Cover image for Boss Cupid
Boss Cupid
Gunn, Thom.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus, Giroux, [2000]

Physical Description:
vii, 111 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR6013.U65 B67 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



A Great Poet's Freshest, Most Provocative Book Cadets and skinheads, city boys, young Spartans Wait poised like ballet-dancers in the wings To join the balance of the corps in dances Passion has planned. They that have power, or seem to, They that have power to hurt, they are the constructs Of their own longing, born on the edge of sleep, Imperfectly understood. --from "A Wood near Athens" This is the twelfth book of poems--the first sinceThe Man with Night Sweats--by the quintessential San Francisco poet, who is also the quintessential contemporary formalist and quintessentially a love poet, though not of quintessential love. These poems--essentially variations on how we are ruled by our desires--make a startlingly eloquent gloss on wanton want, moving freely from the story of King David and Bathsheba to Arthur Rimbaud's diet to the tastes of Jeffrey Dahmer. As warm and intelligent as it is ribald and cunning, this new collection of Thom Gunn's is his richest yet.

Author Notes

Both literally and figuratively, Thom Gunn may have traveled the farthest of any of the original Movement poets of the 1950s in Britain. Born in Gravesend, he moved often as a child because his journalist father frequently worked for different newspapers. After two years in the British army and some months in Paris, he enrolled in Trinity College, Cambridge, from which he graduated in 1953. He then went to the United States for graduate study at Stanford University and an assistant professorship from 1958 to 1966 at the University of California, Berkeley.

Gunn's literal journeys mirror psychological ones reflected in his poetry. Influenced by French existentialist thought, he first came to public attention as a skilled craftsman of anguished lyrics in traditional forms. Moving to California, he experimented with the drug LSD and a looser artistic structure, which he used to present often violent subjects (such as motorcycle gangs). Correspondingly, Gunn's erotic verse changed from the early heterosexual lyrics to a frank portrayal of homosexual love. Although he claims to be an atheist, Gunn often conveys a passionate, nearly mystical, identification with the world of nature. The title poem of his important volume Moly (1971) shows his understandable fascination with the theme of metamorphosis.

(Bowker Author Biography) Thom Gunn, born in 1929, has received many awards, most recently a Lila Acheson Wallace/"Reader's Digest" Fellowship & a MacArthur Fellowship. His works include "The Man with Night Sweats" (FSG, 1992) & "Collected Poems" (FSG, 1994).

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

For some 40 years, Gunn has been the finest British poet residing in the U.S. If he has become at home writing about American scenes and persons, he has never lost his British poetic craftsmanship, most evident in his superb formal poems, the like of which only Richard Wilbur among his U.S. peers matches technically. Gunn writes free verse equally well, and "Postscript: The Panel," an excellent elegy in this book, is a prose poem more reportorial and less diffuse than most. Gunn's muse has been Eros, and as this book's title affirms, an Eros that is commanding and tough. A gay man who chose to live in San Francisco as it became the gay male capital, Gunn uses the cruising scene there as the backdrop and the stories and conversation of the cruisers as the meat of many poems. He shows his age (upper sixties) and his education in the poems, too, to demonstrate, by imaginatively depicting and interpreting biblical heroes, Greek myth, Christian history, and modern Western culture alike, that the gay scene is one product of them all, equally honorable because equally human. He is the best gay poet since C. P. Cavafy. --Ray Olson

Publisher's Weekly Review

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.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved