National Book Award finalist Ada Limón visits campus

Photo// sarai nissan


Photo// Sarai Nissan

Ada Limón is the author of four poetry books including Bright Dead Things, which was named a finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in poetry. The collection was also a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Awards, a finalist for the 2015 Critics Circle Award, and listed as one of the Top 10 Poetry Books of the Year by The New York Times.

Hosted by the English and creative writing program at CU Denver, the CLAS Dean’s Diversity and Inclusion Fund, and the literary journal Copper Nickel, LimÓn gave a reading of Bright Dead Things, read unreleased poems, did a book signing, and participated in a Q&A on April 5.

The Zenith room in the Tivoli quickly began to swell with eager fans, curious listeners, and students who were there for class.

Bright Dead Things is a  21st century feminist contemplation of dread and disaster, past and future, and love and hate. The collection examines how society constructs identity in terms of place and human influence.

The collection shifts between Limón’s experiences, as she transitions from the landscape of New York City to the pastoral regions of Kentucky, loses a parent, ages, and falls in love. Limón’s poems are intimate and personal, yet still profoundly sophisticated and identifiable.

“This first poem is about the day before the Kentucky Derby,” Limón said. “It’s my favorite day and actually this poem isn’t about that at all. This one is for the ladies.”

Limón is a seasoned writer and reader; she did not seem to have an ounce of anxiety, but if she did, she masked it well, through witty comments about the awkward silences after a poem has been read or other personal anecdotes. Even though Limón reads and performs with an immense amount of confidence, she did not come off as intimidating—she was surrounded with a welcoming air, even to a room of over 30 strangers. Limón read 10 poems to her audience, all that were quintessentially her-a sliver of her lives and past-and she continually takes this chance of truly exposing herself to her audience through her work.

Limón’s work creates a nonlinear but powerful narrative, and she often uses landscape and setting as a character within her work, giving her readers a candid look inside the author herself.

“I never know where a poem is going to go,” Limón said at the question-and-answer session. “If I do, it’s a terrible poem, and I throw it away.”

Limón’s work, both in its entirety and as an individual collection, is carefully and prudently considered. The placement of each poem is especially thoughtful. Limón’s trust in her own narrative carries her work to an almost surreal dimension. Initially, it feels as though the reader is following the author through her childhood when the young Limón ripped all the carrots from their roots because she loved carrots or simply because she could. When the audience hears her ostensible rant about “The National Anthem,” the poem turns into its own song.

Limón’s work is about everything; it is about her life, travels, horses, love between friends, love between lovers; it is about death, about Brooklyn and Kentucky, it’s about carrots. It is all uniquely Limón, yet simultaneously, it is all about the reader.

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