The Hurting Kind: An Unprecedented Triumph

Ameya Ilangovan-Arya, Freelance writer

     In her latest poetry collection, The Hurting Kind, Ada Limón leads her readers through a springtime of hope and growth, a summer of desire and pain, a fall of melancholia and loneliness, and a winter of reflection and remembrance, in a life-changing journey through the natural world — and human nature. Using everyday encounters to express raw emotions, she is whimsical and survivalist like a groundhog, vibrant like a New Mexico whiptail, half-destroyed and still living like a madrone tree.

     Limon seduces readers with lush imagery, creative personification, and parallelism, writing emotionally impactful and brilliantly structured poems with sudden twists and turns of phrase. Although her poems express raw, pure emotion — Invasive specifically will knock the wind out of you — they follow a careful formula. Her strategy: a sequence of concrete and descriptive detail, personification of flora or fauna, a jaw-dropping personal anecdote, and, finally, a powerful, abstract, mysterious conclusion that connects back to the beginning. 

     Now and then, a phrase will jump from the page as she speculates on life (“What good is accuracy amidst the perpetual scattering that unspools the world”), ponders memory (“…is it time that moves in me now?”), or preemptively mourns (“…to say I weep is untrue / weep is too musical a word”), bedazzling readers with her unique perspective.

     Exactly halfway through the book, in her poem Calling Things What They Are, she admits to the reader that, like many young, tortured artists, she “thought suffering kept things interesting” yet implies that suffering is mundane compared to the myriad beautiful plants and animals that we share our world with and the significance that we project onto them. 

     She takes the time to acknowledge the plants and animals she encounters, questioning the ideals she projects onto them and learning their names — she always deals in specifics. Not just a tree, but an American linden; not just a yellow flower, but a fig buttercup; not just a lizard, but a New Mexico whiptail. By recognizing their discrete identities, she expresses respect for the natural world and writes profound and specific metaphors. 

     Writing: a form of expression, of communication, of catharsis and healing. In this unique volume, a thin yet bursting 100 pages, Limón takes an unflinching look at the suffering in her life and turns away from it; she instead chooses to write her poems about joy. Through nature, she combines visceral pain with joyful healing in a new perspective that is sorely needed.

     In times of darkness, nihilism is the default, leading countless skilled writers and artists to eloquently express their pain and hopelessness. What sets Ada Limón’s The Hurting Kind apart is that she chooses not to dwell on heartbreak, although she acknowledges the unavoidable pain and difficulties that she has faced; instead, she chooses to embrace what gives her joy.