Everything goes into poetry. Everything. It should. It should not deny you entry. It should say, Come in! And then talk to you.
————-–Ada Limon (in an interview with the Poetry Society of America)
Opening a book of Ada Limón’s poetry can feel a bit like walking into a very busy room where you are expected and welcomed and finding that your host has absolutely no pretense of putting life on hold while you are there. It’s not that you aren’t attended to, only that you must share this attention with everything else. If this is your first time in this room, you may find it an astonishing experience. One that allows seemingly contradictory qualities to coexist and, more often than not, to strike sparks off of one another. It is in this space of simultaneity that Ada Limón’s poetry “happens.” As American Poet says of her work … Everything here is in flux, transitioning between sadness and something else—perhaps disaster, maybe hope.
In her poems, Limón’s voice is intimate, and conversational, and yet it habitually reaches beyond the self. In an interview with The Daily Fig, she touches on her propensity for writing in the first person, saying: I’m very fond of the “I.” But the “I” doesn’t always have to be my own personal “I,” it can be a more universal “I,” an “I” that opens up to other “I’s” and says this is your “I” too. That even this simple gesture reaches toward both personal and collective experience illustrates a complication in Limon’s poetry that makes it more powerful. Her writing is capable of pulling readers close to her while turning them out to face the rest of the world. This is a power she wields gently, leaving her readers susceptible to wonder, to heartbreak, to everything can be found in the world without leaving them to feel it alone.
Ada Limón takes the role of poet as guide, witness and companion seriously. Limón’s poems intend to speak to us of and from the world as it is—from “this brilliant mess”– and her joyful commitment attention to the here and now is meant to be contagious. In her poem This Practice she declares:
I want to practice. Like the Russian soldier
who had to make up a word to say how
hard he would fight, said he would fight
fiercefully, that’s how I will remember you,
that’s how I will practice—fiercefully.
The reader of an Ada Limón poem will trust this declaration, because, in addition to all else that they do, these poems keep fierce company. They are ready for you, whenever you come. They have been practicing.
We feel fortunate to have Ada Limón’s company at the 2012 Festival and think that festival audiences will feel the same way.
Click the poem titles watch Limón read City of Skin and High Water from Sharks in the Rivers her most recent book, published. And please visit Ada Limón’s website for more information about Ada and her work.
Please use the “Comments” box below to share other resources you may have found for this poet. In this way, we can build together a mini-wiki-encyclopedia on the 2012 Festival Poets.
For more information on the 2012 Dodge Poetry Festival and Program,
visit our website dodgepoetry.org