In her new collection of poems, Ada Limón turns her gaze towards nature and everyday life
Mexican-American poet Ada Limón published 'The Hurting Kind,' a collection of poems written in the loneliness of the pandemic.
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Ada Limón grew up in Sonoma, California in a working class family of Mexican origin. Her grandfather on her father's side crossed the border in 1917 after his family's land was confiscated during the Mexican Revolution. Limón has been writing autobiographical poetry since she was a child. Despite not speaking Spanish and not feeling entirely comfortable inside the 'Latino' box (she also has German, Irish and Scottish blood), she feels a sense of responsibility to represent the community and her Mexican heritage.
After the success she achieved with Bright Dead Things (2015), a National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, and The Carrying (2018) winner of the latter, Limón recently released The Hurting Kind, a collection of poems written during the pandemic that pose the mysteries and uncertainties of the everyday.
"Could you refuse me if I asked you/to point again at the horizon, to tell me/something was worth waiting for?"
As Craig Morgan Teicher, a literary critic for The New York Times notes, The Hurting Kind is replete with quiet celebrations of the everyday, close and profound observations of nature.
"Limón looks out the window, strolls through her garden and, like Emily Dickinson, stumbles over the infinities. On the lawn she sees:
slippery and waddle-thieving my tomatoes, still
green in the morning's shade. I watched her
munch and stand on her haunches, taking such
pleasure in the watery bites. Why am I not allowed
In an interview with the LA Times Review of Books, the author said that the collection of poems, written during the pandemic, is also a critique of the individualism and isolation that American culture promotes. As a culture, we rely on what we do and what we manufacture to define us, to define our lives, but I was curious to challenge those definitions. Could life be less defined by doing and more by being?" said the author.
The collection of poems has nothing to do with her Mexican heritage, and as she herself has said on occasion, her sense of identity has developed outside of language.
"I was not raised in a bilingual family. My grandfather barely spoke Spanish. He worked hard to assimilate into American culture, grew up in a foster family and ended up graduating from college. I've always identified with Mexican culture, but like many of us, I'm not just one thing. I am many things. I'm Irish, and I'm Scottish, and I'm also German," she said in an interview with Compose Journal, a literary media outlet, 10 years ago.
Her parents divorced when she was just eight years old, so her poetic work, autobiographical in nature, is very much identified with the "divided self."
Although she opposes a certain tendency to categorize by origin to encourage diversity and celebrate differences, "that doesn't mean I don't feel political or that I ignore the important work I believe Latino writers should be doing for the community at large. I have a sense of responsibility in terms of representation. But for me, the most interesting thing is how we come to find our individual voices, what speaks to us, what excellent oddities emerge in our work. We are all such strange animals and I find the noises we make very exciting," she told Compose Journal.
Limón is the author of six books of poetry, including The Carrying, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry. She is also the host of the critically-acclaimed poetry podcast, The Slowdown. Her new book of poetry, The Hurting Kind, is out now from Milkweed Editions.