“I want to try and be terrific. Even for an hour,” admits the speaker in Ada Limón’s most recent collection Bright Dead Things (“During the Impossible Age of Everyone” line 5). Reading Limón’s poetry is like engaging in a wild waltz with the speaker. The cheekiness of the voice, as well as the commentary about love and loss is electrifying.
Limón reminds readers of the fierceness that lives inside all of us. In the first poem, titled “How to Triumph like a Girl” the speaker confesses “I like the lady horses best” (line 1) because “let’s be honest, I like / that they’re ladies. As if this big / dangerous animal is also a part of me” (lines 7-9). I love how bold and empowering this poem is. It claims its own space, and starts the collection in a powerful way. This daring tone, coupled with the nature imagery is threaded throughout the book.
My personal favorite poem in Bright Dead Things is titled “Accident Report in the Tall, Tall Weed” and it begins “My ex got hit by a bus. // He wrote me in a text to tell me this. / Now will you talk to me? I got hit by a bus.” (lines 1-3). The blunt manner at which Limón begins this poem is hilarious, and it gets better as the speaker admits that she only ever wished “a little cockroach infestation” would happen to her ex (line 6). I’m also in love with the surprising language in this poem: “I imagine the insides of myself sometimes – / part female, part male, part terrible dragon” (lines 51-52). I let out an enthusiastic YESSSSSS after reading this line. Yes, I was in public. No, I do not care.
Not only are Limón’s poems funny, but they’re emotionally resonant and engage readers in a discussion about love and loss. For example, the poem “Lies About Sea Creatures” has one of my favorite lines ever: “Sometimes, you just want / something so hard you have to lie about it, / so you can hold it in your mouth for a minute, / how real hunger has a real taste” (lines 6-9). These four lines have been swirling inside my head for the last week.
Bright Dead Things has a strong narrative voice. Each poem is its own story. The collection, in total, has 62 poems, and took me about two days to read. This is a collection that I would strongly recommend, and that I will personally be coming back to over and over again. The writing is fresh and exhilarating, the lines seem to have their own movement, and the speaker’s voice is something I found to be both daring and emboldening.
(photo courtesy of Milkweed Editions)
Buy the collection here.