bit of background: he writes from the perspective of a member of the gay cultural underground using a formal, literate, and quite lyrical style. As a woman I feel included rather than excluded by his celebration of sexuality and freedom. My guess is that if you like modern poetry at all you will like Gunn.
Confessions of the Life Artist
I elevate not what I have, but what I wish to have,
and see myself in others.
There is a girl in the train
who emulates the beehive
of the magazine stars of
four years ago.
I blush at
The jibes that grow inside me,
lest someone should utter them.
Why was something evolved so
tender, so open to pain?
Here is a famous picture.
It is of a little Jew
in Warsaw, some years ago,
being hustled somewhere. His
mother dressed him that morning
warmly in cap and cloth coat.
he stares at the camera
as he passes. Whatever
those big shining dark eyes have
just looked at, they can see now
no appeal in the wide world.
People will forget Shakespeare
He will lie with George Formby
and me, here where the swine root.
later, the solar system
will flare up and fall into space, irretrievably lost.
For the loss, as for the life,
there will be no excuse, there
is no justification.
I play your furies back to me at night,
The needle dances in the grooves they made,
For fury is like love, and fury's bite,
These grooves, no sooner than a love mark fade;
Then all swings round to nightmare: from the rim,
To prove the guilt I don't admit by day,
I duck love as a witch to sink or swim
Till the ringed and level I survey
The tuneless circles that succeed a voice.
They run, without distinction, passion, rage,
Around a soloists merely printed name
That still turns, from the impetus not choice,
Surrounded by the played-out pose of age
By notes he was, but cannot be again.