ABSTRACT

Drawing on Thom Gunn’s poetry, criticism, and teaching notes, this article explores Williams’s influence on an Anglo-American better known for his traditional forms—an unlikely apprentice. From his first labored imitations to his late amalgams, Gunn follows what he calls Williams’s “essential tenderness”: an attention to the lives of ordinary people. In poems that focus on severely disregarded, dehumanized individuals—the homeless, as well as the institutionalized—Gunn builds on the affinities he shares with Williams, while adapting the older poet’s distinct strengths to his own abilities. He brings Williams’s resonant perceptions into poems grounded in bodily sensation: he thereby invites his readers to consider the lives of the overlooked from a new perspective.

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