I am ashamed to say that I discovered Limón’s work late, after she had already been a finalist for some major prizes, after her third book was well-known among friends and peers; this sometimes happens even to the most diligent writer, and so, in an effort to save our readers from the same mistake, I say this: read these poems, go buy her books. You will be better for it, and hell, I’ll say it: her poetry will save your life. Until you do this, you will not able to say you have a grip on the contemporary poet, or contemporary poetry, without her books on your shelf.
In a recent conversation with her, Limón called herself a “lyric narrative poet” (even though we both hate labels) and I see that expressed deeply in the poems she allowed us to publish in this issue. In “Sparrow, Sparrow, What Did You Say,” she investigates deep questions about motherhood; in our conversation, she explained how she approaches poetry, that for her it is “a place for questions, a place to go to kneel down and wonder, […] find the questions in the dirt and in the blood.” Yes, this is how Limon thinks and speaks, and it is as impressive as it is lyrical. In “The Light the Living See,” Limón writes in persona, switching voices with ease, jumping in time and space, simultaneously unveiling story and song so that it vibrates on the page. Limón’s explanation for how she approaches narrative poetry is simple and beautiful and apt; “I like the song as much as I like the story. I like the image as much as I like the song, and I’m not concerned with obfuscation, but still adore the mystery of language.”
We are proud to bring you these poems, proud to let Ada Limon weave her “spells […] that work all kinds of magic.” I’m also happy that she gave me some time to talk, time to learn from her approach to her work and to her poetry, and I agree; when it does work it is some kind of magic.