The country’s next poet laureate, Ada Limón, has long thought of her work as a public art form.
“I grew up with poetry being in the community,” said Limón. “It wasn’t supposed to just be something read on page; it was supposed be read out loud. I remember going to poetry readings at the bookstore where I worked when I was 16. It’s the oral tradition. That part of poetry has always remained true to me.”
Known for her lyrical and direct approach, she is the author of six poetry collections, including 2018’s “The Carrying,” which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, and 2015’s “Bright Dead Things,” a finalist for that award and the National Book Award. Her most recent release is 2021’s “The Hurting Kind.”
The Library of Congress announced that Limón’s one-year term begins Sept. 29 with the traditional reading at the Library’s Coolidge Auditorium, one of the laureate’s few formal obligations.
The poet laureate receives a $35,000 annual stipend, plus $5,000 for travel expenses, funded by a private gift from philanthropist Archer M. Huntington.
“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,” said Limón, who succeeds Joy Harjo, a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation, who was initially appointed in 2019 and reappointed to a rare third term by the Library of Congress.
“Ada Limón is a poet who connects,” Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden said in a news release. “Her accessible, engaging poems ground us in where we are and who we share our world with … in ways that help us move forward.”
Limón grew up in Sonoma, California, before beginning college in Seattle in 1995. She detailed her personal and artistic journey as the 2021 commencement speaker for the UW School of Drama. She shared her memories of walking into the school for the first time.
“I was missing my family, 18 and full of heartache and confusion,” she said. “I opened the doors to Hutchinson Hall and suddenly there was a cacophony of sounds: People laughing in the hallways, people in bare feet running from room to room. Someone was singing full-throated in the lounge. There was a sense of aliveness in the air, bodies aware of being bodies, minds alive with ideas and impulses. And for the first time since I had arrived in Seattle, I felt something like relief. Here were my people.”