US poet laureate Ada Limón: ‘Things can grow here, and I can grow here.’

by Elizabeth Lund, CSM Contributor from United States

149560Ada Limón starts her tenure as U.S. poet laureate on Sept. 29. She is the 24th poet laureate and was named to the post by the librarian of Congress.Shawn Miller/Library of Congress

Award-winning poet Ada Limón begins her term as the 24th poet laureate of the United States on Sept. 29 with a reading of her work at the Library of Congress. Ms. Limón, who is of Mexican American descent, is the first Chicana to hold the post. She succeeds Joy Harjo, the first Native American poet laureate, who served three terms in the position (2019-2022). 

Ms. Limón has published six acclaimed collections, most recently “The Hurting Kind,” and hosts the podcast series “The Slowdown” from American Public Media, which was launched as part of Tracy K. Smith’s poet laureateship in 2019. She also teaches in the low-residency MFA in Creative Writing program of Queens University of Charlotte, in North Carolina.

In a recent interview, Ms. Limón said she feels privileged to be named poet laureate because the position will allow her “to help people connect with poetry on a larger scale, something that has always been really important to me, both as an artist and as a person.”

Ms. Limón, whose poems often focus on the natural world, intends to use poetry to help people reclaim their humanity and to repair our relationship with the earth.

“At a time like this, it feels like we need so many things that aren’t art,” she says. “We need an end to war and we need a solution for the climate crisis. But to become disillusioned about what poetry and art can do is in some ways to forget that, yes, we need to survive as a people, but we also need to flourish. We’ve been living very much in survival mode since March of 2020. I think poetry can remind us that there is a way to live that is wholehearted, that recognizes our wholeness.”

Poetry helps us do that, she says, by “allowing us to walk into the room of ourselves” and reconsider who we are. “It’s been very easy in the past two years to go numb, to kind of guard ourselves, to be brave and strong and resilient. But I think there is power in recognizing that we are emotional beings and that sometimes we need to be hit by a poem and maybe even weep a little,” she says. “Poetry can help us feel tenderness or vulnerability, and then you can also leave it.”

Reconnecting with nature can happen anywhere, says Ms. Limón, who grew up in Sonoma, California. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in drama from the University of Washington and a Master of Fine Arts in poetry from New York University, before working in marketing for several years in New York. 

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Last edited 9/30/2022 2:06:48 PM

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