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In Memory of a Banyan Tree: Poems of the Outside World: 1985 to 2022
Three Wooden Trunks
The Country Where Everyone’s Name Is Fear: Selected Poems
Oyster Perpetual  
  Austin LaGrone

ISBN 978-0-9844510-6-7     $18  /  $21 (Canada)     5.5 x 8.5       

76 pp      
PUB DATE: February 2011       Poetry


Winner of the Idaho Prize for Poetry 2010, selected by Thomas Lux

Austin LaGrone has written a first book of exceptional singularity, wholeness, and focus of vision. He can be playful and tragic. His poems are deadly serious, even when they are funny, and he is unafraid of being understood. He is also unafraid of making fun of himself (or his persona) because he understands he is part of the great human joyful mess. He sings from right in the middle of it, he praises, he satirizes, his heart is broken yet he, his poems, still have hope.

—Thomas Lux

A measured light-heartedness emanates beneath the natural pathos of Austin LaGrone’s Oyster Perpetual. His humor sneaks up on us, not for the sake of a rehearsed laughter but for an echo of truth wandering the halls of mirrors. LaGrone knows how to pull off the masks of his speakers, and at first they (we) don’t know what has happened, what’s been revealed. Read Oyster Perpetual, and at times, be ready to laugh until the tears come. There’s maturity in this first collection, and its terrain is illuminated by a personal tune that enters us as we enter.

 —Yusef Komunyakaa,

Austin LaGrone’s poetic persona is a reckless, brazen, in-your-face funny man who is always talking some kind of wild jive that deploys itself in acts of original language and sheer verbal genius rarely available in contemporary American poetry. The poems in Oyster Perpetual are fresh, canny, rowdy, tender, outrageous, gaudy, and laugh-out-loud funny, often all at once. What Austin LaGrone gets away with on a single piece of paper is probably illegal, somewhere. There is risk involved in the production of this much liberty. I say let it prosper.

—Michael Heffernan


About the Author

Austin LaGrone

Austin LaGrone was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His poems have appeared in Black Warrior Review, Brilliant Corners, Fourteen Hills, Hayden’s Ferry, Many Mountains Moving, Spoon River Poetry Review and the New York Quarterly. He holds degrees from St. John’s College and New York University and teaches at John Jay College in Manhattan.


Winner of the Idaho Prize for Poetry 2010, selected by Thomas Lux


Some days, when flatbeds,
jake-brake or a cheater axle groans,
I miss my time at GM.
The clamor of chassis, the percussion
of retractable cable, the jive of Dolemite.
I miss my lunchbox. The silver thermos.
The foxed copy of Ivan Denisovich
I read aloud to Jimmy’s sister.
She ran fuel lines, wrote letters
to a boy from Magdalena, coughed blood
into her sleeve some mornings
after doing rails. Her big body
a calendar where I struck out the days.
Then there was Little Ricky. He’d drive
to work with his television in the trunk,
afraid his wife would pawn it. Or Lester,
who never spoke, just fisted singles
into the automated soup dispenser
until it broke. You should have seen the hole
he kicked into the side of it. I suppose
you can bait rituals down to the final swill.
You can leave and return like a ghost
but you’ll never get inside the machine.



That evening the late shift was even later,
paid time and a half, kept him upright
another three hours sweeping up the plant.
With the shimmy of the line silenced,
there was only the percussion of his pushbroom
and the steady moan of fluorescents
for company. “Times like these,” he said
aloud, “a man might start talking to himself.”
And there was no irony in it. A simple fact
like cans and newspapers, junk wrappers
and wads of chew. A looming presence
like the robots and truck skeletons
lined up all the way to the punchclock.
Only threatening, or slightly so,
like forklifts with their jaws lowered.
“Doubles are doozies,” shouted Nick
from the security booth, buzzing the giant door.
Outside the man’s eyes adjusted to the mothy
shadows of the parking lot where a lone truck
stood a football field away. His footsteps
the template of another life so hauntingly close
for a moment he thought he could touch it.

© Austin LaGrone 2011