On Ada Limón’s ‘Bright Dead Things’

Limón’s poetry collection calls upon her own struggles to construct a beautiful sense of place.


Ada Limón
Poetry
126 Pages
5.5" × 8.5"
Paperback
Also available in eBook formats
Review Format: Paperback
ISBN: 978–1–57131–471–0
Milkweed Editions
Minneapolis, Minnesota
Available HERE
$16.00


Nights when it’s warm
and no one is watching,
I walk to the edge
of the road and stare
at all the fireflies.
[…]
(from “Field Bling,” p 48)

The hectic schedule of life is difficult to ignore. We get so caught up in our routines. Wake up, go to work, come home, sleep, repeat. Every day becomes mundane. The quiet moments are often shoved aside for more pressing stressors. It becomes easy to let electronics, jobs, and relationships take over consciousness. But moments of stillness and solitude are the best time for self meditation and contemplation. In Bright Dead Things, Ada Limón calls upon her own struggles to show how beauty can be found when you take time to reflect. She demonstrates how important it is to be able to understand and personify the hardships that come across in one’s life in order to move forward eventually.

It can be challenging to find inspiration from inevitable negative influences, such as the death of a family member or the hospitalization of a loved one. The only way to grow, however, is to allow the emotions to be recognized. The little things that go often unnoticed can bring fruition to inner peace:

[…] And now, this tree
breaks into view, lurid red leaves
that demand a clanging,
screaming alarm, and I think — 
this tree has been here
all this time, and I didn’t notice.
[…]
(from “The Tree of Fire,” p 15).

Despite its vibrant colors, she never would have seen the tree had she not allowed herself to take a pause. It makes me want to try to open my eyes to a broader perspective. I would love to see my world as she sees hers, as a place where new things can be discovered, even in the face of hardship.

Each poem beautifully constructs a sense of place and allows the reader to be immersed in her experiences. The language calls upon a pastoral form, but she adds a relatable flourish that makes the poems touch your heart even if you’ve never had to deal with the things she speaks of. Her work connects to the collective essence of the human spirit. It is a wonderful compilation for those who are avid lovers of beautiful language, as well as those who have yet to learn that not all poetry is unattainable and archaic.