Review: Bright Dead Things by Ada Limón

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 8.48.28 PMI happenstanced across this collection at my local library (which isn’t exactly up-to-date in the poetry section) and I was happily blown away by Limón’s poetry.

Sectioned into four parts, her poetry ranges from metaphysical reflections considering an entirely alternate life (“Every time I’m in an airport, / I think I should drastically / change my life,” from The Problem with Travel) to moving cross-country from hyper-urbanality to mundane Midwestern Kentucky, which later is learned to aid in a parent’s passing away.

Her poetry is accessible and honest, striking out beyond the pages in new criticism fashion: her words may mean one thing to her as an author and something entirely separate to me, another soul, as a reader. Regardless of life’s trials, a true master poet connects with readers in multiple poems on multiple levels at the intersection of our experiences in humanity. Limón is certainly a master poet.

For more on Bright Dead Things, published by Milkweed Editions in 2015, continue. 

I state my case for Limón’s brilliance. Part 1:

But love is impossible and it goes on
despite the impossible. You’re the muscle
I cut from the bone and still the bone
remembers, still it wants (so much, it wants)
the flesh back, the real thing,
if only to rail against it, if only
to argue and fight, if only to miss
a solve-able absence.

-In a Mexican Restaurant I Recall How Much You Upset Me

One might think from the title that the quoted poem is about some petty skirmuffle with one’s significant other. Far from it is the truth. It details the loss her her stepmom with whom she had a complicated relationship, one which the loss of is almost as difficult as their tumultuous communication; at least when one is alive there is something (someone) to rebel against.

Later, in another poem listed as “After ‘The Wreck of the Hesperus’ by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,” she writes (case, Part 2):

Isn’t it funny? How the cold numbs everything but grief.
If we could light up the room with pain,
we’d be such a glorious fire.”

-Lashed to the Helm, All Stiff and Stark

This quote, according to some online Googling, is oft quoted and with good reason. It’s beautiful, and it takes the terrible aspects of grief and turns sufferers into Phoenix-esque glory.

Finally, my last love of hers (though I’ve definitely not listed all) is this (case, Part 3):

“I used to think it was like a light bulb, life,
dangling in the chest, asking to be switched on.
But it’s not the light that’s ever in question,
rather, what’s your brilliant, glaring wattage?
What do you dare to gleam out and reflect?
If I were to fall (sabotaged wax, torn pinion),
I’d want to fall from the terrifying height
of her [the moon], the dust of my years crazy and flashing
lit up by the victory of my disastrous flight.”

-The Other Wish

Case, Closing Remarks: If these excerpts don’t speak for themselves, then I cannot help you. I think it is apparent in her words, insights, and lyricism that her work is worth your time. Your future self will thank you for this fire.


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