Poet John Godfrey was born in Massena, New York. He earned a BA at Princeton and a BS in nursing at Columbia University.
Godfrey’s is an elliptical and lush poetry of encounter. He is the author of more than a dozen collections of poetry, including 26 Poems (1971), The Music of the Curbs (1976), Push the Mule (2001), City of Corners (2008), Tiny Gold Dress (2012), and The City Keeps: Selected and New Poems 1966–2014 (2016).
In a review of Tiny Gold Dress for Hyperallergic, poet John Yau examines the unique way in which daily life in New York City shapes Godfrey’s poems. “Rather than constructing a narrative which culminates in a revelation, Godfrey remains open to the minute particularities and imaginative wanderings of everyday life—the multitude of wayward thoughts, musings and associations, the erogenous zone of thinking and looking.” Yau continues, “His poems teem with bits and pieces of city life, but they don’t necessarily add up and they are not anecdotal. There are myriad incidents rather than quick stories. His compressions of perception slow down the reader, open up spaces of reflection for poems about movement—the fragments of consciousness that come from one’s constantly changing attention, the necessity of staying alive to what the city throws at you.”
Godfrey’s honors include fellowships from the General Electric Foundation, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, and the Z Foundation. He has lived in the East Village since the 1960s and taught at the Poetry Project in 1974–1975 and 1982–1983. In 2011, he retired from a 17-year career as a nurse clinician specializing in HIV/AIDS.