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Bright Dead Things

4.24  ·  Rating details ·  2,295 Ratings  ·  270 Reviews
Bright Dead Things examines the chaos that is life, the dangerous thrill of living in a world you know you have to leave one day, and the search to find something that is ultimately “disorderly, and marvelous, and ours.”

A book of bravado and introspection, of 21st century feminist swagger and harrowing terror and loss, this fourth collection considers how we build our iden
Paperback, 128 pages
Published September 15th 2015 by Milkweed Editions (first published September 8th 2015)
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Jun 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Carmen by: Instagram
Ada Limón is an amazing poet, with a strong distinctive voice. A feminist, rough-edged, American Latina, Kentucky/NYC/California/Nebraska/Tennessee voice. It's very good.

I'll show you some examples. I'll hide them under spoilers because I know some people don't like poetry. So, you can only read the ones that interest you or none at all.

(view spoiler)
Jan 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book made me want to be a poet. To make magic with words. To carve out beautiful, vivid, life-filled moments, to define grief or lust or both together.

This book made me write, such as I do. The words made me come to life, as only poetry can. It made me feel young again and my own age at the same time.

Limon writes about longing, and loss (her poems about her stepmother's death brought me painfully back to my mother's dying), and making a life. About New York City and Kentucky and other space
Jenny (Reading Envy)
These poems are in four numbered sections. The first seems to be about dislocation and isolation, the second about loss and grief.

I found most of the poems I liked in section three.

Some highlights:

"...Before now, I don't
know if I have ever loved anyone, or if
I have ever been loved, but men have
been very good to me, have seen
my absurd out-of-place-ness, my bent
grin and un-called-for loud laugh
and have wanted to love me for it,
have been so warm in their wanting
that sometimes I wanted to love t
Aug 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing

Each of these poems has a weight measured in depth; as a collection they create a perfect circle of teeth-gnashing humanity - a circumference dotted with points of joy, pain, celebration, humor and loss.

I was fortunate to see Limón in July of this year doing a reading here in Northern California. She read 11 poems, most of them new work - her presence and narrative voice complemented the words in poetic totality. I wish that she had read "The Great Blue Heron of Dunbar Road" found in this collec
Jun 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
I am gleaming. Promise you'll see me gleam.
-Ada Limon, from "Lashed to the Helm, All Stiff and Stark"

I went to this book seeking solace on the week of the Orlando massacre, the deadliest mass shooting in recent U.S. history, which was also a hate crime targeting the LGBTQ community and the Latinx community. I went to this book because I craved optimism and hope at a time when those qualities seemed hard to come by. And it's true that Ada Limon's strong-voiced lyric poems are woven through with p
Laura McNeal
Nov 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Approachable in the nicest possible way, by which I mean you re-read lines for the thrill of hearing them again in your head, not because you're confused. Intelligent and warm and surprising and unafraid of simple candor. Like "Miracle Fish, a prose poem that begins "I used to pretend to believe in God. Mainly, I liked so much to talk to someone in the dark."

I also love the poems that tell longer, more complicated stories, all of which seem personal and yet circumspect. There's a palpable sense
Apr 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
As a poet, I read a lot of books of poetry. I read to challenge my own writing, to introduce myself to new-to-me poets, and to keep up with what is being valued by the publishing/literary community. Mostly, I read books of poetry for pure pleasure. What I want from a book of poetry is sonic pleasure, intelligent word-play, a noticeable attention to individual word choice and images, and depth. It is rare when I find a complete book of poems that holds me and amazes me from beginning to the end o ...more
Sep 28, 2016 rated it really liked it

Obviously, I am still learning the nuances of poetry but boy, when I read something special, it really resonates and clambers around in my skull, like a bat loose in the house. This collection, Bright Dead Things is filled with moments like this and I can not recommend it higher. Please try it for yourself and I am going to seek out her earlier work.
Ada Limon writes accessible and easily digestible poems, a plus from the start. Among the themes treated here are being a woman, being Mexican, and, in one section, death--specifically the death of her step-mother, which became grist for a set of poems.

Some cool lines I jotted down as I read are as follows:

"I'm like a fence, or a cow, or that word, yonder"

"not just to let the savage grass grow...."

"the clowned-out clouds"

"spring's pushed out every tizzy-tongued flower known to the valley's bosom
Dec 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
This includes some stellar poems including the one that convinced me to buy it, How To Triumph Like A Girl. (link:

These poems are confident and work with admirable chutzpah, but there’s nothing arrogant or condescending about them. Limon has a great voice and you just kind of want to be friends with her. (If only she’d run for president!) The poems are accessible and honest, sometimes funny, sometimes daring, often optimistic. I like that. The setting is
Adriana Martinez Figueroa
Jan 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own, poetry
i was trying to come up with words to review this book but what came out was the following:

I visualized this book like a valley. You’re writing under a tree that’s turning in autumn. Sometimes there are occasional clouds crossing the valley, casting shadows along the way that remind you of an emotion you saw once one the face of someone you loved. When you run out of words to write down, you unravel the leash you had your horse tied to and climb on. You gallop home, to the person you’re growing
Jan 01, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Really well-wrought lyrical confessional poems with a hint of ironic distancing and the flat-surprise tone that is the earmark of contemporary young mainstream poets. Lovely for its thing, which is not my thing.
Elena ( The Queen Reads )
Dec 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
So instead, we looked up at the unruly sky, its clouds in simple animal shapes we could name though we knew they were really just clouds— disorderly, and marvelous, and ours.
Hizatul Akmah
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
actual rating: 4.6/5

this poetry collection comforts me in a way that makes me feeling all nostalgic and melancholic. i'd highly recommend everyone to read this book.
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
I’m grateful to another reviewer who introduced me to Ada Limon’s work with a link to the first poem, “How to Triumph like a Girl.” Not surprisingly, that poem won a Pushcart Prize. It also sent me straight to Amazon to place a book order. I love everything about Limon’s poems, their strong feminism, their humor and humanity, and their accessibility. I especially love how she deals with difficult issues that face us all (death, hospice, love entanglements), yet manages to leave us feeling uplift ...more
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, read-in-2016
This is a treasure chest of poems. Honestly, when I heard the words 'positive" and "optimistic" used to describe these poems, I was skeptical. Then I started reading and the poems not only ring true but draw up a strength and longing that you never knew you had or... that has run aground. This is a necessary book that I will be returning to often.

