Award-winning poet Ada Limón makes history: The Library of Congress announced on Tuesday it named her the US’s 24th poet laureate
As Limón takes the legendary position and travels the country this fall, she wants to share two things she believes about poetry: it gives us a way to “reclaim our humanity” and it can help mend our relationship with the planet.
But for starters, she basks in the news and the moment.
“The staggering hasn’t stopped,” Limón said with a laugh, speaking on the phone prior to the formal announcement.
Limón is the famous author of six collections of poetry. †wearing”, published in 2018, won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry; her 2015 book “Bright dead things”, was a finalist of the National Book Award†
In “The hurtful kind”, Limón’s latest book, published in May, weaves indelible snapshots of experiences and people – both living and dead – with unforgettable images of the flowers, trees and animals around her or lovingly dredged from her memories.
“We’re still in the midst of a pandemic — bouncing from trauma to trauma,” said Limón, the first female American poet laureate of Latino and Mexican-American descent. “It’s been such a haunted time.” Poetry, she said, is a way to connect with feelings, emotions and even silence.
Limón, who lives in Kentucky, fell in love with poetry in her teens. She remembers asking if she could take a school test because it had a poem in it. When she was 15, she started working in a bookstore in her hometown, Sonoma, California, and she would be drawn to the poetry shelves and read in her spare time.
Now she will be part of a distinguished list of poets laureates she has read and admired for decades.
In her new role, Limón wants to celebrate “not just poets, but poetry” — to reflect on it and foster more of those connections for those who haven’t fallen in love with the genre yet.
“Sometimes we fail as teachers if we just give people a few poems,” she said. “But there are so many of them.”
Limón would like to see more poems in public places, for example in pocket parks in urban spaces, “when you walk the dog, at the bus stop.”
‘Part of the American story’
Limón described himself as polyethnic. She has Mexican and Indigenous ancestry, and on her mother’s side there are ‘many’ Scots and Irish.
“That’s part of the American story — so often you have to be one or the other,” she said. “So many Latinx friends… want to be allowed to be seen as people who contain masses, just like [the poet Walt] said Whitman.”
Limón reflected on the privilege she has had as a working poet to do what she loves, a path that has led to her new prominent national role.
Her grandfather Francisco Carlos Limón “didn’t get a chance to choose art,” she said. Though he loved art, he “went to safety” after emigrating from Mexico and working the rest of his life at Con Edison, the energy company.
“There’s a level where I feel like I’m really honoring my ancestors with this,” said Limón.
Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden described Limón in her announcement as a poet who ‘connects’ through accessible, captivating poems.
“They speak of intimate truths, of the beauty and the heartbreak that lives,” Hayden said of Limón’s poems, “in ways that move us forward.”