much wanted a "hetero" thinking about homosexual experience, and though I didn't ask Sleigh for such an essay, I was happy to have this one--in the book it works in conversation with essays by Alfred Corn, Brian Teare, and Neil Powell that take up the issue of homosexuality from different homosexual points of view. (Brian Teare's essay is very long and exhaustive, and I think great). As a heterosexual and a big fan of Thom Gunn's work, I've thought about some of the stuff you raise here, and I'm curious myself about how Thom Gunn's poetry seems to bring out the "bi" in some hetero men who like his poems
--that is, the early poems with their heroic masculinity, and the later more tender ones perhaps express feelings that hetero men have but have never been able to say with such precision and force. Gunn's classicism and his tough intellectuality, a kind of emotional coolness, maybe allows a hetero male reader to approach these homosexual experiences with some sense of belonging; TG's intelligence, in other words, opens up these experiences in an inclusive way. I don't really know. When I first fell in love with these poems, I never thought of the homosexuality of them as exclusive. They just seemed like the best poems of my own time that I had ever read. Best wishes, Josh Weiner

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