Ada Limón Recommends...

“First, I put down the pen and paper or step away from the computer screen and go for a walk. The dog helps. She gets me up and out and away from myself. Once moving, I focus on what it is that’s been spinning around in me. Generally, there is a phrase or an image that I keep returning to. Sometimes, it’s just a reoccurring image in a dream: a cat stuck in the middle of a raging creek, a whale knocking a boat over, and so on. Mostly it’s language, a phrase that keeps coming back: ‘I’m sorry,’ ‘Give me this,’ ‘Let me tell you something,’ ‘Listen,’ ‘Help’ to name a few. With that phrase in the back of my mind (where it lives), I then try to compose a poem in my head. Composing without pen and paper or recording device is good for me because it makes the sounds so important. I end up repeating things, or rhyming, or using interesting phrasing because it’s only me and the words, with no false filter between us. I’ll say as much of the poem as I can out loud and then write it down as soon as I’m inside. These walking poems aren’t always successful, but they often break some new and necessary ground.”
—Ada Limón, author of Bright Dead Things (Milkweed Editions, 2015)