REVIEW: Fancy Beasts by Alex Lemon

Reviewed by Gabino Iglesias
Reading and analyzing poetry can be like smacking a piñata blindfolded: you have no idea what you’re going to get. However, sometimes an element jumps out of the pages and grabs you by the throat, immediately giving you something to point out, the first building block on which you’ll construct your review. In the case of Alex Lemon’s Fancy Beasts, the poet’s dazzling ability to make a point is instantly apparent, but it’s also rivaled by how much fun he has with his craft.

Judging a book by its cover is not always a mistake. Fancy Beasts sports conjoined squirrels battling for an acorn under what looks like a pink, tentacled cloud filled with neon green letter. You have to wonder what that’s all about, but you’re also intrigued and entertained. As soon as you start reading, those feeling are amplified. Lemon’s writing is fast, colorful, and fun. This, however, is not to be confused with a lack of social critique or a furious philosophical slant that pull no punches and throws ideas at the reader or asks profoundly significant/weird questions:

If the choice between
The men’s & women’s

Restroom decides
Your identity, what does

The man playing air guitar
With a tennis racket

In front of the urinals
Have to do with Lacan?

Fancy Beasts is full of poetry that seems to obey new rhythmic rules created by Lemon. With titles such as the physics of sawing yourself in half and modern life, the poet uses brutally honest and wildly cadenced writing to ensnare the reader and get his or her full attention, and then jumps out with a fun-wrapped bomb of significance. For example, take beautification campaign:

Liposuction for everyone who can recite
the Pledge of Allegiance! Lip gloss, Lee
Press-On Nails arrive weekly in the mail.
The turkey is always fat free & the cottage
cheese is nothing but protein. Helicopters
drop leaflets, but in truth, no one understands
the food pyramid. & so I’m inconsolable–
I can’t get rid of these love handles.

The reader is often asked to be a part of and a witness to the mayhem in Fancy Beasts. Given the wonderful array of topics and the candid approach to every theme, it’s impossible not to give in and enjoy Lemon’s vivisection of our culture, his unique style, and even his habitual nightmares:

Reoccurring,
The dream

In which
A hanged man

Wakes
& blows
Me a kiss.

From that nightmare to a celebration of life and from being disgusted at everything from your inner demons and Wal-Mart to enjoying the sweet beauty of missiles filled with honey, Lemon writes with an almost electric energy. By the time you’re done with the book, which you’ll be tempted to devour in one sitting, the cover makes perfect sense. Just like hat pink cloud pregnant with neon green letters hanging over squabbling squirrels, Lemon’s work is a very welcome and vivacious experience that you won’t soon forget.


Fancy Beasts
by Alex Lemon
Milkweed Editions
96 pp., $16.00 paperback / $9.99 Kindle

 

 

Gabino Iglesias is a writer and journalist currently living in Austin, Texas. His work has appeared in The New York Times, the Austin Post, Business Today magazine, San Antonio Magazine, Bizarro Central, Paragraph Line, CultureMap Austin, Divergent Magazine, MicroHorror, El Nuevo Dia and a few anthologies. He’s also a book reviewer for HorrorTalk, Horrorphilia, the Lovecraft eZine and most recently joined Black Heart Magazine as its new Poetry Editor. He can be reached at gabinoiglesias@gmail.com or via Twitter at @Gabino_Iglesias.