In the tradition of direct communication with the brain of the poet, this book is free.

— Bernadette Mayer

John Godfrey’s poems keep the figures and voids, the letters and haunts, the anthems and hums all equally active. They work perspective from the inside-out, making through their cuts the world be worn as seen, on the streets-mind and felt underneath. Living sonics keep time where decisions quietly and loudly get made, every line on in or about a plane, with connections. A Torch for Orphans turns out what it, being specific, and therefore mystical, is to be alone with many, to be many alone with this curious ongoing everybody, staying in the way of them who back walk, singing powerful unlikeness from the depths of the real spaces between us.

— Anselm Berrigan

A Torch For Orphans is a lovely book. Perpetual observer and arranger, John Godfrey walks city streets (and his internal cityscape) to give us a new music made of longing, people, weather, objects, and sensation. His poems walk the thin line between here and now—contingent but concrete, sensibly confusing, wise-guy clever, exquisitely sad, always sincere. Godfrey loves and worries over his world and everything in it, “Hiding love within wisdom/when eyes reverberate light/in otherwise/stupid darkness.”

— Lorraine Lupo

John Godfrey’s A Torch for Orphans typifies the poet in the world and the world in the poet—never missing the dreamy and transfiguring the banal. Godfrey remains, as in all his oeuvre, consistent in imagination, devoid of poeticism, occasionally laugh-out-loud. He says it best in “Whispers All the Time”: “he goes where many others / likewise are more than less asleep.”

— Paul Maziar 

PAPERBACK. 96 pages.
ISBN: 978-1-950055-04-3


photograph by Elizabeth Scholnick

John Godfrey was born in Massena, New York in 1945. He integrated a kindergarten in a working-class second-generation Japanese neighborhood in Honolulu. Three years later he attended the public school in Bennington, Vermont for five years, followed by a year in Albany, New York. In 1960 he was relocated to Farmers Branch, Texas and finished high school in Dallas. He graduated from Princeton in 1967. Halfway through that alienating experience, in 1965, he was opened up to “The New American Poetry,” particularly the New York avant-garde poetry culture of the time. He has lived in the East Village of Manhattan since the end of the 1960s. He has been employed as a waiter, a furniture mover, in an industrial laundry, as a farm worker in Wyoming, and as a janitor (in a San Francisco rock’n’roll studio). Returned to New York, he was an assistant editor for an art magazine, a type shop messenger, and then proofreader-dispatcher in the same shop, followed by a number of years in the alternative economy. There followed a period of language-journalism-political history studies in Thailand. After fulfilling prerequisites he earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Columbia University and licensure as a Registered Nurse in 1994. From 1994 to 2003 he was a visiting nurse in the maternal-pediatric HIV/AIDS homecare program of St. Mary’s Hospital for Children. In 2003 he moved to the HIV/AIDS clinic at Kings County Hospital Center in East Flatbush, which provided pediatric, maternal, adolescent, young adult, and gestational treatment services. He played a prominent role in the prevention of mother-to-newborn transmission of HIV in 325 out of 325 cases before his retirement in 2011. Wave Books published The City Keeps: Selected and New Poems 1966–2014 in 2016. A Torch for Orphans is the sixteenth collection of his writing.

406 in stock

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