Begging for It
by Alex Dimitrov
Alex Dimitrov leads us through the streets, bridges, and bedrooms of New York City, sometimes as far away as Buenos Aires and Iceland, and as close as our own darkest corners. A Bulgarian immigrant, Dimitrov writes as both observer of and fervent participant in an “American youth,” as his speakers navigate both the physical and emotional landscapes of desire, intimacy, and longing—whether for a friend, a lover, or a self, “Saint or stranger, I still recklessly seek you.”
Throughout the collection, we are consistently rooted in place: a seemingly American place, a New York place, an emotional space in which “the body becomes a cage you can’t feel your way out of.” In one poem, we meet Hart Crane at the St. Mark’s Baths; in another, the speaker is reading Montaigne while a car crashes into the Gowanus Canal. Dimitrov invokes Rimbaud, Proust, Wilde, Barthes, Sontag, even James Franco. A contemporary coming-of-age in which the speakers are as much immersed in the present as they are plagued and enchanted by the past, this collection is very much alive. And even as Dimitrov assures us that “we were given more than we can drown,” he warns, almost seductively: “Don’t worry. No one is spared.”
“Alex Dimitrov's passionate, headlong poems seem to want to carve beneath the surface of gestures, beneath the skin, to the warm and dangerous blood beneath—until sex, and the poem itself, are ‘a nerve brightly turning in a closed room of the mind—.’…Begging for It is a fierce and memorable debut.”
“Begging for It … provides evidence not only that poetry has survived into the 21st century, but has mutated, as poetry must. It is poetry that could only have been written now…Dimitrov is that rarest of creatures, a true poet and a truly contemporary poet. Thank god he’s here.”
“Alex Dimitrov is a new poetry star, and his debut book’s a heartbreaker…Dimitrov plays hard with the big boys (Barthes, Wilde, Fitzgerald, Father, Mother, Lover and Other) and he lobs fast and fervent, winning even though this game isn’t a game. It is life. The poet is generous with that victory. Truth-telling, raw, fierce with feeling—he is indeed victorious, and so are his star-struck readers.”
“…The poems are savage and ferocious in their insistence that the fate of the soul, that ultimate perspectives dog our every step. They are perfectly earnest, skeptical about earnestness and about being skeptical: ‘We were given more than we can drown.’ They are sophisticated about everything that has happened in poetry, and extend it. I loved this book.”
At the St. Mark's Baths Hart Crane washes my hair
and I tilt around the cold porcelain of the basin
with strain and delight, trying to look at him.
But before I meet his sea-tempered eyes
I feel his hands easing my head
into the dark water,
as if he were a sailor calming a storm
on a ship with insatiable men.
When he tugs at the ropes that are my hair
my American youth streams down––
one year so heavy, it finds its way under the towel
around my waist and rests near the curve of my thigh.
Who am I? I think. And I try to remember
he beginning of beauty––before Orpheus,
before this man who sings
for the drowning, touches my lips,
and I ignite.
about the author
Alex Dimitrov was born in Sofia, Bulgaria. He is the recipient of the 2011 Stanley Kunitz Prize from The American Poetry Review, and his poems have appeared in the Kenyon Review, American Poetry Review, Yale Review, Boston Review, Tin House, and Slate, among others. He is the founder of Wilde Boys, a queer poetry salon in New York City, works at the Academy of American Poets, teaches creative writing at Rutgers University, and frequently writes for Poets & Writers magazine. Dimitrov is also the author of American Boys, an e-chapbook published by Floating Wolf Quarterly. He received his MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College, and his BA in English and Film Studies from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. He lives in Manhattan.
author photo: Star Black