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.