10 Things to Know about Ada Limón, the New U.S. Poet Laureate

by Christine on 2022-08-08 08:00:00

The Library of Congress has appointed a Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress since 1937 — someone who functions essentially as the official poet of the United States. On July 12, Ada Limón was named the 24th U.S. Poet Laureate (short for Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress), which is what the position has been officially referred to since 1985. She succeeds Joy Harjo, who held the position for three 1-year terms.

“I think that it’s really important to remember that even in this particularly hard moment, divided moment, poetry can really help us reclaim our humanity,” Limón told NPR’s All Things Considered. “I think we need to remember that we possess the full spectrum of human emotions. And I think moving through that grief and trauma, anger, rage — through poetry I think we can actually remember that on the other side of that is also contentment, joy, a little peace now and again, and that those are all a part of the same spectrum. And that without one, we don’t have the other.”

Here's a rundown of 10 things to know about the new U.S. Poet Laureate and her work:

  1. Of learning about her appointment and those who held the position before her, Limón said, “To me, it felt like ‘how am I even allowed to stand in that lineage.’ And so I took a deep breath, and I said ‘yes,’ and we all sort of laughed together. An incredible honor and the shock of a lifetime.”

  2. She currently lives in Lexington, Kentucky, but has lived all over the country, including Sonoma, California; Seattle; and New York City. Of her time in New York, she said, “I thought I’d just stay for graduate school, but then I got hooked on the energy and ended up staying for 12 years.” She also said of her move to Kentucky, “What I gained in [that] move … is more silence and space and time for writing.”

  3. After earning her MFA at New York University, Limón worked in the marketing department at Condé Nast, a major magazine publisher. Later, she had a poem published in the New Yorker, a Condé Nast publication.

  4. Her most recent book of poetry, The Hurting Kind, came out in May. Two of her previous collections garnered national honors — The Carrying (2018) won the National Book Critics Circle Award and Bright Dead Things (2015) was a finalist for the National Book Award. In total, she has published six poetry books.

  5. She hosts the latest season of the podcast The Slowdown. In each short episode, Limón shares “a poem and a moment of reflection, offering listeners a different way to see the world — through poetry.”

  6. Her undergraduate degree is in theater, which fuels her belief that poetry is something meant to be performed. Not only does she give a lot of public readings, she even reads her work aloud as she writes. She also believes that poetry can be “just telling somebody something.”

  7. Limón thinks poetry can “help us reclaim our humanity” and “help repair our relationship with the earth.” She said, “I think, so often, we just compartmentalize and numb ourselves to what's going on in the world. And poetry is the place where you can do that groundwork, where you can read a poem and be, like, oh, right. I am a human being. I have thoughts and feelings … I think that we are so distant from the land, from nature, that we forget that relationship is reciprocal.”

  8. Much of The Carrying deals with grief, about which she said, “I think poetry is a way of carrying grief, but it’s also a way of putting it somewhere so I don’t always have to heave it onto my back or in my body. The more I put grief in a poem, the more I am able to move freely through the world because I have named it, spoken it, and thrown it out into the sky.”

  9. The titular poem of The Hurting Kind also deals with grief, specifically the death of her grandfather. For The Millions, Alex Deuben wrote, “[Limón’s grandfather] saw himself as ordinary and Limón wants to record the moment as something ordinary. Grieving is a common human experience, but that doesn’t mean that it is not sacred and important and powerful.” (Read the poem "The Hurting Kind" by clicking here.)

  10. Limón will start her tenure as Poet Laureate on September 29. Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, who shared the news of her appointment with her, said, “Ada Limón is a poet who connects. Her accessible, engaging poems ground us in where we are and who we share our world with. They speak of intimate truths, of the beauty and heartbreak that is living, in ways that help us move forward.” 

Find Ada Limón’s poetry books in the Monarch system:

•  The Hurting Kind (2022)

•  The Carrying (2018)

•  Bright Dead Things (2015)

•  Lucky Wreck (2005)

•  Limón's work also appears in the 2018 anthology The Kiss: Intimacies from Writers.