2015 National Book Award Finalist, Poetry

Ada Limón

Bright Dead Things
(Milkweed Editions)
ISBN: 978-1571314710

Bright Dead Things Ada Limon, credit Jude Domski


The poems in Bright Dead Things serve as the found candle in the soul’s power outage, the last flashlight in the heart’s storm, witnesses to the wreckage of loss. Ada Limón does not shy away from the wild or the personal, or as she writes in “What Remains Grows Ravenous,” Something you can see yourself in, in the dark. Simply put, she writes the impossible: lyrically, truthfully, with a voice and complexity whose most reliable source is love.

National Book Foundation: In the process of writing your book, what did you discover, what, if anything, surprised you?
Limón: When I was writing Bright Dead Things, I was constantly trying to push myself to say what was true—and sometimes unnerving—for me. I wanted to be as bare and as honest with myself without losing the music and the lyrical tension of the poems. I’d go for walks or drives and ask, “What are you scared of?” and when I found the answer, I’d find the poem. What surprised me the most during this process was how difficult it was to write about happiness. Finding a language for joy was intensely hard. It was easier to go into the pitch-black caves, to plummet into the colder, harder core of the self, than to risk admitting that there is pleasure in this life, that being alive in and of itself is an ecstatic thing.


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 identities out of place and human contact—tracing in intimate detail the various ways the speaker’s sense of self both shifts and perseveres as she moves from New York City to rural Kentucky, loses a dear parent, ages past the capriciousness of youth, and falls in love. Limón has often been a poet who wears her heart on her sleeve, but in these extraordinary poems that heart becomes a “huge beating genius machine” striving to embrace and understand the fullness of the present moment. “I am beautiful. I am full of love. I am dying,” the poet writes. Her work is consistently generous and accessible—though every observed moment feels complexly thought, felt, and lived.

About the Author

Ada Limón is the author of three previous collections of poems: Lucky Wreck, This Big Fake World, and Sharks in the Rivers. Her poetry has appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, American Poetry Review, Gulf Coast, Poetry Daily, and American Life in Poetry, among many other publications. And her essays and articles have been published in Oxford American, Hemispheres Magazine, Guernica, the Poetry Foundation, American Poetry Society, and VIDA. She lives in Kentucky and California.


- adalimon.com
- Twitter: @adalimon


- Amazon.com
- Barnes & Noble
- IndieBound.org
- iBooks
- WorldCat (Library catalog)
Photo credit: Jude Domski