Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Thom Gunn Quotes
"Any time I finish or publish a book I have periods of up to two years of not writing anything. But you know, I'm 74!"
"As humans we look at things and think about what we've looked at. We treasure it in a kind of private art gallery."
"Being in the closet, I saw being homosexual as a deliberate choice. It's got nothing to do with choice or the will, but I was being defiant about it."
"Deep feeling doesn't make for good poetry. A way with language would be a bit of help."
"Donald Davie was someone whom I got to know shortly before his death. He was consistently supportive, very kind to me, but he was very against queers."
"Edmund White said he thought coming out in public was good for any writer's work. It was for mine, because the subject matter is so much greater."
"Ginsberg's Collected Poems contains a wonderful poem about making it with Neal Cassady."
"I admired what my students were writing, but I think their improvement doesn't directly result from me but from being in a class, being with each other."
"I came out in person to my friends'in my early 20s'long before I did in my writing; I think being in love helps to do that."
"I came over because I wanted to be in America with my lover-he was in the Air Force at the time."
"I deliberately decided to write a kind of guide to leather bars for straight people, for people not into leather, so that people could see what it was all about."
"I deliberately wrote a poem in my last book where I was suggesting that there are other passions as great as or more important than the passion of sex."
"I don't know how to sit outside myself and test against a hypothetical self who stayed home."
"I don't think of sex as a self-destructive impulse."
"I had assumed that I would age with all my friends growing old around me, dying off very gradually one by one. And here was a plague that cut them off so early."
"I haven't written anything in four years. I'm sort of dried up."
"I notice that students, particularly for gay students, it's too easy to write about my last trick or something. It's not very interesting to the reader."
"I think most men, heterosexual and homosexual, enjoy being considered sexual objects."
"I try not to observe myself in the process of composing a poem because I don't want to come up with a formula, which I would then be unscrupulous in using."
"I was at a benefit for some imprisoned students in the '60s at San Francisco State, and there were lots of poets reading for the benefit: one was Elizabeth Bishop."
"I was much influenced by Jean-Paul Sartre."
"I was reading the poems of Rochester. Rochester made himself out to be bisexual, but I think that was only to shock. Most of his poetry is sexual, even pornographic."
"I was writing about things that matter to me - about the people disappearing all around me."
"I work best in rhyme and meter. I was most confident of myself in that way."
"I wrote that poem about the death of one of my best friends who died of AIDS. It was very sudden and very violent."
"It was difficult being a teacher and out of the closet in the '50s. By the time I retired, the English department was proud of having a gay poet of a certain minor fame. It was a very satisfactory change!"
"Keats originated the phrase, the egotistical sublime, about Wordsworth. They weren't part of the same movement."
"Many of my poems are not sexual."
"My old teacher's definition of poetry is an attempt to understand."
"So many people from Sappho onward were open about being queer and wrote good poetry."
"There have been two popular subjects for poetry in the last few decades: the Vietnam War and AIDS, about both of which almost all of us have felt deeply."
"There is a kind of inevitable consistency in a group of poems that you write over five to 10 years that end up in a book."
"There were real fears of being too open in the '50s, and I can think of very few writers who braved them. One was Robert Duncan, and another was Allen Ginsberg."
"We are very similar to heterosexuals. Not all queer people think this way, but I do."
"We control the content of our dreams."
"We learned in the university to consider Wordsworth and Keats as Romantics. They were only a generation apart, but Wordsworth didn't even read Keats's book when he gave him a copy."
"We tend to put poems into factions. And it restricts our reading."
"We were a charmed generation. Unlike our parents, we grew up with antibiotics, we hadn't had to suffer the deaths of our schoolmates from things like scarlet fever. Then AIDS hit us."
"When I first started teaching at Berkeley in 1958, I could not announce that I was gay to anybody, though probably quite a few of my fellow teachers knew."
"When I first started to write, I was aware of being queer, but I didn't write about it. Queer poems would probably not have been accepted by the editors I sent them to."
"When I was an undergraduate I had very badly annotated editions of Shakespeare's sonnets, all of which left out the important fact that will has a sexual sense in Shakespeare's sonnets."
"While I don't satisfy my curiosity about the way I work, I'm terribly curious about the way other poets work. But I would think that's true about many of us."
"With my creative writing students, I've taught literature more than I've taught writing courses'I just hope to make them better."
"You can never write about anything after having censored yourself widely enough'during the '50s and '60s, in my case."