World Poetry Day: Bright Dead Things

Yesterday was World Poetry Day and I thought I would celebrate by talking about Ada Limón’s collection, Bright Dead Things. I mentioned this book in my post on Monday, but I thought it deserved more attention.


Ada Limón has published four books of poetry, and critically acclaimed Bright Dead Things is her most recent. Lucky WreckThis Big Fake World, and Sharks in the Rivers are her other collections. Limón was born in California and attended The University of Washington where she studied theatre. She received an MFA from New York University. She received a grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts in 2003, and sh also won the Chicago Literary Award for Poetry. She’s written for various magazines including Martha Stewart LivingGQ, and Travel & Leisure. Presently, she lives in both Lexington, Kentucky, and Sonoma, California, which is evident in her poetry.

Here’s a description of Bright Dead Things from the Barnes & Noble website:

“Bright Dead Things examines the chaos that is life, the dangerous thrill of living in a world you know you have to leave one day, and the search to find something that is ultimately “disorderly, and marvelous, and ours.”

A book of bravado and introspection, of 21st century feminist swagger and harrowing terror and loss, this fourth collection considers how we build our identities out of place and human contact—tracing in intimate detail the various ways the speaker’s sense of self both shifts and perseveres as she moves from New York City to rural Kentucky, loses a dear parent, ages past the capriciousness of youth, and falls in love. Limón has often been a poet who wears her heart on her sleeve, but in these extraordinary poems that heart becomes a “huge beating genius machine” striving to embrace and understand the fullness of the present moment. “I am beautiful. I am full of love. I am dying,” the poet writes. Building on the legacies of forebears such as Frank O’Hara, Sharon Olds, and Mark Doty, Limón’s work is consistently generous and accessible—though every observed moment feels complexly thought, felt, and lived.”

Here are some of my favorite lines of her poetry:

“I’m thinking about people and trees and how I wish I could be silent more, be more tree than anything else, less clumsy and loud, less crow, more cool white pine, and how it’s hard not to always want something else, not just to let the savage grass grow.”
-From Mowing

“I denied it,
this new land. But love, I’ll conclude this:
whatever state you are, I’ll be that state’s bird.”
-From State Bird

“I’d like to take a nap.

But not a nap that’s eternal,
a nap where you wake up

having dreamt of falling, but
you’ve only fallen into

an ease so unknown to you
it looks like a new country.”
-From The Noisiness of Sleep

“Here it is:
the new way of living with the world

inside of us so we cannot lose it,
and we cannot be lost.”
-From We Are Surprised

“It’s been a long time
since I’ve wanted to die
it makes me feel
like taking off
my skin suit
and seeing how
my light flies all
on its own, neon
and bouncy like a
wannabe star.”
-From Field Being

“Let’s be owls tonight, stay up
in the branches of ourselves, wide-eyed
perched on the edge of euphoric plummet.”
-From Midnight, Talking About Our Exes

Ok, so I might have gotten carried away with listing my favorite lines, but I swear I whittled it down to my top ones. Honestly, in every poem, Limón’s language is beautiful and gorgeous and honest.


Have you read any Limón? Who are your favorite poets?


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