Philip Hensher at Literary Review:
Thom Gunn started out as a member of the Movement, that 1950s collection of like-minded British poets, but he looks now like a consistent outsider. When he left England and went to America, he detached himself from one poetic community without, it seems, quite attaching himself to another – the judgement of his biographers is that he never reached the status in American poetry circles that he should have. This is just about the point where we might expect an august Collected Poems with juvenilia, footnotes, drafts and unpublished poems; instead, we have an attractive but rather slight Selected Poems, updating a 1979 edition. Is he a minor poet? Or are there other explanations?
Often, Gunn’s mode is exquisitely formal. He had real knowledge and understanding of English lyric poetry, producing an edition of Ben Jonson’s poetry – anyone who goes beyond Jonson’s most famous plays into the lyrics and, especially, the court masques will quickly appreciate his virtuosity. Gunn’s first volume, Fighting Terms, used this formality in approved ways for rather dignified subjects: the Trojan War, the landscapes of the Romantic poets. Between his first and second books, Gunn moved to America to be with the man he spent the rest of his life with.