Image by Kimberly Farmer

Sara Beth West

(@fiftytwowest)

is a reader and a writer, offering book reviews and interviews with leading writers and thinkers.

On Sundays, We Read Poetry

Each Sunday, I post a brief introduction to a collection of poetry I've been loving. I include one poem that I think really sings. No review. No need. If it's here, you'll know I recommend it. If you have one to recommend (yours or someone else's), send it along. I'll do my best to be here every Sunday.

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On Thursday night, I "attended" the Book Lovers Ball for Milkweed Editions. If this non-profit publisher is new to you, please go now and explore their site and the collection of amazing works they have ushered into this world. The evening was unobtrusive, unaggressive, and unquestionably inspiring. Ada Limón, published by Milkweed, was one of the featured authors, and I am still thinking about her words, her insistence in these difficult times that yes, we need food and shelter, and yes, of course, we need equity and justice. And yes, even now, always now, we need imagination.


My love of Ada Limón's poetry has been established for some time, but until today, I hadn't yet read her early collection Sharks in the Rivers. This collection does not rival The Carrying in my mind, the more mature collection singing more clearly for this reader. But it contains several shimmering examples of her excellence, such as "The Widening Road":


All winter the road has been paved in rain,

holding its form as if made of its own direction.


We have a lot of these days. Or not.


A woman in a car staring out, her hands going numb.

When did the world begin to push us so quickly?


A blue jay flies low over her into the madrones.

She can still see it -- its bright movements rocking a branch --

surely delighted that it matches the sky.


The honest clouds.


A tenderness grows like a fluttering in her hand.


She wants to hold it in her arms but not pin it down,

the way the tree holds the jay generously

in its willful branches. The spring is blowing

through her, pulling the dead debris free from her limbs.


She cannot decide what she desires, but today it is enough

that she desires and desires. That she is a body


in the world, wanting, the wind itself becoming


her own wild whisper.


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