cover image The City Keeps: Selected and New Poems 1966-2014

The City Keeps: Selected and New Poems 1966-2014

John Godfrey. Wave (Consortium, dist.), $22 (304p) ISBN 978-1-940696-26-3

Though there are various ways to sum up a career, Godfrey (Tiny Gold Dress) and Wave have wisely taken the greatest hits route with this thorough and emotionally stirring volume. The book starts with a dedication to the people of New York City, and the poems emphasize Godfrey's writing as a sort of sonic cityscape. The city suffuses the air with "the power and felicity of pronouns," yet Godfrey's speakers are never quite identifiable and largely remain ungendered. The blur of genderqueerness is a revelation, considering that some of these poems are decades old. The lack of a gendered speaker allows Godfrey's language to move to the front of the work. His writing moves into surrealism at times, where the "material world/ is constantly crumbling." Despite this, the images and logical leaps house moments that reveal the heart of humanity. This is where the dedication to New Yorkers makes perfect sense; the cacophony of urbanism masks the quiet street-level personal. Godfrey's poems don't evolve much across the volume's 50-year span, but through his idiosyncratic surrealism readers may both see the "flower bending/ from momentum of light" and feel that living in modern America is "to be felt by nothing." (May)