Pleasures of the Game

Austin AllenPublication: October 15th, 2016

£9.99

Winner of the 11th annual Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize

Foreword by the judge, Eavan Boland

Pleasures of the Game, the latest winner of the prestigious annual Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize, is a book of deceptively playful poems, of sparkling surfaces that conceal dark undercurrents. Its subjects include games of all kinds: from schoolyard Double Dutch to the chess match of love, from painters’ illusions to professional ice hockey, from the stratagems of spies to the life-and-death game we play against the universe.

paperback  
ISBN: 978-1-904130-82-6 Extent: 88pp Categories: , Tag:

Pleasures of the Game

The speaker of this book … like all the best speakers in poetry, is a mix of music and contradiction. On the one hand a wry, engaged and often resigned announcer as far as the themes go. But on the other an exuberant and activist maker of forms, urging us to look away from the dark towards the light. And this, I have no doubt, is the speaker the reader will follow willingly through this charmed adventure in measure and meaning.— from Eavan Boland’s foreword

With his debut collection, Austin Allen announces himself as a poet to watch, one of the liveliest and most assured voices of the new generation. His expert verse craft is not, as is so often the case, mere ostentation but an essential way of meaning—musical, magical, mercurial. As in ‘The Charm,’ his poems (like all good talismans) burn ‘the same quick hole in each thief’s pocket’ and return ‘bearing your name’—pinpointing each of us in what passes away. It gives me great pleasure to report that the Pleasures of the Game are myriad. — David Yezzi

It matters, I think, that in the title of Austin Allen’s first book, the word ‘pleasures’ is plural, for Allen’s work offers a variety of pleasures in what is clearly a win-win situation for writer and reader. They begin with our recognition of his mastery of technique and continue with a realization of the dazzling uses to which it has been put throughout. The word ‘game’ in the title is … a reference to the zero-sum game that Omar Khayyám knew as life, but whose reckoning could be (as Scheherazade knew) postponed indefinitely. Pleasures of the Game is a dazzling debut volume. — Charles Martin

Elementary

Here in the yard the game is underway:
a blend of soccer, tag, and Double Dutch,
co-ed and school-wide, no choice but to play,
no bench, no clock, no referee as such.
Winners get lunch. Losers hand over lunches.
The scene, as usual, is a free-for-all:
cheaters inflate their scores, bullies throw punches,
brats try to play the boss and hog the ball;
and one small clique, escaping all defeats,
quickly and sullenly, with black eyes, eats.

The next day everybody’s had enough.
Huddling, the older kids make up a rule:
lunches for everyone—the weak, the tough,
the smart and dumb, unpopular and cool—
divvied up fairly, not as a reward
but “just as lunch.” The players quit the game,
share, and sit still. Sit still. One boy grows bored
within five minutes, grabs a rock, takes aim—
and when the all-out, blood-soaked brawling ends
a half hour later, chows down with his friends.

If some whiz kid could figure out a balance—
guaranteed lunches with dessert as prize?
new ways of scoring to reward more talents?—
if grown-ups ever came to supervise;
if cliques were banished; if the kids weren’t us
and we weren’t always It, could skip a turn,
patch up our cuts, be rescued by a bus
or bell, file quietly inside and learn…
learn what? The game’s back on. Our ears are ringing.
The swarms are clashing and the ropes are swinging.

Apollohttps://surf.pxwave.com/wl/?id=YoVs411UKj6w344KuVAciInwbfmBr25U&file=.mp3
Where He Ishttps://surf.pxwave.com/wl/?id=Xl1JaYUMdpZBpht5vKBYCQER72EDoOsh&file=.mp3

Excerpts

Elementary

Here in the yard the game is underway:
a blend of soccer, tag, and Double Dutch,
co-ed and school-wide, no choice but to play,
no bench, no clock, no referee as such.
Winners get lunch. Losers hand over lunches.
The scene, as usual, is a free-for-all:
cheaters inflate their scores, bullies throw punches,
brats try to play the boss and hog the ball;
and one small clique, escaping all defeats,
quickly and sullenly, with black eyes, eats.

The next day everybody’s had enough.
Huddling, the older kids make up a rule:
lunches for everyone—the weak, the tough,
the smart and dumb, unpopular and cool—
divvied up fairly, not as a reward
but “just as lunch.” The players quit the game,
share, and sit still. Sit still. One boy grows bored
within five minutes, grabs a rock, takes aim—
and when the all-out, blood-soaked brawling ends
a half hour later, chows down with his friends.

If some whiz kid could figure out a balance—
guaranteed lunches with dessert as prize?
new ways of scoring to reward more talents?—
if grown-ups ever came to supervise;
if cliques were banished; if the kids weren’t us
and we weren’t always It, could skip a turn,
patch up our cuts, be rescued by a bus
or bell, file quietly inside and learn…
learn what? The game’s back on. Our ears are ringing.
The swarms are clashing and the ropes are swinging.

Media

Apollo Where He Is