EXPOSURE / IDEAL PALACE — Melissa Lee–Houghton
An award-winning poet’s uncompromising return from a seven year hiatus.
Exposure / Ideal Palace is a compelling double-feature presented in a bespoke landscape format. A lyrical exploration of excess, sensuality, desire, mental wellbeing, homelessness, metaphysics and impossible love. Written between Manchester, London and Sparty Lea, it interrogates a tumultuous career and a culture of fear and hypocrisy.
Exposure bears lyric witness to a woman and artist living under increasingly impossible social and personal conditions. These original and sophisticated poems are addressed to lovers, family, friends and imagined others. As well as being mischievous and biting critiques of contemporary poetry and wider culture — volatile recompense for abusers, exs and literary betrayals.
Ideal Palace takes influence from Ferdinand Cheval's naive architecture. Exploring psychoanalysis, science and history wielded into a radical dreamscape.
In a refusal to limit the work to conservative editorial standards this collection accommodates radical form — a landscape format for the long and unrestrained lines — embracing the full and vast vision of the poet.
Melissa Lee-Houghton won the Somerset Maugham Award in 2016. Her poem, 'i am very precious' was shortlisted for the Forward Prize. Sunshine became a Guardian Book of the Year and was shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award and the Ted Hughes Award. She is a previous winner of a Northern Writers’ Award for Short Fiction. Her novel, That Lonesome Valley was longlisted for the Republic of Consciousness Award in 2019. She is a Next Generation Poet and has written for Radio Four and the Guardian.
Praise for Exposure / Ideal Palace:
"Melissa Lee-Houghton returns from the edge of obscurity and personal precarity. The wait has not been in vain, the new double-collection is her greatest work to date. Fearless, exacting and intoxicating."
"Melissa Lee-Houghton's Exposure / Ideal Palace is 'a fever of defiance'. These poems are a blazing account of the erotic splendour, despair and violence of living, of how joy can be found even though there's a 'bone lodged in the throat' of your life. Lee-Houghton's senses 'touch on all things'. The result is a book that leaves you reeling with 'histamines and bliss', your own senses simultaneously agitated and soothed."
Amy Key, author of Arrangements in Blue and Isn't Forever
"'Just how immediate can a poem be?', asks Melissa Lee-Houghton in this startling, visceral new collection. Well, it just can't be any less immediate than what you'll read here — words that don't describe pain and love and grief and flesh but that are all those things in themselves — we are not reading about something here because Lee-Houghton manages through the terrifying beauty of her poetry to get rid of the 'about'. There's no barrier between the poems and their subject matter, which gives these works a kinship to the Metaphysical poetry of the past, but with added tramadol, heroin and pregabalin."
Darian Leader, author of What is Madness, Strictly Bipolar and Sexuality, Suffering & Satisfaction
"With its long lines and its hard joy, with its defiance in the face of darkness, Exposure / Ideal Palace is Melissa Lee–Houghton’s song of herself. In going that far down into the dark it somehow flies. Because these poems do seem to emerge from a few layers further underground than other poems, and on the way up they get pushed through fewer filters. The book is full of extraordinary ideas and humour, the drugs look 'so pretty and secular', or 'Look at this mouth, does it look like a safe place to keep a fantasy'. And, as another poem says, 'who would want to lie next to me? No one sleeps next to the ravine, do they'. But it turns out, being next to that ravine is an exhilarating place to be."
Mark Waldron, author of A Straight up Giant and Meanwhile, Trees
I've just heard a sound: it's every 'How to Write Poetry' website in the world, crashing. To try to get at the scale, scope and sustained intensity of Melissa Lee–Houghton's Exposure / Ideal Palace; you'd have to think De Sade's inexhaustible erotic scatology; or imagine Captain Beefheart following up Trout Mask Replica with a quadruple album. Apart from anything else everyone is going to have to do some serious reading; not skimming, or scanning, scrolling or grazing the surface. Forget tired analogies with Confessionalism, always a (relatively tame) quasi-Symbolist practice. Think Dominique Aury or George Bataille or Proust, but the Proust who reputedly stuck pins in rats in order to orgasm, rather than the elegant prose-stylist (though there's elegance and 'prose' here too). But keep the tidal pull of all these. And just as you're about to proclaim your own 'There are the Alps, fools!' moment, you're hit by elegant?/meta-elegant?/elegant? poems that wind in and around (very tangentially) Le Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval. The last poet, I seem to recall, who used such this trigger-point was late modernist Ronald Johnson in his long poem Ark. Your own re-adjusted preconceptions (now vibrating at overdose-high-orgasm-hangover-come-down level simultaneously) will have to be further re-adjusted. Meanwhile, these 'two-books-in-one' continue to outstare and metabolically adjust each other. Even if you find you hate it, you'll still be secretly sick with jealousy. It's a thing: a brutal and wildly beautiful 'self-portrait' in its own entire landscape, that still can't contain itself or be 'stood back from', or rivalled. Utterly vital."
Matthew Caley, author of Apparently and Rake
"Visceral, fraught and intoxicated, Lee-Houghton’s poetry sheds light on a hardscrabble existence, a psychic descent into turmoil and disintegration. This is fearless writing, one reporting from the frontline of homelessness, addiction and obsessive love."
Adelle Stripe, author of Ten Thousand Apologies and Black Teeth & a Brilliant Smile
"The welding of pleasure to rage in these poems makes the violent daily gaze and the rotten soul of capital jump out of its shit-scared skin. But Exposure / Ideal Palace is not an Idealist project, rather detailing the stains — the skin hanging on, addicted maybe, but also connected, like how each of the poems connects singularly to the book as a whole: ‘a sunset held timidly in place’. Melissa Lee-Houghton’s epic, her glam materialist poetics, is ‘beyond the good/bad dichotomy’ and so this book is pedagogical, as in ‘don’t dictator me’ and don’t forget to desire, to feel. Something shockingly difficult to do today, so we need this, ie. this book is necessary, why be surprised that it is joyful too?"
Rebecca Close, translator and author of Valid, Virtual, Vegetable Reality
Accreditation & Specification:
Editor: Jamie Lee
Art Direction: Adam Griffiths
Typesetting: Luke Allan
Print: Offset Litho
Cover: Black foil text
Paper: Munken (Swe) & Novatech (Ger)
Format: Paperback (268x223mm Landscape) Perfect Bound
Published: 1st May 2024
Trade: Central Books Ltd.
Edition of 500
The Portobello Bookshop
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