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Lyrical and explosive, this debut book of poetry explores Alex Lemon’s experiences as a brain surgery patient. Mosquito blends autobiography and poetry, bearing witness to a young man’s journey through serious illness and his emergence into a world where eroticism, hope, and wisdom allow him to see life in a wholly new way. Mosquito is a resilient meditation that is as much Zen as it is explosive, as clinical as it is philosophical and lyrical.

  • Page Count: 83
  • Direct Price: $8.25
  • List Price: $10.95
  • 5 x 7 1/4
  • Paperback
  • September 2006
  • 0-9773127-4-7
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Alex Lemon’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous magazines including Tin House,Denver QuarterlyAGNIBlack Warrior ReviewGulf CoastIndiana ReviewPleiadesPost Road,Swink, and Washington Square. His translations (with Wang Ping) of a number of contemporary Chinese poets are forthcoming in Tin HouseNew American Writing and other journals. Among his awards is a 2005 Literature Fellowship in Poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts. Alex is a frequent contributor to the Bloomsbury Review. Currently, he teaches at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.

"Lemon’s passion and vulnerability will strip bare your conscience. There will be only scars remaining where doubt used to be—in places you never thought there would exist an experience so wrought yet so tenderly evoked that you’d be sure as hell it was yours."
—D. Antwan Stewart, CutBank Reviews

"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."
—Cate Marvin, Ploughshares

"With its popping language, lucid narrative and striking imagery, Lemon seems to have greedily plundered the entire scope of contemporary poetry for what may be one of the most solid book debuts in years." 
—Todd Dillard, Pebble Lake Review

"His speakers are unrelenting in their quest to remain focused on life’s true and pure moments despite, or rather because of, their fear. Alex Lemon’s poems instruct us to hold onto these experiences and keep them close to us." 
—Michael Levan, Third Coast

"Brave and exciting work."
Southern Review

“‘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 Mosquitois 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


"Mosquito is an enigmatic, engaging read. Ideal for those who enjoy formal and experimental poetry alike, Alex Lemon's book is a truly remarkable debut." 
—Kristina Marie Darling, The Midwest Book Review


An old man is playing fiddle in my head. 
At least that’s what the doctor says,
pointing, as he holds my MRI to the light. 

He must be eating the same hot dogs
my nephew microwaves. My nephew sees 
Bob the Builder everywhere—smiling 

in sauerkraut, sawing in the drifting sky. 
Afternoons he names me Bob, knocks 
my knee with a plastic hammer. I’m half-

naked, shivery with chicken skin, 
napkin-gowned. But I don’t laugh 
because I think the veined cobweb 

looks like Abe Lincoln’s profile on the penny. 
So let’s pretend I’m not sick at all. 
I’m filled with golden tumors— 

love for the nurse who feeds me 
to the machine. The machine worse 
than any death—the powerlessness 

of a shaved & strapped-down body. 
Even in purgatory you can wear earrings 
& though the music might crack a spine, 

at least in that torture, the tears from your arm’s 
needle marks are mouth wateringly sweet