Monday, April 8, 2013


John Godfrey is what some might call "a poet's poet"—meaning, he isn't as known in the wider world as he should be for a body of work that is unequaled. His attention to detail, both in the vocabulary of his poems as well as the New York City streets his poems reference, is exquisitely refined and yet as tough and raw as some of the neighborhoods he travels.

Some words fellow poets have used when describing Godfrey's poetry are: "elegance," "exhilaration," "soul," "heart," "genius," "uncommon," "gorgeous" and "irresistible." This is an excerpt from a review I wrote back around 1982 in The Village Voice of my one time favorite book of his, DABBLE, Poems 1966-1980 (Full Court Press):

"The mysteries of language and feeling Godfrey's poetry simultaneously unravels and creates go beyond the specific city scenes or situations they refer to. The best of his poems are a brilliant blend of lyric vulnerability and hard-edged precision—sensual and intelligent at the same time."

In his latest collection TINY GOLD DRESS (Lunar Chandelier Press), he continues to display his unique way with language and its use for description that is precise and accurate without ever being ordinary or expected. Not an easy accomplishment. Though every poem he writes is evocative in myriad ways, including romantically, the clear-eyed realism of his encounters and observations as he relates them in his songlike succinctness anchors them in my consciousness more concretely than many more familiarly accessible poems by better known and rewarded poets.

But John isn't just an insider's favorite because of his seriously unique command of his language and lines, there's a modesty and humility to his poetry as well, no cleverness for its own sake. Just the lyrical realities. Here's an example from TINY GOLD DRESS:

 Lip Print

Derangement of ventilation
Breathless mounts the bus
All we who notice
The savant the untrustworthy
the stained with heat
Why do I supplicate
when her skirt hugs

She weaves without jostle
through inhospitable standees
Lip print on sip lid
Stimulates herself
like chez soi
Coffee breath with pardons
Avenues by fast

Pink-on-brown stripe
from shoulder strap
Ear buds, R&B head bob
Necessity and freedom
Tall words for attraction
One time seen
The bus kneels


tpw said...

John's work definitely deserves more attention. He is a really gifted artist who has produced a remarkable body of work. Thanks for this post.

Lally said...

tpw, Godfrey's work deserves at least one of the big prizes for poetry, if there were any justice, poetic or otherwise.

Jamie Rose said...

Love that poem.

JIm said...
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