Poet Laureate Ada Límon believes art has the power to restore humanity
These disquieting times call for a little poetry. And no one is better positioned to provide it than new Poet Laureate of the United States Ada Limón (GSAS ’01). “Again and again, I have been witness to poetry’s immense power to reconnect us to the world, to allow us to heal, to love, to grieve, to remind us of the full spectrum of human emotion,” Limón said in response to her appointment by the Library of Congress—the highest honor in her field. She previously received a 2020 Guggenheim fellowship, and her collections have garnered numerous accolades: The Carrying won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, Bright Dead Things was nominated for the National Book Award, and her sixth book, The Hurting Kind, was widely praised when it came out earlier this year.
Limón grew up in Sonoma, California, and studied drama at the University of Washington until a teacher urged her to apply to grad school for poetry. She obliged, earning an MFA with a major in creative writing from NYU’s Graduate School of Arts and Science in 2001, after which she worked in the marketing departments of several magazines. Writing now occupies her full-time, along with a faculty position in the MFA program at North Carolina’s Queens University of Charlotte and a poetry podcast she hosts called The Slowdown.
“Ada Limón is a poet who connects,” said Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden in making the announcement. “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.”
As the 24th US poet laureate, Limón is in extraordinary company: past honorees include Louise Glück, Joy Harjo, Juan Felipe Herrera, Robert Hass, and Tracy K. Smith. And she is the second NYU alum to hold the position, after Charles Simic (WSC ’67) was named the 15th poet laureate in 2007.
“This recognition belongs to the teachers, poets, librarians and ancestors from all over the world that have been lifting up poetry for years,” Limón said. “I am humbled by this opportunity to work in the service of poetry and to amplify poetry’s ability to restore our humanity and our relationship to the world around us.”
Below, Limón shares a poem from her latest collection, The Hurting Kind (Milkweed Editions).
I’ve seen my fair share of baseball games,
eaten smothered hot dogs in Kansas City
and carne asada burritos in San Francisco
in the sunny stands on a day free of fog.
I’ve sat in a bar for hours watching
basketball and baseball and the Super Bowl,
and I’ve even high-fived and clinked
my almost-empty drink with a stranger
because it felt good to go through something
together even though we hadn’t been through
anything but the drama of a game, its players.
If I am honest, what I love, why I love
the sounds of the games even when I’m not
interested, half-listening, is one thing:
When my father and my stepfather had to be
in the same room, or had to drop my brother
and me off during our weekly move from one
house to another, they, for a brief moment,
would stand together in the doorway or
on the gravel driveway and it felt like what true
terror should feel like, two men who were so
different you could barely see their shadows
attached in the same way, and just when
I thought I couldn’t watch the pause
lengthen between them, they’d talk about
the playoffs or the finals or whatever team
was doing whatever thing required that season
and sometimes they’d even shrug or make
a motion that felt like two people who weren’t
opposites after all. Once, I sat in the car
and waited for one of them to take me away
and from the back seat I swear they looked
like they were on the same team, united
against a common enemy, had been fighting,
all this time, on the same side.
Poem: Ada Limón, “Sports” from The Hurting Kind. Copyright © 2022 by Ada Limón. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Milkweed Editions, www.milkweed.org.
Photos from top: Shawn Miller, Library of Congress; Lucas Marquardt