Count the Ways (Linda Godfrey)

My Grandmother’s Rifle

Reading at the breakfast table, I turn to the book pages and there’s a complaint from a reviewer. Modern poetry is all about the small incidents from a day. Where is all the important poetry these days? We know about the Greek urn, The Tyger, Achilles and Agamemnon and some guy writing blind. These are the big, famous poems, but what about small incidents? Beachcombed sea glass from the Dunbar off Watsons Bay or from Caesarea when Herod threw an empty bottle into the Mediterranean; a purple mohair rug now the shroud of a cat; one chook feather glows black and brown when held up to the light; from even before the time of Briseis real women’s lives were made smaller by rape, beatings, abuse, being sold and traded, used as breeding cattle, the public arena made too vicious for them. Are these small incidents or something secondary for women?

Be wary of my grandmother’s rifle under my bed, a piece of black stocking tied around the handle, and the way I sleep — twisted, legs and hips flat, shoulder and arm over the side, ear half-cocked for any noise.

Single girl, seeking like-minded

. . . looking to make up what I’ve missed . . . I walk around at night naked by the light of the kitchen clock, bright enough to read Tattoo Life. I want a man to come every Tuesday and massage my feet, paint my nails red. I water-save and spread the grey water on green-goddess lilies. I have desires: I want to wear mismatched socks, but don’t — yet. I want to learn to chop wood, to split something through and through with a tomahawk, but not you. I have tree ferns and bromeliads, but only zebras. I didn’t want to put a picture up; believe me, I’m blond, slim, have green eyes. I walk on the beach, rain or shine, at the exact period of low tide. It is most lonely at 3.20 in the morning. I found a dead white dolphin once. I was going to pick it up on the way back, but it had gone. Do you believe in resurrection or reincarnation? I can never decide. We could meet up for a picnic at Sandon Point one Sunday. You know what they say about the first date, quick and public. I would show you the surfers, the bike riders, the protest site against the development, the newly developed houses. I’d take you down to the boatsheds built during the Depression, great real estate, views north can never be built out, it’d be quick and private and then we could swim off the rocks. I’ve only seen live dolphins there. Maybe they’d do tricks for us. Age and looks not really . . .

Love Me Tinder

The first week they jumped on the bed and watched tv with their heads together. The second week they showed their bottoms to each other, then took off all their clothes and lay on the bed watching youtubes about how to make cartoon cakes. The third week they stripped down to their underwear, curled up on a sheepskin rug, pretended they were cats, ate biscuits and drank water from the same bowl, went outside on the balcony and skipped rope. When it was time for him to leave, they put on their clothes, picked up their keys and crawled down the stairs of the apartment block mewing like kittens.


These poems are from Linda Godfrey’s chapbook Count the Ways, out now from Verity La Press

What They’re Saying .  . .

Linda Godfrey is one of Australia’s finest practitioners of the short form. In Count the Ways she explores how “modern poetry is all about the small incidents from a day,” relocating the small and quotidian from the margins to the centre. In this extraordinary book of prose poetry exploring the complexities of identity and the haunting nuances of poetic influence, Godfrey constructs unforgettable moments where Lily Tomlin, Anne Carson and Billy Joel share the page. Perhaps most importantly, she uses prose poetry’s ubiquitous box of fully justified sentences to explore the postfeminist cage for women. In deeply stirring and indelible moments, Godfrey warns the reader: “Be wary of my grandmother’s rifle under my bed, a piece of black stocking tied around the handle …” — Cassandra Atherton

Linda Godfrey’s prose poems haunt, winning the small hours’ trophy for sensual, beguiling and playful details:

Kublai trails behind her, begging for another story about the daughters of the wind.

pomegranate and peach jam simmers, Penelope deters another suitor, starts another draft… a beggar emerges from the gloom, hunched furtive, misshapen as dobs of dog

Who gave you permission to rain your gloomy green weeds on us?

and, seeping into everything, the sea, the sea. — Julie Chevalier

Billy Collins says at the end of a poem he wants the reader to be slightly disoriented, like he drove them outside of town at night and dropped them off in a cornfield. Having just read Count the Ways I find myself knee-deep in that cornfield. I will find my way back to town but please, leave me here with these words a while longer. This is cool, daring, edgy poetry. — Ali Whitelock

Watch the online launch of COUNT THE WAYS. Hayley Scrivenor does the honours, prose-poetry aficionado Cassandra Atherton makes a guest appearance, and Linda reads her poems and answers questions! 

Linda Godfrey is a writer, poet and editor and has a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Technology Sydney. She has published poetry and short stories in anthologies and online. Linda was the Program Manager of the Wollongong Writers’ Festival from 2015 to 2018. She curated Rocket Readings — readings of poetry that were part of Sydney Writers’ Festival and Viva la Gong from 2007 to 2018. She is a fiction reader for Overland and was the online fiction editor for Overland Autumn 2018. She has been a recipient of a Varuna residency and an Australian Society of Authors mentorship. Linda loves a prose poem and is an ancient history tragic. She has edited three award-winning books, including one Miles Franklin winner. She has taught writing, both short stories and poetry, in the community to adults for many years.