Photo by Ani Barberian
John Godfrey is the author of a dozen poetry collections, most recently
Private Lemonade (Adventures in Poetry, 2003), City of Corners
(Wave Books, 2008), and Tiny Gold Dress (Lunar Chandelier, 2013).
After a 17 year nursing career specializing in pediatric and maternal HIV/AIDS,
he retired in 2011. He has lived for 40 years in what once was known
as "the poets’ building" on 12th St. in the East Village. In the fall of 2013,
Godfrey lead a workshop called Shifting Degrees at the
Poetry Project at St. Mark's.
"Godfrey's poems are full of hints of
narratives; fragments, details, of New York stories are glimpsed, scented,
but the poet rarely allows himself, or the reader, the comfort of settling in for a
coherent tale. Instead, one is kept slightly off-balance, as if in a dance with the
poet, who is always leading, the reader or listener following, until the music
comes to an end. What keeps the game going is Godfrey’s unerring ear
for that music, for the precise tense and mood of verb, for speech as sound.
Whatever its source, the language is processed through Godfrey’s delicate
instrument of taste. Some of the language might be overheard, but mainly
we are treated the interior monologue of a suave, debonair, street-smart
man-about-town. In his most recent poems, Godfrey has gotten even
more condensed, more elliptical. It’s all still there, the New York sky, the
heat and humidity, the denizens he encounters and notices, particularly
female… though he (the I of the poems) seems to deal, too, with the dudes.
But it is the romance of encounter, the incompleteness of it, but also
the roundedness, outside light countered by inside shadow, where
lust is played against music whose rhythm, though translated, is
always appropriate, and whose colors gleam through the darkness."
--Vincent Katz (from his introduction of John Godfrey at the DIA Foundation Reading
John Yau wrote of John Godfrey's Tiny Gold Dress
in the online cultural review Hyperallergic:
“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
compression of perception slow down the reader, open up
to spaces of reflection for poems about movement
– the fragments of consciousness that come from one’s
constantly changing attention…”