I learnt today that Ada Limón has been appointed the 24th poet laureate of the U.S. I wasn’t familiar with her work so I looked her up.
This is how Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden, described her in the announcement:
“Ada Limón is a poet who connects. Her accessible, engaging poems ground us in where we are and who we share our world with. They speak of intimate truths, of the beauty and heartbreak that is living, in ways that help us move forward.”
This is the bio that I found on Ada Limón’s website:
Ada Limón is the author of six books of poetry, including The Carrying, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry. Limón is also the host of the critically-acclaimed poetry podcast, The Slowdown. Her new book of poetry, The Hurting Kind, is out now from Milkweed Editions. She is the 24th Poet Laureate of The United States.
I was intrigued so I sampled her first poet collection ‘Bright Dead Things‘ (2015) which has sold more than 40,000 copies. I could immediately see why: it’s instantly accessible but isn’t superficial. It’s like a painting that immediately captures the eye but then makes you want to linger and look longer and maybe come back tomorrow to see it in a different light.
I bought the Kindle version and I’ve spent most of this morning oohing and aahing over it, like a kid with a huge box of chocolates. I know there are poems here that will stay with me. I know that, in rushing from one to another and going ‘Look at this one, and this one and this one!’ I’m missing things but I’m not holding back because it is a joy to find a new voice that I want to listen to.
Her poems are autobiographical in the sense that they are prompted by incidents in her life. She shares what she sees and what she thinks and what memories are triggered or feelings evoked in a way that feels intimate and open. The writing works for me, though I haven’t figured out why yet. It pulls me eagerly from one line to the next until a poem is laid out and then invites me to stand back and look at the whole thing and go ‘Well, does this mean something to you?’
The power of quiet and stillness is a reoccurring theme in her poetry and that hooks me because she’s not talking about blissed-out serenity but of stillness and quiet being choices.
Here’s one of the poems that called to me immediately, which will show you what I mean.
The Quiet Machine
I’m learning so many different ways to be quiet. There’s how I stand in the lawn, that’s one way. There’s also how I stand in the field across from the street, that’s another way because I’m farther from people and therefore more likely to be alone. There’s how I don’t answer the phone, and how I sometimes like to lie down on the floor in the kitchen and pretend I’m not home when people knock. There’s daytime silent when I stare, and a nighttime silent when I do things. There’s shower silent and bath silent and California silent and Kentucky silent and car silent and then there’s the silence that comes back, a million times bigger than me, sneaks into my bones and wails and wails and wails until I can’t be quiet anymore. That’s how this machine works.Limón, Ada. Bright Dead Things (p. 13). Little, Brown Book Group. Kindle Edition.
If that’s your kind of poetry, then I recommend ‘Bright Dead Things’ to you. The Kindle version is available for £2.99 in the UK