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Becca de la Rosa Godfrey John Marc Menu Moro


Godfrey John
The late Welsh-born Canadian poet and essayist Godfrey John wrote insightful poetry and essays. With keen observations and well-chosen words, his poetry comes to life and makes wonderfully enjoyable reading.


What Paper are You Reading?
Myfanwy   -- a cywydd (Welsh poetic form)
Poetry is
Riddle in two parts




“It was only possible for the conscience of the people to be expressed in a metaphorical way. That’s why poetry was a kind of spiritual newspaper of the people.”
                                                                                  –  Yevgeny Yevtushenko

What paper are you reading, gentle friend,
in these prosaic premillennial years?
If Yevtushenko’s right,
poetry is the force that sets you free;
its code is metaphor.
Your paper is the poem whose pages turn
as you decode. Each day you hear the light
as folk once did through ancient minstrelsy.
And does it really matter
how many come to read?
The news is only meant for hearts that yearn
to understand. Its truth is what we reap:
it can’t be watered down or sugared up
to reach the masses. Yevtushenko knew
the purity of the word must be intact,
it must not lose its rich implicities.

Translate the day.
Plough up the prose. Deplore
literalism as the cloak of fact.
We need the written life
of metaphor
to learn now what we are – to breathe the light,

Read between the lines.

The pages turn. The coded truth comes clear.
The people’s conscience conjugates the air.

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Myfanwy~~name in a song,
the Spring of a Welsh bard's art:
a cywydd from Dafydd's young
and fourteenth-century heart.

Myfanwy~~song in a word
soft heart on the curved Welsh tongue,
the single name of a girl~~
three sounds, one image to hang

like the wind's shape on the wold,
like gold in old tapestry,
like harp strings touched in a psalm,
like a voice in prayer made free ...

Myfanwy~~loveliness shared
one third in the spoken part,
one third in the meaning sung,
one third in the woken heart

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came out of nowhere.
He waddled
purposely across
the sidewalk.
The lights changed.
I braked obediently--
one eye on this
hook-beaked pedestrian
who stopped obediently--
looking both ways.

the light said
but no one was there
except this seagull—
every inch a Sydney:
precise, urbane,
he stepped out,
beak dripping oceans
before so many
wheels and eyes
gawking incredulous.

Will he…? He made it.

“Don’t walk!”
the light said: obediently
Sydney flew
across my windshield,
winked at me once as he
soared up
over the rooftops
towards his sane,

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receiving a letter from a man who wants to be
in touch with me seven years after I met him in
a Boston penitentiary where I held a creative
writing workshop for a group of prisoners and
he wrote something poignantly beautiful and I
told him so and how I honored the man he was
in his story and he smiled and now
                            doing time
again he reaches out across seven years hoping
and waiting and finally his letter finds me in
Toronto wondering what I shall write what he
will write what new beauty will be seen in
search of a voice in search of freedom....

                 poetry is

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I am the seed in your laughter;
I ride on the thrust of your shout;
I lie in the shadow of hummingbirds' wings;
I hang in the tear's quick light

The word that speaks me dulls
the voice I am; what sings
me spells my life in the mind that grows
metaphors. I'm wrong~~
the love that words me spills
between the lines, comes true,
her tender leaves sprout through the tongue:

I'm growing wild in you.

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The poems above were originally published in the Christian Science Monitor
(Copyright Christian Science Publishing Society)
Selected Poems and Essays of Godfry John
Copyright © 1977 All Rights Reserved

with the exception of
"What Paper are Your Reading?" which appeared in
his collection Compassion Wins

All selections used by kind permission of the author


These pages last updated
   08 October, 2014

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