Bright Dead Things (Limon)

Never before have I stayed up late to finish a book of poems and I didn’t so much want to finish this collection, as much as I needed to. What a gentle, funny, precise and wonderful book of love – full of questions and observations – and moments that make you gasp and ask, “How does this person whom I’ve never met know me so I well?”

President Obama said, in his conversation with Marilynne Robinson:

When I think about how I understand my role as citizen, setting aside being president, and the most important set of understandings that I bring to that position of citizen, the most important stuff I’ve learned I think I’ve learned from novels. It has to do with empathy. It has to do with being comfortable with the notion that the world is complicated and full of grays, but there’s still truth there to be found, and that you have to strive for that and work for that. And the notion that it’s possible to connect with some[one] else even though they’re very different from you.

This was, if you replace ‘novels’ with Bright Dead Things (though I agree with his overall point about novels in general) my reaction to this collection. I want to be the kind of person who would tell my stepdad that I saw the blue heron (“The Great Blue Heron of Dunbar Road”). Limon also writes (“Lies about Sea Creatures”):

Sometimes,  you just want / something so hard you have to lie about it, / so you can hold it in your mouth for a minute, / how hunger has a real taste.

My immediate reaction was – “How did she know that about me?”

Lest you think Limon is all sweetness and light, there are regular reminders of the sharpness of her words. “A Trick of the Light” should be on the front page of today’s papers. Or she reminds us in “The Plunge” that “This life is a fist / of fast wishes caught by nothing / but the fishhook of tomorrow’s tug.” (Perfect, perfect line breaks. Wow.) “Home Fires,” with its closing lines (“How could I have imagined this? Mortal me, / brutal disaster born out of so much greed.”) might be about Appalachia, but it also speaks to Flint, Michigan.

William Carlos Williams wrote:

“It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.”

Don’t die from the lack of what is found here. Read this book. Some samples –

Buy it here —

Her site —


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