Bright Dead Things

A Finalist for the National Book Award
Select Format

A finalist for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award from U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón, Bright Dead Things examines the dangerous thrill of living in a world you must leave one day and the search to find something that is “disorderly, and marvelous, and ours.”

A book of bravado and introspection, of feminist swagger and harrowing loss, this fourth collection considers how we build our identities out of place and human contact—tracing in intimate detail the 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. Ada 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. Building on the legacies of forebears such as Frank O’Hara, Sharon Olds, and Mark Doty, Limón’s work is consistently generous, accessible, and “effortlessly lyrical” (New York Times)—though every observed moment feels complexly thought, felt, and lived.

Publish Date
5.5 × 8.5 × 0.31 in
6.3 oz

Ada Limón

Ada Limón is the twenty-fourth U.S. Poet Laureate as well as the author of The Hurting Kind and five other collections of poems.

Praise and Prizes

  • “Ada Limón’s calling card is her relaxed, winningly unpretentious voice… . A study in casual intensity.”

    “Best Poetry Books of 2015”
    New York Times Book Review
  • “Ada Limón’s Bright Dead Things … buoyed me in this dismal year. I’m thankful for this collection, for its wisdom and generosity, for its insistence on holding tight to beauty even as we face disintegration and destruction.”

    Celeste Ng
  • “The lyrical genius of these poems sings to us of the perennial theme of home and our primordial ache of belonging. Ada Limón captures all the nuances that these colossal words call to mind with the gorgeous voice of her diction, and the timbre of her images. Both soft and tender, enormous and resounding, her poetic gestures entrance and transfix.”

    Richard Blanco
  • “A poet whose verse exudes warmth and compassion, Ada Limón is at the height of her creative powers, and Bright Dead Things is her most gorgeous book of poems.”

    Rigoberto González
    Los Angeles Review of Books
  • “Ada Limón doesn’t write as if she needs us. She writes as if she wants us. Her words reveal, coax, pull, see us. In Bright Dead Things we read desire, ache, what human beings rarely have the heart or audacity to speak of alone—without the help of a poet with the most generous of eyes.”

    Nikky Finney
  • “Ada Limón’s landscape is Brooklyn, California, and the horsey and blue-grassy hills of Kentucky, and her writing is intensely intimate and wild, softly sensual and bold. Generous of heart, intricate and accessible, the poems in this book are wondrous and deeply moving.”

    Library Journal
    (starred review)
  • “In Bright Dead Things, there’s a fierce jazz and sass (‘this life is a fist / of fast wishes caught by nothing, / but the fishhook of tomorrow’s tug’) and there’s sadness—a grappling with death and loss that forces the imagination to a deep response. The radio in Ada Limón’s new rural home warns ‘stay safe and seek shelter,’ and yet the heart seeks love, risk, and strangeness—and finds it everywhere.”

    Gregory Orr
  • “In these wonderful and wondering poems, Ada Limón picks things up, puts them down, daydreams, sings, and casually, unpretentiously finds everything strange, all the while uttering truths that have a light, mysterious accuracy. This poetry is confident enough to let the world and its words take center stage. And yet, Limón does far more than merely reflect the world: she continually transforms it, thereby revealing herself as an everyday symbolist and high level duende enabler.”

    Matthew Zapruder