Sharks in the Rivers

“These poems exhale the cosmic force of love.” —JENNIFER L. KNOX
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From U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón, an extraordinary collection—at once urbane and earthy—that navigates the thoroughfares and tributaries of human nature.

The speaker in Sharks in the Rivers finds herself multiply dislocated: from her childhood in California, from her family’s roots in Mexico, from a dying parent, from her prior self. The world is always in motion—both toward and away from us—and it is also full of risk: from sharks unexpectedly lurking beneath estuarial rivers to the dangers of New York City, where, as Limón reminds us, even rats can find themselves trapped by the garbage cans they’ve crawled into. In such a world, how should one proceed?

Throughout these poems, Limón suggests that we must cleave to the world as it “keep[s] opening before us,” for, if we pay attention, we can be one with its complex, ephemeral, and beautiful strangeness. Loss is perpetual, and each person’s mouth “is the same / mouth as everyone’s, all trying to say the same thing.” For Limón, it’s the saying—individual and collective—that transforms each of us into “a wound overcome by wonder,” that allows “the wind itself” to be our “own wild whisper.”

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5.5 × 8.5 × 0.31 in
5.9 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 is a poet of alchemy, able to transform herself into what is named as she utters the words—hummingbird, river, desire, gone. With Sharks in the Rivers she has created the thing itself, alternating rangy invocations with distilled wildness, always open to wonder.”

    Nick Flynn
  • “Ada Limón’s poems invite me into a consciousness that is always waking up, and always, despite everything that happens, choosing to step in, rather than away. This is a wonderful book.”

    Bob Hicok
  • “The lush, verdant poems in Sharks in the Rivers remind me of the wild asparagus that grows up through the concrete streets of Bibai in Hokkaido, Japan: they are unstoppable. With the voracity of fire, they suck up every quivering molecule in sight, and exhale the cosmic force of love. Through the steamy, thorny undergrowth, up through the cold concrete, under the swift river, Ada Limón soars and twirls like a bird, high on heart.”

    Jennifer L. Knox
  • “The strength of these poems is in their layers, like rocks formed by the continual deposit of minerals over the course of many years. Words can take on new meanings as they are turned over and over again in varying degrees of light. A reader can spend days here, digging for truths, and return again after some time to rediscover these stones… . A volume of hope, a reason to continue.”

  • “Vigor, intensity, and informality mark the volatile free verse of this collection… . These sinewy odes, sexy glimpses and visionary reminiscences should appeal to readers who treasure the work of Jack Gilbert.”

    Publishers Weekly