On the very chilly first night of spring, Guilford students, faculty, and staff gathered in the art gallery of Hege Library to hear Ada Limón read her work. English professor Jennie Malbouf introduced Ada, saying that her poems felt as though they “were written just for me.” She proclaimed that the endings of Ada’s poems are hopeful; not filled with sadness, but with mercy.
Ada confidently glided to the podium and introduced herself. In total she read twelve poems, six from her poetry collection Bright Dead Things and six from her new collection to be released in August. She read of topics fierce and gentle. The opening poem was about the Kentucky Derby, in which Ada imagined the “lady horse hearts” beating in her chest. She followed with a poem about silence. The next were about death. She noted that when people die, we think so much about all that we’re going through, but not about what the person dying is going through, which is the real work of death. She read about past love. In a poem titled The Conditional, she pondered the response to “it’s all going to be okay,” and posed the question, “what if it’s not?”
In the poems from her new collection, Ada writes more about what it means to be a woman, particularly in this country. In a standout poem about a solo road-trip that she took, she gracefully and shamelessly writes of comments continuously made to her about her body, and asks to be “at the very least, allowed to live in the light.” She read about her body and her vertigo, stating “I’m in a raging battle with my body” in a poem titled Wonder Woman. She read about suffering and joy. In her final poem, about being on the road versus being at home, the mystery of a line stuck with me “I move through this house with you like I move through my mind.”
Through poems with topics ranging from love to horses to the spring equinox, Ada writes and speaks with ultimate grace, honesty, wisdom, and fire. As a listener, I was captivated by the beauty of her poems the whole time and left feeling not only inspired to write poetry, but inspired to live my life the way that I want to. And maybe the other listeners did, too.