Gary Lemons

Gary Lemons has worked all his life with his hands. Started with throwing a baseball. Spent about 20 years doing this at different levels. Feeling the raised seams against his fingers–like stitches on wounds I’d later receive. Gardening almost from birth. In the rows with his grandmother–learning the names of herbs and their uses. How the human hand can be gentle with the new roots during transplant. How and what and when to harvest. Then manual labor. Planted over 500,000 tress in clearcuts across the West End. Fished Alaska. Ironworker’s union. High steel without a belt or net. Counting on his hands to hold his weight. All those days spent toiling and playing in the fields of youth were preparation for his writing, his poetry, which derives whatever revelations it stumbles upon mostly from how his hands interpret experience in concert with his eyes. Same way farmers keep a blueprint of the earth in their heads as they contour it–their hands upon the plow. How similar this is for the poet, constructing actual landscapes from inklings with the instruments in their hands.

Gary spent two years at the Undergraduate Poetry Workshop at the University of Iowa where he studied with Marvin Bell, Donald Justice, and Norman Dubie. He received the gift of time spent with John Berryman. He studied the craft of poetry. Then went out into the world to learn the lessons of poetry. He lived 6 years on the Assiniboine Reservation in Wolf Point, Montana. He was adopted into the tribe and made an honorary member through the kindness of the Little Bear family. Deep winter sweats. Incantations in the smoke. During those years he lived a lot of life alone on horseback. He heard the sound of small birds dying of thirst in the snow. Saw the bones of cattle trapped in barb wire. Saw a single pebble trigger a rock slide. He was given a name.

Somewhere along the journey, through the benevolence of chance, he wandered into nurturing places just when he needed them most. He counts blessings every day. On his hands.

His life now is a composite of time spent writing poetry, practicing and teaching yoga, and honoring the dead. All of them. All of us. He is married to the beautiful and courageous German sculptor, Nole Giulini, and together they are attempting to construct a permanent home from temporary materials.

All Books

Snake IV: Original Grace

Gary Lemons

Publication Date: May 25, 2021

$16.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 9781597091152


Original Grace is the last book in the Snake Quartet. In it, the journey from destruction leads through the darkened rooms of an enormous house where occasionally outside the windows creatures past, present, and future appear—asking for help or solace or trying to break the glass to get in. But the house is made of poetry and is unassailable unlike those who live in it.

By this time, Snake has undergone the transformations from sole survivor into the mythic voice of the collective with all their throats open and in full song. She has undergone the movement from original gender into all genders. The rough linguistic artifacts left from the first book—the dialects and fogginess she experienced living both in and out of a dream—slowly become more coherent as she learns to filter the collective voices back into her personal speech. Original Grace is not just the end of what was but the beginning of what comes next. The sun has gone down. The long wait for a new sunrise is nearly over.


“In Original Grace, the amazing conclusion to the Snake Quartet, Gary Lemons has found a deep syntactical pulse in the language that mixes witnessing with hallucination—arching across this series of books, I have to observe that the imagination working here is not only compassionate but weeps for us all. And yet the passage through imagination lifts us in just the way Blake intended when he took a large rake to the King’s messenger. I love these insurrections of mind. Taken as one book or as a whole the Snake Quartet is a relevant and signal accomplishment. Praise no blame!”
—Norman Dubie, author of Quotations of Bone

Snake III: The Hunger Sutras

Gary Lemons

Publication Date: November 6, 2018

$17.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 978-1-59709-619-5


Snake III: the Hunger Sutras is the third book in the Snake Quartet. By now snake has carried the lost voices—from the smallest single celled whisper to the bellow of more complex creatures as she wanders the empty Earth. Thousands—maybe millions of years—listening–while also searching for the clues in the ruins that when puzzled into insight become the beginning movement in the opera of life returning. The clues are fossils embedded in the archeological remains of stone and air—fire and rain. All that is left. Except for snake.


