"'Human dynamo: you must/ Have a good time,' Lemon (Fancy Beasts) exhorts in his explosive fourth collection of verse; his agitated, discombobulated alter egos both shock and entertain. Lemon's exclamations, free associations, and volatile images showcase extreme highs and lows as well as constant attraction to the wild life, or to the wildly inappropriate: 'It's hard to imagine a day/ when I'm not scratching/ My nuts right at God.' But Lemon is no light comedian: his party persona, extroversion, and fragmentary style all look like defenses against Lemon's mortal fears. Those fears, in turn, speak to the medical history brain surgery, tough recovery detailed in his 2010 memoir, Happy. In a poem that reads like a nightmare about his hospital stay, 'It felt/ Like a vibrating halo had been screwed/ Into my head... a double-decker toy racetrack/ Had been drilled into my skull.' Lemon may disorient, or exhaust, readers who want poems with more coherence; his speakers do not develop or change very much, neither within the poems, nor between them. Yet Lemon's enthusiasms, with their 'hip tosses & heavy metal' part sarcastic, part macho, part tender, and always extreme have found, and deserve to find, serious sympathies. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Advance Praise for The Wish Book
"Lemon...writes tough, visceral poetry with broad appeal. In this new collection, the author, winner of a literature fellowship in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts, energetically examines the self in a pop-cultural world."
Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal Pre-Pub Alert, "Ten Essential Poetry Titles for Winter 2014"
"This book arrived like a storm, with an almost physical sense of Alex Lemon as a doom-tinged ecstasy engine. He's so aware of death and so eager to refuse its dominion that the breath of his poems drives a blade into the reader's mind that cuts a new window to both see and feel through. 'We feed ourselves to the fire/One inch at a time to prove it--//Everything here is a gift we can't/figure out how to open.' Maybe we can't, but these poems know how to lift the lid and show us what we have and how briefly we have it. The great rhythmic vitality of his work is surpassed only by the pulse of Lemon's need to convey his love for the world and our place in it. To read this book is to meet a man who would climb the sky."
"The fourth installment in Alex Lemon's series of field guides to the new, weird normal, The Wish Book covers its lenses to neither birth nor death, which is to say that while it might not get you what you want, it offers up vivid wide shots of where you are, along with close-ups of your options therein, thereafter. Read it and look, leap."
"The Wish Book is a glorious spectacle. Jazz and jibber-jabber collide. Ghosts, umbrellas, jellyfish, and 'glittery dirt' woo the eye. Kaleidoscopic phrasing underscores awe and dark humor. 'Everything tastes/electric' in one poem. The light waltzes in another, then is retooled as 'a sunset of painkillers.' At the heart of the spectacle lies an astonishing awareness of illness and death. Alex Lemon's imagination is dazzling and empathic. He's a ringmaster of the highest order."
Praise for Alex Lemon
"Sometimes the poet seems like a descendant of Jeremiah and the speaker in Eliot's The Waste Land, a disgusted spectator of the dance of Eros and Thanatos in a contemporary culture that has become startlingly inane.... and a Swiftian proposal with its tongue tucked firmly in its cadaverous cheek."
Kevin Nance, Poets and Writers (from an author profile)
"In the world of poetry, as hermetic as it is elusive, Lemon, thirty-one, is already a star."
Nick Flynn, Esquire (from the introduction to an excerpt of Lemon's memoir)
Winner of The Literary Review's 2011 Charles Angoff Award for Poetry
Praise for Fancy Beasts
Recipient of a 2011 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence for Previous Finalists of the Paterson Poetry Prize
"A master of negative empathy, Lemon spelunks through the brain's darker convolutions and clearly enjoys testing the reader's limits. This book will likely appeal mostly to twenty-somethings with an emo/hipster bent, but even older readers will be impressed by Lemon's calculated audacity."
Library Journal (starred review)
"Once again, Alex Lemon dazzles us with his ability to slice straight through nerve and marrow on his way to the heart and mind of the matter."
