In honor of the 52nd annual United States Handball Association Championship held in Coney Island, a classic poem of Brighton Beach’s handball sensation Irving Feldman was posted on the World Players of Handball Message Board. Here’s the first stanza:
And then the blue world daring onward
discovers them, the aging, oiled and
well-bronzed sons of immigrants,
the handball players of the new world
on Brooklyn’s bright eroding shore
who quarrel, who shove, who shout
themselves hoarse, who block and don’t
get out of the way, who grab for odds,
hustle a handicap, all crust,
all bluster, all con and gusto all
on strutting show, tumultuous, blaring,
grunting as they lunge. True,
their manners lack grandeur, and
yes, elsewhere under the sun legs
are less bowed, bellies are less
potted, pates less bald or blanched,
backs less burned, less hairy.
The championships were held in People’s Playground on August 5, where 119 people from across the country gathered to play and watch fierce games of one-wall handball. Although the sport is less popular now, it was widely played in the 1950s, during the life of Feldman.
Feldman played at an old beach club in Brighton Beach during the mid-1900s, which featured more than 20 outdoor courts. His poem “The Handball Player at Brighton Beach,” depicts Handball’s Golden Age, a time during which one-wall handball was frequently played in parks and playgrounds across America.
Feldman’s poem describes his journey down to Brighton Beach where he encountered wild and muscular handball players. His adjectives and intense, detailed descriptions pull the readers into the scene, allowing them to sense what the sport of handball was like at its prime.
Click here to read the full text of the poem.