“Reading Gary Lemons’s The Hunger Sutras, you will enter a dizzyingly visionary head-space, and you will feel your skull crack, ear imp, spirit throb. Expect to be transported at vertiginous speed to an apocalyptic post-modern world where ‘naked angels / [Lie] in the sand like industrial debris’ (re-see: the paintings of Bosch and Bruegel the Elder), this wondrous topsy-turvy, twisted, gnarled-up world (O Revelation) where ‘melodious ashes fill the air,’ this ‘compost pile’ realm of the tail-flailing snake, Lemon’s own re-invention of the Damaballah of Haitian vodun but with a Buddhist twist. Be convulsed, be transmogrified by snake’s prophecies, by snake’s obfuscations, by snake’s teasing secrets’O, indeed, allow yourself to be enraptured by snake’s riddling words, by snake’s shape-shifting thoughts, this animal shaman ‘befriender of the dead,’ this trickster that dwells in the here and the there’omniscient as an ‘atom in an eye,’ this roving seer that seeks after truths (the many, never the few) and like some avenging angel ‘detonates all the lies she’s ever / Been told.'”—Orlando Ricardo Menes, author of Fetish and Heresies

“Gary Lemons’ third book, the Hunger Sutras, advances his brilliant quartet and is something very surprising like James Merrill meets Robert Bly. This book, though, is in no way derivative it is, and this is my point, utterly original and, if this is possible, it’s also a warm-hearted puzzlement. This work serves as an illumination in a time of great darkness. Wonderful!”—Norman Dubie, author of The Quotations of Bone.

The Weight of Light

Gary Lemons

Publication Date: May 2, 2017

$18.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 978-1-59709-047-6


Gary Lemons’ The Weight of Light breaks down the wall between poet and reader and invites us to meditate with him on all things beautiful and ugly, in a way that makes us proud to be a part of the world. Lemons explores human and nonhuman relationships, dissecting them just enough to give us a glimpse before sealing them back up and tucking them into the pages. He shows us the painful, the heartbreaking, the fearful – but pairs them with the magnificent and the joyful in such a way that we are relieved and elated to have them all. “The hunger in everything wants out,” he tells us, and this collection contains the hunger to truly know the world. “It’s here – and so am I – and so are you” and we are delighted and humbled to be here with him.

Praise for The Weight of Light:

“In an era where a new musical lyric model thumps repeatedly against the human heart – our anxiety rises over the very spooky ecology of Self and the The Weight of Light questions and measures this collective arrhythmia. These poems by Gary Lemons say the butcher’s thumb is on the scale. Wonderful poems, dangerously true!”— Norman Dubie, author of Quotations of Bone

“Gary Lemons has reinvented a personal method from a collective mystique for creating poetry; he has written a work of deep insights that could very well reinvent how the world views poetry as an art form.” — Michael Foster, Huffington Post

“A cast of monsters, bystanders, victims and survivors step into the light of Gary Lemons’ spectacularly inventive mind to speak truth about the condition of being alive, and it’s as brutal and eerie, as grievous and as darkly comic, as a Hieronymus Bosch painting. But beautiful too, because ‘stripped of context…’ (and context can be harrowing) ‘All colors are beautiful.’ The Weight of Light is a wildly ambitious and mesmerizing portrait of our human struggle to perceive, as James Agee and Walker Evans put it, ‘the cruel radiance of what is.’ In Lemons’ words, ‘Let’s say awakening hurts.'”— Kathleen Flenniken, former Poet Laureate of Washington State

Día de los Muertos

Gary Lemons

Publication Date: November 1, 2016

$9.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 978-1-59709-734-5


It is the last day of October 1969, Día de los Muertos. Under the harsh Oaxacan sun the dead are staking terrain–moving in and around and through the apparently alive.

“Dia de los Muertos” is the lynchpin poem of Snake #3: Hunger Sutras, the third installment in Lemons’s Snake quartet, being published as its own chapbook/adult coloring book. The poem is based on Lemons’s real, lived experience with a Dia de los Muertos celebration in Oaxaca, Mexico. Dia de los Muertos intends to illuminate the dark things that scuttle out of graves carrying pieces of the newly buried back to the world to reanimate with new potential.

Snake: Second Wind

Gary Lemons

Publication Date: April 19, 2016

$13.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 9781597097482


Second Wind introduces two themes that run through the rest of the Quartet. The first has to do with consumption of things at the expense of things. Appetite, or eating, always happens at the cost of a life or lives. For everything fed some thing dies to feed it.

Appetite takes other forms as well—perhaps not physically fatal but morally or spiritually deadly. Greed for something another owns. Desire for land or possessions. Worth determined by compulsive gathering. Possession and marketing of freedom. Denial of creative expression. These forms of appetite happen in every family—in every country—clinics and hospitals are filled with both perpetrator and victim.

The second primary theme is the idea that thoughts, imaginings, made objects, past events, inert forms, mythical narratives, rumors and beliefs have an actual life and that our history is always incomplete if it doesn’t recognize these are real. The idea of history in Second Wind presumes nothing disappears but is continued in a non temporal reality shifted slightly out of phase from current experience.

