play my game by alec finlay


A ‘luminous’ new collection from multi-award winning poet and artist Alec Finlay

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play my game is a sampler of short poems, a wide-ranging anthology of ‘dailiness’, spanning two decades of innovative poetic practice.

Well known for his work as a visual artist and poet, here Alec Finlay playfully expands the possibilities of traditional short forms, such as the haiku, poetic aphorism, and question and answer (after Celan). play my game features examples of Finlay’s verbal game-play, poetic mottos, proverbs, and inscriptions, as well as place-aware versions of Gaelic place-names and Highland tour diaries, guided by Boswell & Johnson. Other poems illustrate his love of wry or fond overhearings, in numerous, occasionally numinous, found poems.

The front cover features some of Finlay’s rubber stamp artworks on paper-rock-scissors, and the book includes his new variant, cloud-paper-mountain.

Play My Game is a book of puzzles and paradoxes, with echoes of R.D. Laing’s classic Knots. Its style is epigrammatic, as oracular as the I-Ching, one of its many cross-cultural reference points. To read it is to walk through a hall of mirrors, at once revealing and unravelling, playful and acutely penetrating – as in life, there is bitterness as well as sweetness.”
– Linda France

“For George Oppen, tweaking Shelley, poets are ‘legislators of the unacknowledged’. For Alec Finlay, going one step further, ‘the poet is a legislator / who doesn’t recognise the law’. Taking the longest of journeys on the shortest of lines, Finlay finds Scotland in classical Rome, Greece and China. ‘what if / we aren’t enough?’, a poem worries, but even at its most unassuming this is luminous writing with a rare capacity to affirm and sustain.”
– David Wheatley

‘By virtue of his eye, ear and craft poems are made of infra-ordinary moments, and so given durable form in the world. Whether playful, pithy, meditative, or elegiac, they exude a charm that may long bring fresh colour to the flowers of the garden.’
– Calum Rodger

Alec Finlay is an artist & poet whose work crosses over a range of media and forms. Finlay was awarded a 2020 Cholmondeley award for services to poetry. Much of Finlay’s work considers how we relate to landscape and ecology, including place-awareness, hutopianism, rewilding, and disability access. He is currently artist in residence with Paths for All. In 2021 Finlay was appointed as the designer for Scotland’s Covid Memorial.

Finlay established morning star publications in 1990. He has published over forty books and won seven Scottish Design Awards, including two Grand Prix Awards (2001, 2015). Recent publications include the Scottish Design Award best publication winner a far-off land (2018); I remember (2022), descriptions (2022), gathering published by Hauser & Wirth (2018); th’ fleety wud (2017), minnmouth (2017), ebban an’ flowan (2015), and Global Oracle (2014).