I happened upon the work of Ada Limón after browsing the shelves of the poetry section at a bookstore in Seattle, and I’m so thankful that I did. Turns out she’s kind of a big deal. And her poetry kicks so much ass. Her writing is rooted in reality and armored with a strong bark of metaphor. Yet there is vulnerability throughout, a clear and visible pain that radiates through almost every poem, hidden in the language she uses, yet displayed on her sleeve for all to see.
Probably the strongest theme in The Carrying is that of life and death. This 2018 release starts with a short poem about self-identity, almost like a stepping stone in the rollercoaster of life. Limón talks about Eve, taking in all the animals and giving them names. “I wonder if she ever wanted / them to speak back,” she writes, “looked into / their wide wonderful eyes and / whispered, Name me, name me.” The vulnerability and modesty that this poem brings to the table feels like a teaspoon at the mouth, to test out how hot the drink will be. There’s a lot to unpack in many of Limón’s pieces, insinuating layers of meaning and emotion. And there’s a lot to commend, for that: it’s clear that she is a talented poet, revealing so much through so few words, right off the bat.
Later on, in poems like “The Real Reason,” reality and symbolism collide in harmonious and heartbreaking ways. The speaker discusses wanting a tattoo that means something special to her, and dictating that thought to her artist mother, not getting the response she had expected. “It wasn’t until later that / I knew it wasn’t so much the tattoo, but the marking, the idea / of scars. What you don’t know (and this is why this is not my story) / is that my mother is scarred from burns over a great deal of her body. / Most from an explosion that took her first child she was carrying…” If that doesn’t hit you right in the gut, I don’t know what will. There are several instances like this in The Carrying, instances that come out of left field, that you can’t expect to catch and hold on to like you might hope. There is grief in many of these poems. And there is sorrow.
But Limón also wields strength, for example, “Wonder Woman” recounts a speaker’s need to stand and applaud a little girl in Wonder Woman garb. “… she bowed and posed like she knew I needed a myth— / a woman, by a river, indestructible.” She builds a foundation of female power that serves as the support for everything she needs to hold up in this collection of poems. It certainly leaves me wanting more, needing to delve deeper into her work and find her other published books. I am floored by Ada Limón, and I hope more readers are effected by her talent in the same or similar ways.
Some other favorite poems of mine from The Carrying include: “Dead Stars,” “Prey,” “Notes on the Below,” “Killing Methods,” and “Full Gallop.”
Are you a fan of Ada Limón’s? What other works of hers have you read? Is anyone going to check out her writing who haven’t already? I want to know. Let’s discuss!
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