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Articulate Flesh : Male Homo-eroticism and Modern Poetry

Woods, Gregory
Format: Paperback
Published: February 7, 1990
ISBN: 9780300047523
288 pages, black & white illustrations


‘One of the best works to come out of gay and lesbian studies’ – Raymond Bentman, Journal of Modern Literature

‘Truly revolutionary … a profound success’ – Jonathan D. Katz & David C. Ward, PN Review

‘Some of the finest gay poetry criticism in English’ – Paul Knobel, Encyclopedia of Male Homosexual Poetry

‘A noble piece of work’ – James Kirkup
Articulat­e Flesh is about modern poetry in English. It was written in the late 1970s, but did not find a publisher until the mid-1980s. The first half of the book, entitled ‘Themes’, has chapters on ‘The Male Body’, ‘Men of War’ and ‘Childless Fathers’. Then the second half, entitled ‘Variations’, has chapters on D.H. Lawrence, Hart Crane, W.H. Auden, Allen Ginsberg and Thom Gunn.

On 5 June 1988, having read this book, the poet Thom Gunn wrote in a letter to me:

‘About 30 years ago, I was speaking to Isherwood about Auden. We agreed that someone would one day write a great study of him showing the role of the communist spy he found so attractive was just as much that of sexual spy (often sexual spy pretending to be communist), and that this was the REAL key to Auden.

‘Well, you have done not only that, but you’ve done an exemplary study of the whole subject … [I]t is such an obviously superior work that intelligent readers and scholars will find it one by one, and in a few years it will be taken for granted that this is an indispensible book. It is sturdy: alert, courageous, thorough-going, logical, sympathetic. It does its work so well that it contains certain essays on associated subjects – for example on the connection between obscurity of poetry by gay poets and their sexuality – that are not your central concern. The book is so immensely more perceptive than anything I already know on the subject. I can’t imagine it being better.’

Opening paragraph:

‘Eros pitches his house in the human body. It is here that all declarations of love, poetic or otherwise, have their origin; and it is hither that, even after their dizziest flights of spirituality, they must return. The verbal flourish of erotic candour – the song or sonnet, graffito or billet doux – is an echo of the body’s signs, an articulation of the flesh. Since this book is about poetry written by men in either passing or lasting moods of erotic attraction to other men, the body in question is male.’

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