My favourite poems are: 'How to Triumph Like a Girl," "State Bird,"Miracle Fish", "The Riveter", "The Vine", "We Are Surprised", "The Long Ride", "The
Jan 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I've always been a fan of Limon's work. This particularly book is so heartbreaking and beautiful. It mourns and celebrates and questions. It finds a pulse in the silence: "I'm learning so many different ways to be quiet." The collection also has so many witty lines; I smiled and chuckled as much as I teared up. The moment I finished the book, I began reading poems again. Limon certainly "triumphs like a girl."
Oh my gosh, these poems! Tore me open then put on a salve. So good, so necessary. Took me a few days to read because I kept going back to certain poems.
Mar 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: drama-poetry, 2018
I have a really hard time getting into contemporary poetry, but Ada Limon's writing is impossible to ignore. Her style is clear and very powerful. It's not the best collection I've come across, but her pieces on death and nature make it worth picking up.
Max Potthoff
Sep 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
"Sometimes, you have to look around / at the life you've made and sort of nod at it, / like someone moving their head up and down / to a tune they like."
Jun 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ada Limón's Bright Dead Things illuminates life's great and small tragedies and triumphs, allowing even death to shine, as the collection's title suggests. This is one of the most impressively crafted books of poems that I have read; the narrative is so fluid that any question asked by a poem is subsequently answered by the poems that follow it, despite the collection's many themes and turns. In one of my favorite poems of the collection, "The Rewilding," Limón asks, "What should we believe in n ...more
Daniel Klawitter
Aug 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
"There remains the mystery of how the pupil devours
so much bastard beauty."

This one line from the poem "The Rewilding" captures my own response to this marvelously rich collection of poems.

Traversing the country of the heart as well as the actual landscapes of Kentucky and New York (where the poet divides her time), we as readers are treated as fellow travelers...privileged to have Ada Limon as our generous guide to striking emotional landscapes, audacious metaphors, and heart-wise reflections
Sep 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An amazing collection of poetry that deserves every good critical review it's received.

Good poetry is visceral. It smacks you across the face with an image, or stabs you in the heart with an observation, or blows your mind with a comparison of things you had never before put together. Racism and goats, for example, or being Latinx and prickly pears. By all of which I mean, oh my stars, if you like poetry and don't read this book, you are just plain missing out.

Even if you don't like poetry, you
D.A. Gray
Apr 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The speaker in Ada Limon’s poems seems at first glance to focus on the confessional, letting the reader see her sadness and her moments of epiphany. By the end, this reader realizes these seemingly personal poems touch on the universal, showing
us Blake-style, the universe in a grain of sand. The reader sees New York City, Kentucky and places out west through her eyes and in many of the poems the act of pulling up roots and setting them down in a new place shows reasons a speaker might be tempted
Jan 07, 2016 rated it liked it
Take my rating with a grain of salt! Tried reading poetry because, why not, and it's still as abstruse as when I tried to read it in high school. I must say that, being contemporary, these poems felt much more fresh and readable than anything I'd attempted in the past, but poetry is still not my thing. There were actually a number of poems in this collection that I liked very much! The poems are slightly dark and a little sarcastic, which I liked. I actually really enjoyed the structureless poem ...more
Jan 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, poetry, women
ahh! what a marvelous way to start my new year with such a powerful distinctive voice in literature.

Somewhere I had heard that, after noting the lack
of water pressure in an old hotel in Los Angeles,
they found a woman’s body at the bottom
of the cistern.

Imagine, just thinking the water was low, just wanting
to take a shower.

After that, when the water would act weird,
spurt, or gurgle, I’d imagine a body, a woman, a me
just years ago, freely single, happily unaccounted for,
at the lowest curve of the w
Melissa Reddish
Dec 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A phenomenal collection-- one of my favorites of 2015, perhaps ever. There isn't a weak poem in the collection-- each is a brightly lit tendril creeping into your darkest places. These poems are accessible without being simplistic, sincere without being mawkish. Everyone should read this collection immediately.
Vincent Scarpa
Mar 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A terrific collection of poems, and one I'll never lend out. Favorites include: "What Remains Grows Ravenous," "Relentless," "Glow," "Oh Please, Let It Be Lightning," and "The Great Blue Heron of Dunbar Road."
Nov 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2015
Brett Dupré
May 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Instructions: 1. Read aloud. 2. Be astounded.
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Poetry Readers Ch...: Bright Dead Things by Ada Limon 10 17 Jan 29, 2017 12:43PM  
Poetry Readers Ch...: Marin's list 6 23 Jan 10, 2016 04:50AM  
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Ada Limón is the author of three books of poetry, Lucky Wreck, This Big Fake World, and Sharks in the Rivers. She received her Master of Fine Arts in Poetry from New York University. Limón has received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and was one of the judges for the 2013 National Book Award in Poetry. She works as a creative writing i ...more
“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 where 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.” 23 likes
“If we could light up the room with pain,
we’d be such a glorious fire.”
More quotes…