'Your instep to my heel'

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The Hug
by Thom Gunn


The Hug 

It was your birthday, we had drunk and dined

    Half of the night with our old friend

        Who'd showed us in the end

    To a bed I reached in one drunk stride.

        Already I lay snug,

And drowsy with the wine dozed on one side.


I dozed, I slept. My sleep broke on a hug,

        Suddenly, from behind,

In which the full lengths of our bodies pressed:

         Your instep to my heel,

     My shoulder-blades against your chest.

     It was not sex, but I could feel

     The whole strength of your body set,

             Or braced, to mine,

         And locking me to you

     As if we were still twenty-two

     When our grand passion had not yet

         Become familial.

     My quick sleep had deleted all

     Of intervening time and place.

         I only knew

The stay of your secure firm dry embrace.

Thom Gunn, "The Hug" from The Man with Night Sweats. Copyright © 1992 by Thom Gunn. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, http://us.macmillan.com/fsg. All rights reserved


Poem as Friend to Sam

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The Hugby Thom Gunn

In this episode, Sam talks about the poem that has been a friend to him – 'The Hug' by Thom Gunn.

Sam visited The Poetry Exchange in Manchester Central Library, as part of the celebrations of International Mother Language Day in the city.

Many thanks to our partners Manchester Poetry Library, Manchester Libraries and Manchester UNESCO City of Literature.


Sam is in conversation with The Poetry Exchange team members, Sarah Butler and Alistair Snell.


Sarah reads the gift reading of 'The Hug'.


We talk to people about the poem that has been a friend to them.

In exchange we create a gift for them, a bespoke reading of their chosen poem inspired by the conversation. Our award-winning podcast shares these unique and powerful stories of connection with people across the world. 


We set up an intimate environment for these conversations at festivals, in arts, cultural and public spaces across the country. We also hold exchanges ‘long distance’. Our visitors come from all walks of life and we also feature well-known personalities such as Andrew Scott, Maxine Peake, Roy McFarlane and Paterson Joseph.