The Hurting Kind: Poems

Poet Ada Limón (The Carrying) crafts nearly 60 poems that run like a river in early spring: serene and musical from a distance but, up close, piercing and boundless and full of unexpected life. In The Hurting Kind, Limón demonstrates her singular skill, drawing on both the natural world and humanity, both broken and beautiful. Organized seasonally, the collection moves from spring to winter, starting with "Give Me This." Seeming to be one thing (a description of a groundhog "all muscle and bristle" stealing tomatoes from the garden, "taking such/ pleasure in the watery bites"), it becomes another when Limón conflates the animal with the human, asking, "Why am I not allowed/ delight?" At the close of the poem, it turns yet again: "She is a funny creature and earnest,/ and she is doing what she can to survive" leaves readers to decide which "she" is being described.

Limón's poems often perform this kind of sleight of hand, hiding a kernel of pain inside a loosely closed fist. Each time, however, the magician's palm opens to reveal not emptiness but peace or light. Once-living things get buried in this collection--a translucent bird embryo in "Not the Saddest Thing in the World," a fish fairly caught in "The First Fish" and an unborn chick in "Cyrus & the Snakes," all feathers and curve. But somehow the hurt of these losses (or those still raw and unburied) does not turn to despair, as the poet delights in the earnest desires of the body and in love or lust or beauty. In the poem "I Have Wanted Clarity in Light of My Lack of Light," Limón asserts, "Lose my number, sadness. Lose my address, my storm door, my skull." --Sara Beth West, freelance reviewer and librarian

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