Poetry News

Stan Mir Gives John Godfrey's Poetry Its Overdue Consideration

By Harriet Staff
John Godfrey, The City Keeps, cover

John Godfrey's The City Keeps: New and Selected Poems 1966-2014 (Wave Books, 2016) opens a door for Stan Mir to talk about the poet, at Hyperallergic. "For the majority of his writing life, Godfrey has been one of the lesser-known poets to come out of the 1960s and ’70s zeitgeist of New York’s Lower East Side poetry scene. He never sought the limelight. Instead, he stuck to his work as a poet, and from the mid-1990s through his retirement in 2011, as a nurse clinician specializing in HIV/AIDS," writes Mir. More:

...He once told me, as a nurse he would be up at 5:00 AM to get an early train out to the edges of Brooklyn and wouldn’t return home until 10:00 PM. To maintain momentum with his writing, he would try to fill an index card when he got home each night, until he felt he had enough material to shape a poem.

Unlike Frank O’Hara and Ted Berrigan, whose poems are also inspired by the city, specifically New York, Godfrey seems more interested in capturing layers of atmosphere in his poems than in writing about himself and his life.

Like his predecessors, the visual arts have influenced Godfrey’s work. “Schnapps Sonata,” from Dabble, which was first published in 1982, offers this description of air and the mysterious actions of some unknown “they”:

When filled with, say, flakes
air softens the senses
In pointillistic smokiness
they are dismantling the stage
and removing the chairs
of history[.]

Pointillism, a 19th-century painting technique in which the artist applies small dots to the canvas to form the pattern of an image, trusts the viewer to perceive the image holistically. Godfrey composes much of his poetry similarly. His poems are more like patterns than traditional narratives, suggesting an attitude over a story.

Over the years, Godfrey honed his abilities as a flâneur...

The full article can be read right here.

Originally Published: January 12th, 2018