THE CARRYING BY ADA LIMÓN
As with the glowing genius of Bright Dead Things, Ada Limón’s latest collection, The Carrying, from Milkweed Editions, is a generous examination of life and death from vantages that continually surprise. Her poems deliver the weight and the breadth of her speaker’s grief for her mother, her identity as a WOC, her fertility struggles, her own newly married self, and so much more. The collection in its potency and stretch resists the saccharine. Instead, it makes readers reel with its poignant grit. It's early in her collection, in poems like “The Vulture and the Body,” when her speaker’s drive to her fertility appointment brings her more roadkill than life and she wonders: “What if, instead of carrying // a child, I am supposed to carry grief,” that we begin to see the wide catch of her title. The Carrying is all the speaker holds and is beholden, the good with the bad, the resisted with the embraced—the carrion with the carried child—and never in binary oppositions, as the quote from Joy Harjo which opens the book exemplifies: “She had some horses she loved. / She had some horses she hated. // These were the same horses.”
While each individual poem is a thing to admire—its own sharp prize—Limón’s ordering of each poem and her collection's three sections is nothing short of mastery. “Bald Eagles in a Field” which faces “I’m Sure About Magic” which is in turn followed by the “Wonder Woman”; or “Killing Methods” followed by “Full Gallop” and then “Dream of The Men”; and "The Cannibal Woman” up against “Wife” are just a few of the ordering strategies that leap out—as if to trample—and raise the collection to heights, its readers to feats of emotional endurance that overwhelm and satisfy. “I will never harm you, your brilliant / skin I rub against in the night, / still, part of me . . . // . . . wants to snap her hind leg / back, buck the rider, follow // that fugitive call into oblivion.” Much like the rubbery-legged exhaustion at the end of a well-matched race, The Carrying floods you with endorphins, rendering you emotional jello, but leaves you wondrously gratified and seeing the world from new angles.
—Review by Madeline Vardell