The first collection of Anglo-American poet Thom Gunn's prose reflections on the poet's craft.

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Enmeshed with Time: The Sixteenth Century - 3
Forays against the Republic: Whitman - 15
Responsibilities: Contemporary Poetry and August Kleinzahler - 22
Three Hard Women: H. D., Marianne Moore, and Mina Loy - 33
What the Slowworm Said: Eliot, Pound, and Bunting - 53
As If Startled Awake: The Poetry of Janet Lewis - 66
Weedy Speech and Tangled Bank: Lorine Niedecker - 74
Out of the Box: Elizabeth Bishop - 77
Small Persistent Difficulties: Robert Creeley - 87
Living in the Present: Donald Hall - 96
A Record: Allen Ginsberg's Poetry - 102
Surefire Diver: Jack Sharpless - 116
Fever in the Morning: Jim Powell - 121

Two Essays on Robert Duncan
The High Road: A Last Collection - 129
Adventurous Song: Robert Duncan as Romantic Modernist - 143

Christopher Isherwood: Getting Things Right - 173
On a Drying Hill: Yvor Winters - 197
Two Saturday Nights: Rewriting a Poem - 213
An Anglo-American Poet: Interview with Jim Powell - 218


Born and raised in Britain, Thom Gunn has lived in the United States since 1954. He is well known as a poet and is increasingly gaining recognition as a literary critic. Gunn’s main concern in Shelf Life is with twentieth-century American poets, both the famous and the obscure; he also discusses other matters, including the Elizabethans, Christopher Isherwood as man and stylist, and Gunn’s own poetry, which he touches on indirectly in the first two sections of the book and directly in the last.
Gunn’s criticism communicates his own enthusiasm for poetry. He tries to show his readers how to get a first foothold into the work of some of his favorite poets, whether Wyatt or Whitman, Mina Loy or Robert Creeley.