The Games

Harry Josephine Giles
Out-Spoken Press

The Games is invitation, accusation, invocation. A collection of poetry that will shake you, nurse you, heal you, it is a performance of––and a call for––poetic and human deviance. Poetic sequences (Fields, Rules, Translations, Erasures, Spells, Plays) are interspersed with AI-generated rain, intermittent breaks of white noise which provide a lulling, the half-time whistle, a leg-up to the playing field, whilst also questioning how work is generated, how voice is held. This is also examined in the first of two poems that frame the collection, both posing questions around tradition and canon: ‘Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect’ plays with an algorithm’s ability to learn Burns’ language through assessing his complete works and guessing the next letter; ‘Tae a Sex Toy’ takes the form of the ode and applies it, most delightfully, to a butt plug. The Games gives voice to the voiceless, whilst airing grievances that come from the fact that these entities are dismissed in the first place.

‘Strategic Plan for the Reintroduction of Agricultural Birdsong’ sees the imagined promotional language of such a plan disrupted by farmland birdsong. In doing so, the birds encroach on the strategic plan and the habitat of the poem, just as agricultural industries and monoculture have encroached on their habitats:

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Erasure poem ‘The Following Content is Acceptable’ performs the act of subversive listening as it picks out lines of liberation from regulations stipulated to ban certain acts in UK pornography; in ‘Long Game’, meanwhile, agency is given to the tree as the player is told to ask what is on its mind. The act of listening here becomes integral to the game, just as much as the taking part, the (inter)action.

‘Abolish the Police’ embraces the ‘Spells’ sequence, and so is split in two parts. The first is a breath-driven offering of ‘appeal’, ‘world’, ‘inspiration’, ‘witch’s work’ that dares the reader to imagine a different reality:

The genius of these poems lies in the torque between reality and possibility, a collection that playfully and devastatingly demonstrates systems of oppression, whilst offering its readers the space to imagine those systems gone. It is an antidote, a soothing balm for anyone entangled in the heaviness of hostile systems.

—Loll Juggenburth