Each of these poems is some sort of story about stories. A crowded city undergoes a spell of enforced confinement. In a war of rumors and conspiracy theories, identities are stolen and shapeshifting outsiders infiltrate urban parks. New fiefdoms consolidate under the sign of pervasive unease. A landscape of dry rivers and toxic weeds reveals itself. Within the zone of isolation, all the stories play out again in the mind, through memory or dream or unexpected waking flash—spectral trespasses, plays staged in empty theaters, messages concealed in drowned books, lives that might have been lived but weren’t, hermetic histories, lost paradises continuing to unreel in a subterranean screening room. The stories hang at last on a thread of melody, resolving themselves into a connecting filament that persists even at the core of silence.
“Geoffrey O’Brien’s WENT LIKE IT CAME is riveting, delightful, an ‘encrypted manual / for a universe invented behind your back.’ While leading the reader through a labyrinth of tantalizing yet unstable mysteries and geographies, O’Brien ‘delineates the musculature / even of what is not here.’ At the center of this work where nested story meets Zen koan, he offers us what can’t be seen, only sung.” —Elizabeth T. Gray, Jr.
“Geoffrey O’Brien’s poems are haunted. By whom or by what, you may ask. By the ghosts of the poems—the poems that come in dreams, the poems that could have been written otherwise, the poems that were never written but call out to be heard. These poems bring us an endlessly elaborated sparklingly detailed narrative suffused with nostalgia—a verbal cinema of exquisite harm and lurking fear, a ‘dream in a story about a dream / being more elegant than any ever actually dreamt.’ The pleasures of this work are not to be missed.” —Norman Finkelstein
Geoffrey O'Brien, born in New York City, has published nine collections of poetry, among them FLOATING CITY (Talisman House, Publishers, 1995), Red Sky Café (Salt Publishing, 2005), Early Autumn (Salt Publishing, 2010), THE BLUE HILL (Marsh Hawk Press, 2018), and most recently WHO GOES THERE (Dos Madres Press, 2020). He is also the author of prose works including Hardboiled America (Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1981), Dream Time: Chapters from the Sixties (Viking, 1988), The Phantom Empire (W W Norton & Co Inc, 1993), The Browser's Ecstasy (Counterpoint, 2000), Sonata for Jukebox (Counterpoint, 2004), WHERE DID POETRY COME FROM (Marsh Hawk Press, 2020), and Arabian Nights of 1934 (Terra Nova Press, 2023). His writings on film, music, theater, and poetry have appeared frequently in The New York Review of Books and other periodicals. He worked as editor at Library of America for 25 years, retiring as editor in chief in 2017. He lives in Brooklyn.