HAPPY
*A Book Expo of America Buzz Book

Advance praise for Happy:

Alex Lemon takes his reader inside the terror and strangeness of illness—and gives us, along the way, a loving portrait of a devoted, wonderfully nutty mother. Lemon is a brave, headlong writer, and he captures the life of the body with vivid and memorable intensity.”
           —Mark Doty, author of Dog Years and Fire to Fire

The pyrotechnic prose of Alex Lemon’s memoir creates an electrifying portrait of a body in crisis, and the way the soul is inexorably, reluctantly, dragged along....If ever a book was written in blood, it is this one.
           —Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City

 


Hallelujah Blackout

Starred Review. You/ should have seen the sweat of still-being-alive, writes Lemon in his sprawling, varied, and ambitious second collection. Thoughts of joy and pain, eros and death, not to mention references from Van Gogh to half-scratched lotto tickets collide in these unclassifiable, rapid-fire poems. Lemon (Mosquito) constantly asks the reader to take his complex ecstasies in one swallow, diction and image madly comingled: Alleluia, asshole, amen./ Together: let us eat. Elsewhere, a car wreck/ In my hands, is followed by a plea to Come with me tonight, my chocolate-/smelling love At times the fever pitch of these poems is diminished through repetition, but the book's two long poems—Abracadaver and the title piece—provide a counterpoint to Lemon's freewheeling antics: a softer, more stripped-down voice amid the rush in the matchbook of our heads. (Apr.)
                —Publishers Weekly

A Chaplinesque vaudeville, both mirthful and moving; a pure-gospel shout to the vaulted heavens; a hatful of abracadabras with a wink and a smile: Hallelujah Blackout is a muscular, vibrant book. Painful without being pitying ("I have little time to let mere ailments worry me"), inventive without being showy, this is an astonishing, masterful collection of poems.
                —D. A. Powell

Alex Lemon's poetry is "a downpour that lets you see through all the gristle to our real faces." These poems charm us with their kinetic, near boisterous spunk, but they sting us too with their ever-present currents of contemplation and despair. Here amid "a jukeboxed moon" and the "sweet, sweet boogaloo of light," the only thing more remarkable than Lemon's linguistic muscle is the blood singing up from his gut.
                —Terrance Hayes

Alex Lemon is an unstoppable phenom. He gets so much into a poem: so much world, such rich human voice, and he gets so terrifyingly close to both the self and the overwhelming Everything Else. He does this while making us look at the smallest, loveliest, worst, or plainest details at the oddest moments. Readers experience the wearing of shirts and the eating of apples and beans; a split second later we're by turns divine, genius, ravaging, and prayerful. Then we're hurt again. Then we're in love. It's as if we have been granted extra lives. Lemon's art is transformative, staggering, and in the end, compassionate. He's one of us, letting us know: we're in trouble but we're okay.
                —Brenda Shaughnessy

 

MOSQUITO
w/introduction by Mark Doty

“‘When I say hello, it means bite my heart,’ begins one of the poems in Alex Lemon’s startlingly raw and raucous first book. Speakers declare, ‘I am Hi-Fi, all of me is surround / sound,’ and describe a painting of the self as having ‘eyes like megaphones.’ Reading these poems is like having your five senses turned up to an almost unbearable volume. Sight: ‘I could see the patch of hair you’d missed shaving / glow on your calf like a gold brick in an Iowa cornfield.’ Sound: “What named me, the moth pleads, banging jazz from light bulbs.’ Taste: ‘I eat fr’zen strawberries.’ Touch: ‘Maybe, the surgeon said, / caressing my head like a hurricane.’ Lemon’s ardent search for beauty and mercy in Mosquito is transformative and true.”
               —Matthea Harvey, author of Sad Little Breathing
                  Machine: Poems


“Broken and brilliant, protean and written in blood, these poems are missives from the other side, the should-have-almost-died side, the burning-but-not-consumed side, and all Alex Lemon offers to console us are ‘the nails on [his] tongue.’ Mosquito introduces a thrilling new voice in American poetry.”
               —Nick Flynn, author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City

“In these days of vast changes in American poetry, it is a joy to read the work of Alex Lemon. His poems pull the reader into a world of familiarities, while they confront daily experience in totally surprising ways. Mosquito means there is something there, so you better grab it before it disappears or becomes something else. It also means the vibrancy of these poems comes from the union between the microscopic and the panoramic—that focus of vision most poets spend a lifetime exploring. To show this kind of confidence and sense of direction means we have a major young poet on our hands. And, for poetry, that is the most vital gift it can receive.”
               —Ray Gonzalez, author of Consideration of the Guitar: New and Selected Poems

In this edgy, energetic, even frenetic debut from a rising star of the Midwest, Lemon's jagged, commanding voice both charms and shocks: “Voice, be amazing/ circling the river bottom,” his leadoff poem instructs. The first section (of four) stuns with accessible yet intense language, and also with the events it appears to describe: brain surgery and the poet's slow recovery from it. “Tomorrow my head opens,” he says; “If I am still/ here, someone let me know what I am.” Subsequent poems steer clear of medical topics in favor of sparkling, slightly diffuse cascades of images: “It is the year of the dismembered horse/ Bury me with bones instead of eyes.” Crackling extremes court melodrama knowingly, challenging readers to say when enough is enough. Lemon's rawness and intelligence have a fine, in-your-face excess. Physical violence—“chipped-teeth,” “kicked-heart,/ dried blood”—recurs as experience and symbol, as do a series of crime novel and film noir backdrops: “always, I’m decapitated,” Lemon claims, “& feel as though someone is tracing/ The zippers of my self-inflicted bites.” Above all, these poems make strong impressions, using their verbal surprises as confrontational flirtations, or else tiny explosives.
               —Publishers Weekly, June 26, 2006

The poems in Alex Lemon’s striking first book document the experience of undergoing brain surgery, an agonizing recovery, and the sudden discovery of Eros, who finally emerges as the ultimate emblem of survival. Careful yet raw, the fresh sutures that comprise the lines in many of these poems sing of pain so sharply as to verge on ethereal. Yet, in other poems, Lemon approaches recollection as a butcher does a carcass, bludgeoning necessarily harsh and decisive strikes in order to determine the boundaries of his experience. Here, we have the body as poem: as Lemon so beautifully describes, “Melodies drill deep wells in the chest.”
               —Cate Marvin, Ploughshares (Winter 2006-07)

[Read Excerpt]           [Purchase from Amazon.com]

 

 

Links on Web

Rick Barot on Alex Lemon (from Pleiades 25:1)

“Mosquito” in AGNI

“Better Cleaning With Voodoo” in The Journal

Two Poems in Octopus

Two Poems in Post Road

Two Poems in H_NGM_N

“Mugging” in Typo

 

 

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