Vidyan Ravinthiran at Poetry Magazine:
In “On the Move,” the verse-rhythm is already more susceptible, and uncertain, than it seems. The commas in the first two lines quoted are marvelously controlled — a delight for the savoring ear — but they also register that “doubt” which is eventually strapped in and hidden (where the fitting of rhyme to rhyme is the poet’s own version of this process). Writing of Thomas Hardy, Gunn says his “poetry is almost always robust, never fretful or neurotic.” Yet, in this poem, the hidden neurosis is acknowledged. And we shouldn’t miss, in either the essay on Hardy or “On the Move,” the genuinely mitigating (rather than habitual) word “almost” — as crucial here as when it appears twice at the close of Larkin’s “An Arundel Tomb,” from which it tends to vanish whenever that poem is sentimentally quoted. The internal rhyme with “dust” and “robust” emphasizes the word: Gunn won’t wholly idealize his kinetic toughs.
Comparing this with the verse of his following books, we see how Gunn gradually learned to combine his rhymes with soft-hard meter. “In Santa Maria del Popolo” is slicker, less insistent and more insinuating — the syntactical distensions have become second nature. In 1965, Gunn collaborated with his brother Ander on the photo-book Positives (only “The Old Woman” makes the cut here); two years later, Touch appeared, containing the sequence “Misanthropos” (solipsism diagrammed, with a diamond-point chisel), and also the famous title poem.