Thom Gunn (b. 1929) was born in Gravesend, England; both his parents were journalists. He earned a B.A. (1953) and an M.A. (1958) from Cambridge University. He lived in Paris (1950) and Rome (1953-1954), then moved to California where he has lived since 1954. He taught at the University of California, Berkeley, between 1958 and 1966 and has returned from time to time as a senior lecturer. His numerous awards and honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship (1971) and the Robert Kirsch Award for a body of work focused on the American West (1988).
Writing in 1983 about his personal life, Gunn asserted "I am a completely anonymous person; my life contains no events, and I lack any visible personality." Others disagree. One critic argues, "Frank representations of violence, deviance, and the life of the counterculture based in San Francisco connect with 'yesterday and tomorrow' in Gunn's art."