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Readings in Contemporary Poetry

Tribute to John Godfrey

Tuesday, April 20, 2021, 6 pm, Dia Online

Event Details 
Tuesday, April 20, 6 pm 
Live on Zoom 

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Dia is pleased to announce the upcoming events in its Readings in Contemporary Poetry series. This season, instead of pairing two poets for an evening, curator Vincent Katz has chosen a format that pays tribute to five exemplary poets. For each event, a small group of readers will pay homage to one of the featured poets, followed by a reading by that poet. The featured poet for this event is John Godfrey. 

The tribute readers for this event will be Erica Hunt, Duncan McNaughton, Maureen Owen, and Anne Waldman.

John Godfrey’s poems, like their author, are tough but refined, open-hearted and guarded, part of the community and lone wolf. An essential member of the downtown NYC poetry scene for decades, Godfrey is a prolific poet, with a fierce dedication to his art, who cannot be easily pigeon-holed into any of the groups defined by the New American Poetry anthology edited by Donald Allen and published by Grove Press in 1960. John is essentially sui generis. There is a music in his poems, a “music of the curbs” as he himself defined it, that is somewhat halting, unpredictable, with a panache that takes his poems authoritatively from opening salvo to pointed ending. I used to think of John and Jim Brodey as partners in poetic crime, and in a sense they were. With time, I’ve come to realize John’s deep connections with other poets of his generation, a number of them now gone — Ted Greenwald, Larry Fagin, Bill Berkson, Tom Clark, Lewis Warsh. John has written poems in their memory; some are collected in his most recent book, A Torch for Orphans. But Godfrey himself doesn’t spend much time in the past; he’s too eager for the present. All of these qualities have made Godfrey and his poetry a touchstone for a wide range of younger poets. As his energy increases, so do our wonder and gratitude. John Godfrey, we take off our hats to you.

Vincent Katz, April 20, 2021

John Godfrey was born in Massena, New York, in 1945. He began writing and publishing poems while at Princeton University in New Jersey. His recent publications include The City Keeps: Selected and New Poems 1966–2014 (2016), Tiny Gold Dress (2012), and City of Corners (2008). He has received fellowships and grants from the Foundation for Contemporary Art, Fund for Poetry, and General Electric Foundation. 


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