Landon Godfrey is the author of Second-Skin Rhinestone-Spangled Nude Soufflé Chiffon Gown (Cider Press Review, 2011), selected by David St. John for the Cider Press Review Book Award. She co-edits, -designs, and -prints the letterpress postcard broadside journal Croquet. Born and raised in Washington, DC, she now lives in Black Mountain, NC.
Here, she speaks with interviewer T.m. Lawson about poetic stylings, how to apply structure to the form, and how much unconscious (and conscious) effort goes into process.
I noticed that “Brief Report” has four line stanzas with a couplet as the last stanza, but the stanzas feel inequal, almost like they’re finding their “footing” in the beginning and becoming more solid in the foundation in how dense they became compared to the initial start. I’m interested in how this decision came about when the poem was formed: could you talk about that?
When the stanzas shift from closed/stopped to open/enjambed with the colon at the end of the sixth stanza, I think the poem does indeed start to get more solid, because it’s right there that the poem shifts from the theoretical into a more concrete scene with the word “now.” So the poem seems to have needed heftier stanzas, or a gesture towards heft anyway, to accommodate a more present moment. And the complication of narrative. As to how much of a decision this was, I can’t say—only through your reading do I see that now—and that “now.”
I laughed out loud when I read the title “Mooon” - it isn’t often that a title will take liberties with misspelling, or in this case, acoustically extending a word. But it did capture that innocent childhood feeling and I could hear it perfectly in my head: “Mooon.” Was that your intention? Or was it to set the poem apart from the thousand other poems called “moon” and divorce the precious sentimental feeling from the word/object?
How fabulous that you laughed out loud! I get that totally. It’s a title I like to say out loud. All that sound! It’s playful and plaintive at the same time to my ear. And the childhood feeling: yes, absolutely. I think, too, that the extension of that sound enacts the nostalgia of Calvino’s story about the moon; the ooo ladders us right up onto the mooon’s surface. That’s funny, too, about the thousand other moon poems—I hadn’t really thought about that consciously, but it’s true that I’m anxious about sentimentalizing. How to get to tenderness without slopping over into the precious sentimental keeps me up at night.
I felt that “Mooon” had a special sadness in it. The stanzas, “... all the stars / sing camp fires // right into your eyes. / Sometimes I do wish // for brilliance / blindness, that I wouldn’t see // whiteness in bathroom door silhouettes / anymore, so I’d exist perfect” have the adult shadow of tragedy behind them. The “whiteness in the bathroom door” especially was provoking for some reason, perhaps when combined with these other lines seems to suggest that this adulthood looming ahead is threatening the childhood innocence locked at the campfire under the moon. Did you mean to diffuse this heaviness with the later stanzas of “cheer up!”?
“Cheer up!” strikes that kind of gallows humor of Beckett—I hope. Like laughing because things are at their absolute worst. It’s a sort of wry spirituality that actually contains some of the ooomph (mooon!) of the Buddhist idea of smiling at one’s suffering and so is therefore genuine, without, again the anxiety, of sentimentality. I want to have my moon cake and eat it too.
The whiteness of the bathroom door silhouettes does indeed contain tragedy. The pernicious trap of white supremacy makes me see, even against my will, a form of whiteness in any color of those silhouettes. I’m seeing myself, but I wish I were seeing everyone, unfettered by my complicity in a system of domination. But the tragedy is the systematized and targeted violence perpetrated against Black people, specifically in the United States, where my eyes live most of the time, but also around the world. I will add that until the hateful “bathroom bills” have been defeated everywhere, some of those normative bathroom silhouettes need to change their clothes into gender-neutral garments.
What have you read recently that you’d like to recommend?
Richard Diebenkorn: The Sketchbooks Revealed
What writing projects are you working on now?
I’ve recently finished a manuscript of prose poems called “Inventory of Doubts.” So I’m reading/thinking/casting about/worrying/making mistakes/wondering towards something new. I’m also practicing calligraphy.