May I Say Nothing

May I Say Nothing, Gregory Woods book cover

Gregory Woods, May I Say Nothing (Carcanet Press, 1998)

‘May I Say Nothing' is a collection of homo-erotic verses on both personal and broader social themes. The book is in three parts. The first opens with formal poems about key figures in past gay culture, whom Woods implicitly connects with aspects of contemporary life. The second part consists of twelve-line poems on themes progressing from desire, through consummation, to loss and the renewal of desire. The third part contains mainly longer, narrative poems in a variety of forms, exploring themes of masculinity and power, love and hatred, youth and ageing. A more troubled book than Woods’ celebrated volume We Have the Melon (1992), May I Say Nothing integrates his celebrations of male physicality into a context of repression and violence. The victory is in the fact that the beauty of the male body survives the questionable causes it is expected to serve.’

The title is a quotation from Oscar Wilde, his last words at the third of his trials in 1895: ‘And I, may I say nothing, my lord?’

The book has an epigraph from Jean Genet: ‘more objectivity, more passivity, more indifference, hence poetry’.

This book can be purchased from Amazon and Carcanet Press.

Critical Comments

Judith Palmer, The Independent (24/09/98):

Glistening homo-erotic poems of desire and consummation.

Michael Laycock, The Pink Paper (13/11/98):

Considering it’s written by an academic, the subjects dealt with are easily fathomable and will have any gay man smiling or crying with recognition … A swift enjoyable read that lingers in the mind.

Alan Sinfield, Gay Times, books of the year 1998 (12/98):

Combines assurance of language with a range of erotic adventures. The writing is often witty in its precision, even while encapsulating a bold, and somewhat edgy, range of sexual scenarios.

Peter Klappert, Lambda Book Report (04/99):

Endlessly quotable—pithy, often epigrammatic and written with such cool control of form and irony that it chills the very passions it arouses ... Woods’ poetry is smart in every sense of the word: intelligent, stylish and stinging … Often written in intricately rhymed and metered stanzas or in syllabics that fit like the perfect condom.

John Lucas, The Dark Horse (Winter 2001-02):

Gregory Woods’ poetry is very good indeed … formidable technical panache … extraordinarily skilful with rhyme … ‘This Bird, That’ perhaps recalls Auden, but it has an intellectual sinuousness and formal dexterity that the master would surely have admired.

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