Urban Poems of Yearning and Heartbreak

In 2016, John Godfrey published The City Keeps: New and Selected Poems 1966-2014 (Wave Books). This is good news for those who’ve been unable to find his work from the ’70s, published in pamphlets by Adventures in Poetry and Bouwerie Editions. But it’s even better for readers who aren’t yet familiar with Godfrey’s texture-driven verse and prose. 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. 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, […]

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