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Bright Dead Things

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  3,329 ratings  ·  381 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
Paperback, 128 pages
Published September 15th 2015 by Milkweed Editions (first published September 8th 2015)
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Average rating 4.26  · 
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 ·  3,329 ratings  ·  381 reviews

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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
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
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
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
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
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.
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 ...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
Mar 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
I feel like this is a collection that really speaks to and for us at y'kno kinda middle-age..with history behind us but really just beginning to settle and make plans for the future. This was great, affecting, full of appreciation for life and simple things, but also full of loss and displacement, the idea of making a home, leaving things behind.. can't wait to read her new collection.
Dec 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Ace Boggess
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sharp, crisp lines. Deeply insightful verse. This book is something to experience as much as read.
Ali Nuri
Dec 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry-i-read
Thoroughly enjoyed this collection (perhaps even more than the previous Limón I read), and devoured it on this balmy early November day outside a café in a very happy place moment. Good memories.
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
Shelves: poetry
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.
Aug 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed the mood of these poems (especially the ones set in Kentucky) - I felt they were really accessible (in the best possible way) with incredible imagery. I also really liked the organization of the sections. Here's a favorite from pg.74-5:

Oh Please, Let it be Lightning

We were crossing the headwaters of
the Susquehanna River in our new car
we didn't quite have the money for
but it was slick and silver and we named it
after the local strop club next to the car wash:
The Spearmint
Leigh Anne
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
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
Erika Schoeps
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: diversity-reads
Slim but mighty book of poetry.

Limón's work is readable but enjoyable to continually dissect if you stick with it. Serious themes (death, migration) are discussed with natural images, mostly animals. More than a few ended with a conclusion of sensual reflection-- getting lost in the feeling of the moment and denying any firm message. Limón is only floating ideas past you.

Her best poems are always about horses.
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.
Liz Mc2
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Reading this cemented my love of Ada Limón’s poetry. The most memorable for me are the poems about not giving up, the ones I copied and kept as affirmations, even though I don’t think they are necessarily her best poems (too easy? Too obvious? Too preachy? She is rarely those things). Here it was the first one in the collection, “How to Triumph Like a Girl,” in which the speaker identifies with a mare (the poet lives in Kentucky horse country). It ends:

Don’t you want to lift my shirt and see
Oct 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
I came to this collection after reading a tweet praising Limón's "The Raincoat" ( I really enjoyed the power and visual narrative in that poem and wanted more so I ordered Bright Dead Things and The Carrying (which has The Raincoat). Bright Dead Things Came to the library first, but much of it wasn't like The Raincoat. I think from reading this collection I realized that I really enjoy poems with clear images/cinematography, very narrative and image heavy pieces. ...more
Feb 24, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019
“Isn’t it funny? How the cold numbs everything but grief. If we could light up the room with pain, we’d be such a glorious fire.”

Ada Limón‘s poems on death make Bright Dead Things worth a read, to feel the tug on your emotions. the writing style is very clear & very powerful. that being said, this just wasn’t for me. i wasn’t very impressed with the collection as a whole.

a few of my favorites: The Conditional, Home Fires, The Good Fight, Accident Report in the Tall Tall Weeds, What Remains
Miranda Hency
Oct 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, poetry, favorites
This book is so good!! I hadn’t read a whole collection of poetry in a while and this just made me feel so IN it. She is so good with words and surprises and describing grief and resistance! Highly highly recommend. Plus she is just so ~cool~ lol.
Jenna Scherer
Dec 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Ada Limon, man. She's so good.
Shelby Lynne
Jan 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-poetry
You know how sometimes you find a book so good that it almost hurts to look at it? That was this book.
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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 ...more
“If we could light up the room with pain,
we’d be such a glorious fire.”
“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.” 29 likes
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