These two themes are not far apart since most of history—if not all of it—is fiction. Having been chronicled it immediately becomes an interpretation. It becomes a lie that has power and lives among us often masquerading as truth. And lies are the highways appetites travel between victims.

Snake discovers nothing so little resembles glass that it can’t be broken. Then reassembled through the grace of listening. Second Wind is snake driven into poetry by the thoughts, myths, dreams, gods, demons and all the fictional events and voices that live on even after the bodies that housed them disappear.


“Gary Lemons in this heroic passage through an intense personal mythology is working what Carl Jung might have labeled a real time archetype, meme of the tribe in an attempt to explore the darker humus of text. It is a fabulous and brilliant extension of something like Theodore Roethke meets Philip K. Dick. Gary wants to extend our sense of the lyric sacred aria and yet it is all a picture book that one could lovingly bring to the children’s hour. This is a wonderful book.”—Norman Dubie

“To read Snake: Second Wind is to ride the very tip of the artist’s wet brush—the voice is that fluid, the energy of creation that close. We are moving and we are moved by these lines that can become anything, high, low, mythic, sacred or profane. And when the brush lifts we find Gary Lemons has painted a faithful and devastating likeness of humankind, as destroyer, survivor, consumer, debaucher, mother, liar, and storyteller.”—Kathleen Flenniken

“Through the deranged, visionary, abject voice of Snake, Gary Lemons would have us keep facing the suffering in which we remain complicit. Emptying and filling with power, these eerie poems are spoken by a flickering, remnant throat, mythic and lost, wildly charged with what does not have to be.”—Joanna Klink


Gary Lemons

Publication Date: September 1, 2012

$19.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 978-1-59709-235-7


In Snake, Snake is the last thing left alive. He’s all that remains of our voices. The bodies of all living animals and plants have escaped down the Dreaming Way, leaving behind a residual ego trapped inside Snake: the sole survivor the Earth must destroy to complete the cleanse and start over. All that is gone–all that has been reduced by fire and ice and the other dynamic retributive forces of Earth–lives on in Snake. Snake is the extracted limbic brain removed from the collective consciousness and hunted across an emptied landscape. Snake is the bad ass reptile holding back the end of time by sticking himself into the spokes of Samsara. Snake is a single narrative sequence, a frontline account of pursuit, avoidance, and even friendship, forged in the heat of struggle.

Praise for Snake

“In Gary Lemons’ Snake, his amazing new book of verse, we encounter the future, present age of the Draco-Mother-Naked-of-Last, complete with the revenge of Milton’s Satan on the collective purity of planet Earth. Not since the white-face ventriloquism of Berryman’s Dream Songs have I seen such challenges made to the questions of what is voice, what is dream–brilliant book!”—Norman Dubie

“In this new collection, Gary Lemons–the poet of the creaking fishing boat, the mountains over Kodiak, the ‘throats of grasses’–speaks, through the narrative consciousness of Snake, in nothing less than the fractured memories and voices of species slowly going extinct. A mournful dirge for what has been lost, a dreaming song for what could yet remain, Snake is an avian, reptilian, piscine–and, yes, mammalian–howl in an era of fracking, tar-sand extraction, and calamitous climate change. These poems are wise, beautiful, and necessary.”—Jordan Hartt

Bristol Bay and Other Poems

Gary Lemons

Publication Date: November 1, 2009

$17.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 1-59709-455-2


Bristol Bay is the easternmost part of the Bering Sea and the site of the largest Salmon run in the world. It is also home to some of the highest tides and roughest water on the planet. In winter, ice storms freeze the riggings of fishing boats and the added weight of the ice, if not chipped off and thrown overboard, is sufficient to sink all but the largest of boats. The working conditions are brutal and the Bay itself as unforgiving as it is lovely. If it were a town, its name would be Deadwood or Tombstone, a place where life is measured in sunrises, not years.

The title poem, “Bristol Bay,” is autobiographical. Much of what is described in the poem is true and not hyperbole or metaphor. The author worked two seasons on the 420 foot floating processor, the All Alaskan, now a partially submerged wreck outside of Kodiak, Alaska, and the poem speaks to that almost apocalyptic experience.

The poems in this book are thematically aligned with the title poem in that they share a willingness to explore the potentially fatal, often unknown body of the individual. Homelessness, war, the blue collar work ethic, the love of all things opposed by the hatred of one thing—mothers and fathers—all of these become touchstones through which greater awareness may be experienced as a spiritual participation in building and sustaining human communities.


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