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John Godfrey

City of Corners

City of Corners

By John Godfrey

  • “While others are busy catching their own reflection in the storefront of poetry, Godfrey goes to work on the damage and squalor of the overlooked. His genius rings true.”—Peter Gizzi

    The quintessential city poet, John Godfrey is New York, and these poems gaze unflinchingly into the city’s dark heart. Godfrey’s poems are populated by the faces and gestures of New York’s human and inhuman population.

  • Godfrey’s jumpy, sometimes disjointed poems belong to an exciting recent tradition: they describe day-to-day, block-to-block, moment-to-moment life in the downtown Bohemia of New York, as Ted Berrigan (among others) did in the 1960s and 1970s. This eighth book should please readers who yearn to see the newest results of Berrigan’s downtown aesthetic, or who simply enjoy Godfrey’s earnest, distractable, willingly unpolished approach.
    Publishers Weekly

    In the same way that a city comprises a wide range of facades and people, John Godfrey’s collection of 82 postmodern poems expand beyond the geometric spaces they contain in the day-to-day lives of the people and objects that populate the downtown bohemia of New York. With its literary authority grounded in the personality of the writer, rather than traditional poetic aesthetics, the collection of poems presented in City of Corners reflects the images seen through the eyes and mind of a quintessential city poet--as Godfrey peers through windows wide to unruly convention. Like a rush hour blur, Godfrey’s poetic mural of cryptic words and disjointed phrases mimics the anxious momentum of traffic. Yet, the momentary details do not escape Godfrey’s part-collage, part-process writing.
    Janet Paszkowski, Afterthoughts

    The shifting of hips across the city, the shifting of meaning through line breaks and punctuation, and the perpetual turning of corners create gaps in comprehension. In reading City of Corners, we walk with Godfrey but also feel two steps behind--and it's this constant feeling of walking next to him yet needing to catch up, the tension of intimate distance, that keeps us engaged.
    Gina Myers, Bookslut

    Godfrey’s lines are layered, stacked with notations that swerve into his unmistakably characteristic lyric and swerve away. I don’t think it's his aim, particularly, but Godfrey is one of the foremost lyric poets writing in English. Shortened by care and urgency and a disinterest in elaboration, the integuments are made of renewed energy rather than periodic stops. Read it any way you want, the tone is insistently itself.
    Kimberly Lyon, The Poetry Project Newsletter

    With this collection, Godfrey brings the reader into a city full of shadows, circumspect curbs and corners. It is a city that is in an eternal state of darkness; when the characters do find themselves in the light, they seem uncomfortable and ready to flee back into the shadows. But the darkness isn't murky or menacing; City of Corners is not a book about fear, but a book expressing the rawest conditions of humanity--love, sex, and survival.

    Tana Jean Welch, Poetry International Online

    ...John Godfrey’s dense, urban lyric a pleasure to read, especially since he publishes little and his work is always worth waiting for. Here is the first stanza of the title poem: “My first trial is hung/ The soul battery charge/ and the predictive/ folded arms/ I hear nothing/ That’s what they say." In the shimmery mistery of his poems (like a New York City sidewalk at night after a rain) we get hints of his work (Godfrey is, since 1994, a Registered Nurse) and occasional nods in the direction of the core New York School poets where he began his work, in the late 1960s.
    Andrei Codrescu, Exquisite Corpse

    As in his previous books, his wry sense of humor coupled with the everyday activities of New York street life give his poems, as Ron Padgett has described it, a slight sense of “hauteur,” almost as if the poet, participating in the sleazy activities of the streets, is simultaneously observing and, if not judging, at least assessing those events. And, in that respect there is a philosophical edge—what some have described as metaphysical musings—to his lyrically hip notations.
    Douglas Messerli, Shadow Train

  • John Godfrey was born in Massena, N.Y. in 1945. He is the author of 14 collections of poetry, including The City Keeps: Selected and New Poems 1966-2014 (Wave Books, May 2016). He received an A.B. from Princeton University in 1967, and took a B.S. in Nursing from Columbia University in 1994. He has received fellowships from the General Electric Foundation (1984), the Foundation for Contemporary Arts (2009), and the Z Foundation (2013). He retired in 2011 after 17 years as a nurse clinician in HIV/AIDS. He has lived in the East Village of Manhattan since the 1960s.

Publication Date: August 1, 2008

ISBN# 9781933517315 (5x8 96pp, paperback)
ISBN# 9781933517322 (5x8 96pp, limited edition hardcover)

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