Poets & Writers

THE POETRY OF PERSEVERANCE

ADA Limón is a North Star poet for me. She’s up there with Lucille Clifton, W. S. Merwin, and Adelia Prado in a great influential constellation. I’m drawn to Limón for the same reasons I’m drawn to the others: It’s as much for her surprising and sublime departures as for the earthbound truths they lay bare. And I have feelings when I’m inside her poems. I sigh. I laugh out loud. I cry. A lot. I do, I cry a lot.

Often when people hear of a reader having an emotional response to a poem, the engine assumed to be driving that response is the narrative subject matter: the familiarity of it, perhaps, or the dramatic imagining of it. It’s the compliment narrative poets like myself have come to dread—the relatability of the poem. That happened, or that could have happened to me, thus this is a successful piece of art. And, of course, great poems like the kind Limón writes often incorporate emotional subject matter and narrative. But focusing on subject matter alone doesn’t do powerful poetry like Limón’s justice. What drives her poems—what makes her new collection, The Carrying, so moving and masterful—is her dexterity with voice and diction and her giftedness with metaphor. It is her deep wellspring of surprising and evocative images and her syntactic superpowers. Most of all, it’s her intellect and intelligence. The poems are keen reflections of a mind constantly at work, seeing and wondering and moving toward meaning but not always the meaning to which the poem and its reader thought they were headed.

, published in August by Milkweed Editions, follows Limón’s four previous collections, including (Milkweed Editions, 2015), which was a finalist for not only the 2015 National Book Award, but also the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award. It was also named one. Her earlier books include (Autumn House Press, 2006), (Pearl Editions, 2006), and (Milkweed Editions, 2010). Limón, forty-two, serves on the faculty of the low-residency MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina and the 24 Pearl Street online program for the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. She splits her time between Lexington, Kentucky, and Sonoma, California.

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