Tracy K. Smith, author of Life on Mars
"Full of raw energy, up-to-date in its slang and its jump cuts, effervescent with the playfulness and sometimes the angers of youth, [Fancy Beasts] conveys a likeable, outsized personality."
"Reading Alex Lemon's poems is like listening in on the thoughts of one of the most imaginative minds you've ever encountered . . . Fancy Beasts is a terrific book by one of the best younger poets at work today."
"Life cleverly and joyfully rages in Alex Lemons poems because everywhere in his explosive stanzas is the dry-boned conviction that we are more than a collection of lonely selves seeking aesthetic relief from the great bewilderment of existencethat occasionally that utter silence on the inside is really a dance party, operation: get down."
Praise for Hallelujah Blackout
FINALIST FOR THE PATERSON POETRY PRIZE
[A] 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.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Alex Lemons Hallelujah Blackout is a blowback fireball of a book. Think Ezra Pounds inscrutable 'Cantos' lightning-charged with a twisted wick. Experimental but rigorous, an incantatory frenzy spirals around the freewheeling narrator. . . The title poem pounds us with relentless invention peeling off in blazing lumps . . . echoes of Keats, Lorca, Crane, Ginsberg, and the Dylans (Bob and Thomas) . . ."
The Brooklyn Rail
"Alex Lemons poetry veers away from . . . predictable responses and comes to regard the body in pain with a passionate and complex combination of acceptance and defiance. . . . Witness the casual aplomb with which Lemon refashions language having a vaudevillian or carnivalesque air into, unexpectedly, epiphanic ends. . . . Lemon's language is often comic, acrobatic, dazzling, and poignant all at once. . . . Lemon has earned the comparison to Berryman. He has yet to produce the substantial body of work that Berryman did, but the same daring and flair for shaping popular idiom into poetry is there. Hes one of the great performersone of the great jugglersin the circus tent right now."
Imagine Hart Crane in the mosh pit or William Blake singing in the psych ward, and the reader will get a sense of the visionary, pantheistic, blackly humorous, and guardedly hopeful speakers in Hallelujah Blackout. Negative epiphanies abound; they bleed, flower, and implode with violent beauty at every trapdoor, house of cards, box-squatted city corner, and cornered shadow of the mind.”
Virginia Quarterly Review
Each moment is sheer and yet vaulting to the next; almost simultaneously occur the philosophical, visceral, violent, self-destructive, ambivalent, quotidian, alienated, gorgeous and over-blown. In this apocalyptic wonderland engendered by the violation of identity, it seems simple acknowledgement is the only consolation to be had.”
What makes Hallelujah Blackout such a fun read is Lemons way of winking over his shoulder just at the moment a poem veers into pompous-land. Like John Lennons sing-song wit or Lewis Carrolls dreamy silliness, Hallelujah Blackout illustrates a modern, aggressive poet who knows how to have fun.”
The energetic journey in this book refuses to let the dust settle and the reader is constantly on the go, stimulated by the persistent use of surprising language, syntax and imagery. Indeed, there is little respite for either speaker or listenerits the furious music that keeps everyone awake.”
Critical Mass, (National Book Critics Circle blog)
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 . . . Lemons art is transformative, staggering, and in the end, compassionate.”
The only thing more remarkable than Lemons linguistic muscle is the blood singing up from his gut.”
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, inventive without being showy, this is an astonishing, masterful collection of poems.”
D. A. Powell
Praise for Mosquito
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
When I say hello, it means bite my heart, begins one of the poems in Alex Lemons 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 youd 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 frzen strawberries. Touch: Maybe, the surgeon said, / caressing my head like a hurricane. Lemons ardent search for beauty and mercy in Mosquito is transformative and true.”
Matthea Harvey, author of Sad Little Breathing Machine: Poems
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 panoramicthat 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, Im decapitated,' Lemon claims, 'and 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."
"The poems in Alex Lemons 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