Articulate Flesh: Male Homo-eroticism and Modern Poetry

Articulat­e Flesh is about modern poetry in English by Gregory Woods, book cover

Gregory Woods, Articulate Flesh: Male Homo-eroticism and Modern Poetry (Yale University Press, 1987)

'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

'The book is so immensely more perceptive than anything I already know on the subject. I can't imagine it being better' - Thom Gunn

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.’

This book can be purchased from Amazon.

Critical Comments

Salvatore Santagati, Times Higher Education Supplement (13/11/87):

Elegant, scholarly and brave.

Paul Hallam, New Statesman (11/12/87):

Well-written, funny at times, often steamy.

Paul Davies, Capital Gay (11/12/87):

Articulate Flesh is a well-argued, detailed and often witty study which should be read by anyone interested in either poetry or homosexuality.

Jonathan Dollimore, Gay Times (01/88):

This book is full of fascinating material intelligently analysed. It’s also written in an accessible style, and with a welcome lack of critical jargon ... Woods is writing for, and deserves, as large an audience as possible ... Articulate Flesh deserves a central place in the government's proposed national curriculum for schools.

Donald Busby, Gay Scotland (01/88):

Gregory Woods manages to cover a very large erotic landscape in admirable depth and in a surprisingly readable form. For anyone seriously interested in this field of modern poetry ... this is a valuable and enjoyable book.

Simon Watney, City Limits (07/01/88):

Remarkably perceptive and illuminating.

Emmanuel S. Nelson, Choice (06/88):

An exciting and much needed addition to the critical scholarship on 20th-century poetry in English ... It is a thorough, intelligent, and restrained study that is free of the understandable defensiveness that tended to characterize a good deal of the gay literary scholarship until recently ... It makes an enormously significant contribution.

Peter Parker, Times Literary Supplement (15/07/88):

This clever and illuminating book ... displays a sharp critical intelligence rather than mere flag-waving.

Afshin Rattansi, The Guardian (15.03.90):

Wonderfully steamy as well as scholarly ... He liberates his criticism from the ghetto, once so valuable, of Gay Studies ... This book, often perceptive and illuminating, does fill a vital gap in the libraries of literary interpretation and should definitely be part of the National Curriculum.

David Hadlow, Rouge (03/90):

The result of vast research, this is a most accessible, stimulating and challenging book.

Robert Peters, James White Review:

A cause for rejoicing among readers anxious to see gay literary studies come of age. Woods writes with great flair, is steeped in the specifics of his subject, and provides exciting theoretical dimensions for the overall nature of creativity and sexuality.

Raymond Bentman, Journal of Modern Literature:

One of the best works to come out of gay and lesbian literary studies.

James W. Jones, Southern Humanities Review:

This book is a marvelous text of gay identity and about gay identity, in poetry as well as in fact.

Paul Knobel, An Encyclopedia of Male Homosexual Poetry (Edgecliff, NSW, Australia, 2002):

The book contains some of the finest gay poetry criticism in English.

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