The theme of this book of poems is life in a time of deadly plague. The author depicts his world ravaged by illness. Some of the poems are quiet love songs for others, for the world and its delights, a world turned upside-down by the ravages of AIDS. Many of the poems are elegies for friends who have died in the epidemic.


Gunn's poems are lyrical, restrained, yet brutally honest. The work gains in power because of its lack of hysteria or exhibitionism. The use of meter and rhyme also contribute to the intensity, perhaps by providing the reader with sufficient distance to see more clearly the horror of a world in which "Of course the dead outnumber us / --How their recruiting armies grow!" ("Death's Door").

Poems about the experience of dying from the patient's and/or survivor's standpoint include "Lament," "Terminal," "Still Life," "Sacred Heart," "Memory Unsettled," and the title poem. "Well Dennis O'Grady" is a lovely little poem about an aged man "delighted to be out / in the slight December sunshine. . . ."


For this collection Gunn received the Forward Prize for Best Poet of the Year and the Lenore/Marshall/Nation Poetry Prize.


Farrar, Straus & Giroux

Place Published

New York



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