John Goodby: Illennium
Published 29 May 2010
Paperback, 86pp, 8.5x5.5ins, £8.95 / $15
Set in 'South-Wets Wales', Illennium is a cut-up sonnet sequence which draws on recent theories about the social role of shame as it traces the trajectory of a single attachment within a tangled set of friendships. Mixing disease and end-of-era career discontents, its plotlines cohere and decompose around the blown down sign of the No Sign bar, a local watering-hole. There they intermingle with texts that range from Enid Blyton to Keats, Rimbaud to Dafydd ap Gwilym. But the more shameless the embarrassment of riches, the more the lyric itself comes to seem 'a form of shame management', its anticipated plenitudes thwarted by 'silences stubbed out' on an 'I for an I / in the very temples of delight'. Even so, for all its anxieties concerning the 'dork inability' of the poet, or of poetry itself, to resist the abjection that follows, Illennium's brazenness is golden too; again and again, it reveals the peach-succulent heart of a recklessly playful work which spares no blushes in celebrating the 'brilliantly pointless' energies of language.
"John Goodby's sequence of seventy-two sonnets … updates and transplants Ted Berrigan from New York City to South Wales. Irreverent and at times shamelessly erotic, [it] repeats and refigures lines … so that unexpected shifts in meaning occur in each new context, generating a kind of Fast Show meets Jules Laforgue effect. In these poems 'the existence of long-lasting emotions is something of a puzzle' as we enjoy mysterious encounters with film nut Nigel and Harry H. Corbett in Carmarthen's Latin Quarter and are exhorted repeatedly to accept that 'love is a babe'. 'If I ever write a poem this raw I'll be amazed'." —Scott Thurston
"John Goodby's poetry is a wonderful manifold of craft, enigma and radical particularity. From proper nouns to all the other portals of language and genre this sequence of stanzas is a radiating burst from the remote to the local with astonishingly open regard for all kinds of signals and nuggets. Illennium is a trove of unmediated literary music." —David Greenslade
"As readers of his restlessly inventive poetry know, John Goodby’s
distinctive intelligence asserts itself in unexpected, self-effacing ways—through
other voices, formal games and in the case of uncaged sea a faithful and yet
mischievous (you might say faithfully subversive) immersion in another poet’s
words … an engaging, addictive performance."
—Philip Gross on uncaged sea
"A cloak of rags and patches showing a lost text by glimpses. Recurring
segments of spine around which lines swirl without fastening. A moth’s
wing pattern through which the lost and beloved object is recovered. A sheer
glow on which signal multiplies like bacteria on fruit."
—Andrew Duncan on uncaged sea
"Here, as in the myth of Orpheus, the authenticating figure of the poet hovers over his own disintegration. … But even that signature is subject to disruptive forces, throwing out tourettish yelps and warpings where it intersects the laterally-orientated lines. What's going on, then, is a double-rending … . Of the master-text, yes, but also of the authenticating ghost underwritten by the mantra of the poet's name. That master-text is both invoked and simultaneously estranged from itself by an act of votive butchery … add[ing] a genuine dynamic drive to a poem already fizzing with aleatory pleasures, revivifying our sense of the marvelously virile … openness of the original." —Lyndon Davies on uncaged sea
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