After leaving Trinity College, Cambridge, Gunn went to California (1954) and taught English at the University of California at Berkeley (1958–66), becoming senior lecturer there in 1990. Gunn was quickly recognized as one of the leading poets of his generation with the publication of Fighting Terms (1954); this was followed by The Sense of Movement (1957), My Sad Captains (1961), Positives (1966; with photographs by his brother Ander Gunn), Touch (1967), Moly (1971), Jack Straw's Castle and other poems (1976), and The Passages of Joy (1982). Much of his poetry is concerned with themes of energy, power, and movement and with the idea of the existential ‘outsider’. In his more recent work he has dealt frankly with his homosexuality, most notably in The Man with the Night Sweats (1992), an elegaic sequence dealing with the AIDS epidemic. His Collected Poems appeared in 1993.