Inventory of Doubts
by Landon Godfrey
Winner of the Dorset Prize
“As we endure the oppressing weight of the Anthropocene Era, its civic and ecological degradations, I found Godfrey’s often funny, sometimes dark, always surprising anthropomorphic swerves a tonic. Inventory of Doubts is a book where a human is just another kind of animal, and a drinking glass is a deeply feeling creature. Godfrey gifts us an intimate world where ‘each time a blanket covers a body, it tries to keep the dusty soul alive through the night.’”
—from the Judge’s Citation by Dana Levin
Published: November 2021
Everything is thrillingly alive in Landon Godfrey’s Inventory of Doubts: a feather boa dreading the fake blood to come on Halloween, a jealous boulder considering “cures for loneliness while it pauses on a cliff.” But far from being exercises in whimsy, the vivid, brief poems collected here have weight: when a dishrag dreams “of the ball gown it will never be” we enter a tale of “experiments with justice”; when a zoo and an apartment building next to it ruminate on one another, we encounter a meditation on liberty.
Inventory of Doubts offers us entry into a circus with serious designs. There’s a dynamic juxtaposition between the undomesticated figures at play in each poem and the highly structured organization of the book itself: the poems arrive in strict alphabetical order by title, with the last poem, “Zoo,” meeting the first poem, “Attic,” in a way that ultimately lends the book a circular shape: circus ring indeed! While the book is comprised entirely of prose poems, there are unexpected moments of concrete poetry à la Apollinaire’s Calligrammes. The wacky/nightmare gifts of Surrealism inform this collection, as well as echoes of Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons and Caryl Churchill’s play Far Away: another drama where objects come alive and join the disturbances of the polis.
As we endure the oppressing weight of the Anthropocene Era, its civic and ecological degradations, I found Godfrey’s often funny, sometimes dark, always surprising anthropomorphic swerves a tonic. Inventory of Doubts is a book where a human is just another kind of animal, and a drinking glass is a deeply feeling creature. Godfrey gifts us an intimate world where “each time a blanket covers a body, it tries to keep the dusty soul alive through the night.”
—Dorset Prize citation by Dana Levin
Godfrey describes how looking at art from the past makes us hunger for a civilization that might no longer be thriving amidst a greater desensitization and insular mass behavior. Furthermore, we are left to meditate on how we may just be on our own in the universe to even a higher degree than before because our attention and enthusiasm seems directed to the unmentioned gadgetry of modern human beings.
Take for example this line from the poem “thermometer”: “if I could do things differently next time I wouldn’t sleep with my psychiatrist.” This line juxtaposed against the experience of consuming absinthe liquor tells us a great deal about the personal psychology of Godfrey’s own personal character. Though the poem does have a speaker who may not actually be Godfrey herself, we might be able to assume certain levels to which Godfrey might be sharing with us on a personal level a very real non-speaker sense of struggle, pain, and regret. Is this willingness to share blunt, real, and unabated passion with us that further makes Inventory of Doubts a truly successful book of poetry. Matt Cooper – Heavy Feather Review
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