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What We’re Reading: Ada Limón

2012 February 2
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What We're ReadingSharks in the Rivers by Ada Limón (Milkweed Editions, 2010)

Ada Limón’s poetry collection Sharks in the Rivers is one that is best enjoyed over time, after letting each line sink in through your pores. Limón is an expert at crafting delightfully surprising language, which is something that immediately endears me to a newly discovered poet or writer. She is also deft at inserting honest, genuine humor to lighten the philosophical load.

I can’t help using water metaphors to describe this collection, as water metaphors and references are seeping through every page, creating a fluid forward movement from one poem to the next. Yet she doesn’t overdo it, as she juxtaposes natural elements, such as water, fire, and animals with the bustling city. She explores these opposite worlds, while at the same time, bridges them by bringing out the physical metaphors and human universality found in every place. There is an undercurrent of an accepting spirituality in each of these poems that I really appreciated.

There are a few poems, such as “Homesick” that don’t sink as deep, getting lost in the solid voices surrounding them. Or maybe it’s more that they’re just quieter and subtler than the rest, and so it’s easier to pass them by in the constant forward motion of the book.

Favorite line: “I cannot tell anymore when a door opens or closes, / I can only hear the frame saying, Walk through.” (from the title poem, “Sharks in the Rivers”)

Favorite poem: “Crush.”

In my research for this review of her collection, I also stumbled upon Limón’s blog. I found her to be both insightful and honest here, too (not surprising — most writers are, although I may be biased). She often dispenses wisdom on the act of writing, and the writing life.

In yesterday’s post, she wrote about learning to be OK with taking time to sit and write, and how that is an accomplishment on its own, even if it may not directly be paying the bills. In a recent New Year’s post, she created a list of 25 personal resolutions (I know, I know, you’re sick of seeing these lists already, but bear with me, its worth it!). Many of the resolutions involve writing, others don’t, but even some of those are good practices to get the words flowing. Here are some of my favorite pieces of advice:

1. Walk in the “great outdoors,” every day, even in the snow, (even with the blues).

3. Write every day. No matter what it is. And emails (unless they are long love letters, or epic personal stories, or writings on the craft) don’t count.

7. Be as honest with myself as possible, while still dreaming extraordinarily big. (Fly? I can do that. Watch me.)

8. Stop beating myself up so terribly when I make a mistake. (I hate failure, I keep forgetting that it makes me better. I hate you when you tell me I fail. But trust me, I hate myself more. This cycle must end.)

25. Begin again. And again. And again.

Anyway, check out her blog, for some more writerly insights. Enough said.

Finally, I will leave you with another Limón insight, from her poem “Flood Coming”:

What’s left of the woods is closing in.
Don’t run. Open your mouth big
to the rising and hope to your god
that your good heart knows how to swim.

What writers do you follow both for their creative work, but also for writerly advice? Do you recall a book that you’ve read in which the constant movement forward is readily apparent?