Hough & Helix & Where & Here & You, You, You by Lea Graham (A Review by J. A. Tyler)

Hough & Helix & Where & Here & You, You, You is Lea Graham’s first full-length collection, as well my first date with No Tell Books, and both are a solid way to begin something new. The physical product is clean, the layout readable and nicely stylized, and the collection a steady thematic thumping of sex and want, a rhythmic book of push and drive.

from ‘A Crush for Paris & Oenone’:

Not sure I would like

being half-naked & felt up in a pasture

in view of the faithful dog & farm couple,

but his thigh & bicep are Brando as Kowalski

& I am amazed how much I

love men, careless to the bad

times that shine around the bend:

goats & bagpipes,

dark vines lolling darkness,

that other woman

Hough & Helix & Where & Here & You, You, You is most importantly, an excellent study in rhythm. The title drives forward as do all the poems in Graham’s collection, constantly pushing and pulsing ahead, taking the reader along as they go.

from ‘A Crush for Us All Back Then’:

“Cupid” just a baby then that little rascal, chubby

as Spanky, a charming Alfalfa (Darla’s valentine-

shaped face, arching & scrunching cartoonish

seduction). Something to play at, a secret

cupped at ear, chanted & rhymed, rope-skipped:


his name

And through its rhythms, where the combination of words builds and builds and pulls us through each poem, Hough & Helix & Where & Here & You, You, You is about the sexual nature of the world, about crushing in both the literal and the loving sense, or both simultaneously, or neither and the feeling then of being unrequited.

Some of Graham’s poems come from the place of men as perpetrators and some posit men as a poison women loathe to drink, but in either case, the intersection of men and women, in both sex and relationships, is in the spotlight, highlighted with the same push and strain of the poetic rhythms. Hough & Helix & Where & Here & You, You, You is a strong debut and a wonderful way to start reading No Tell titles. More will surely be on my list now, and I’ll keep an eye loaded for Lea Graham too, as more of her work comes down the line.

Hough & Helix & Where & Here & You, You, You is available from No Tell Books.

J. A. Tyler is the author of three novels: Inconceivable Wilson, A Man of Glass & All the Ways We Have Failed, and A Shiny, Unused Heart. He is also founding editor of Mud Luscious Press.