Ada Limón explores "what it looks like to have America in the room" (2023)

"Ada Limón is a poet who connects." This was how Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden introduced the 24th poet laureate of the United States.

From my perspective as a poet and writing teacher, "a poet who connects" is a perfect encapsulation of who the poet laureate should be — and why I see Limón as so well suited for the role.

This appointment has consistently been filled by some of the most celebrated and lasting poets of their generations – Elizabeth Bishop, William Carlos Williams, Gwendolyn Brooks and many others. According to Limón, it was reading a Bishop poem, "One Art," at age 15 that jump-started her own passion for poetry.

What is a poet laureate?

The office of the U.S. poet laureate is a relatively recent one. Philanthropist Archer M. Huntington endowed the position in 1937 as the "Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress." The official title of "Consultant in Poetry" remains, but "Poet Laureate," the name most Americans associate with the role, was added by an Act of Congress in 1985.

Over time, the position has changed from one primarily advising the Library of Congress about their poetry collections to a more public-facing role. The most influential U.S. poets laureate have usually had a special interest or project: Maxine Kumin championed the work of women poets. Billy Collins' "Poetry 180" project brought a poem a day to classrooms throughout the school year. And Robert Pinsky helped build an archive of Americans reading their favorite poems.

(Video) Ada Limón on "Bright Dead Things: Poems" at the 2018 AWP Book Fair

The terms of the laureateship are short, just one year, though some often stay for two terms. The most recent U.S. poet laureate — and the first Native American to fill the role — Joy Harjo, served for three, from 2019 until passing the baton to Limón in July 2022.

A doorway to poetry

Limón is the first woman of Mexican ancestry to be named poet laureate of the U.S. Few women have filled the role, and fewer women of color still.

Limón has grappled with the expectations that predominately white literary spaces have placed on her in poems like "The Contract Says: We'd Like the Conversation to be Bilingual." She has also joked about her experience as a poet of color online. Rather than resign herself to being pigeonholed, however, Limón views identity — and poetry — as an avenue to greater possibilities.

"I'm very interested in what it is to have identity be a doorway, a place where we can open up to different possibilities," Limón told me in a conversation on Aug. 15, 2022 about her new appointment. "I didn't sign up for anything limited when I chose poetry. I signed up for something that is about trying on some level to harness the unsayable."

(Video) Ada Limón: Poetry @ Tech Shorts (2020)

While this will be Limón's first walk through the door as the poet laureate, she has already followed in the footsteps of Tracy K. Smith, who was poet laureate from 2017 to 2019. During her tenure, Smith kicked off a weekday poetry podcast and radio show called "The Slowdown." It was revived in September 2021 with Limón as host. She describes the experience of hosting the show as "a real gift and opportunity to spread poems." In each episode, Limón shares a brief reflection drawn from her life, then reads a new poem she has selected for the day, chosen from a variety of poets.

With leisure time shrinking and the pandemic further blurring the boundaries between work and home, a podcast that rarely hits the five-minute mark may be as much time as many Americans can spare for literature. These episodes help poetry feel approachable, something that can slip into the fissures of a busy day.

The podcast can also serve as a guided tour of contemporary poetry, helmed by the attuned and attentive Limón. "I think being able to do a daily podcast has been really lovely because there's so much opportunity to share really different styles of poetry," Limón said. Offering listeners a wide range of poems, she explains, can help connect with different audiences.

A 21st century laureate

Part of poetry's appeal is its brevity. Limón's poems tend to be short enough to be suited to the screenshot, the share. It's a 21st century way that poetry circulates, a way people can feel connected to the words and to each other.

(Video) Ada Limón in Conversation

Social media is frequently the place where people encounter poems. And poetry is something people can turn to when their own words fail. In 2016, Maggie Smith's poem "Good Bones" went viral after the Pulse nightclub shooting. Ukranian-born poet Ilya Kaminsky's poem "We Lived Happily During the War," published in 2019, went viral earlier in 2022 as the world turned its eyes to the war-ravaged nation.

Social media posts and digestible podcast episodes invite even those whose attention feels fragmented to pause. When the world seems overwhelming, a poem can refresh like a sip of cold water, offering a meaningful moment in a hectic world.

Limón appreciates the role social media has played for poetry.

"[F]or the most part, the way we encounter poetry is one singular poem at a time," she told me. "And so being able to post something on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, or any other social media platform, there is this amazing encounter that you can have where you're flipping through, and it's like — someone's child, this lovely flower, there's a shoe ad — and then you come to this poem and you're suddenly bowled over by an Audre Lorde poem from 1978." She acknowledges the ways social media can feel toxic, but Limón believes that beauty and connection also have a place. "I think that's a power we really need to harness," she said.

For me, it comes as no surprise that Limón's own poems often circulate online. Her brilliant work and public persona offer an openhearted invitation into what language can do to connect people — to the natural world, to one another and to themselves.

(Video) Ada Limón reads at the 2015 National Book Awards Finalists Reading

At home in a poetic landscape

Across Limón's six books of poems, an arresting voice emerges. Even her titles make the reader sit up and pay attention. Her poem "How to Triumph Like a Girl" begins "I like the lady horses best" — a funny and engaging first line that draws the reader in with surprising diction and a conversational tone. Her work is exultant and deeply felt, in touch with the emotions and experiences that make us human.

Limón isn't widely thought of as a nature poet, but she frequently writes nature poems of the built environment, populated by backyard trees, weeds in the garden and neighborhood animals. "We live within nature … even in urban settings, in the small pocket parks that are in between freeways," Limón said. "To live in that community and to live in that interconnectedness, I hope, will help us see our lives as reciprocal with nature. . . . [T]hat to me is as important as any poem that you could write."

Limón is a poet situated in a particularly American geography, first of California and now of Kentucky, grounding her work in the lush details of a lived-in landscape. Her poems "The Hurting Kind" and "A New National Anthem" draw on her perspective as an American proud of her blended background. These particularities, rather than making her work less welcoming, offer a texture of experience that many living in this mingled nation can relate to and see themselves in.

Speaking of taking on the mantle of U.S. poet laureate, Limón told me, "I'm really interested in what it looks like to have America in the room. And I think the face of America is often someone who is many things."

(Video) Ada Limon reads and discusses "Sorrow is Not My Name" by Ross Gay

Amy Cannon, Associate Professor of Writing, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


What is Ada Limon known for? ›

Limón is the author of the poetry collections The Hurting Kind (2022, Milkweed Editions); The Carrying (2018, Milkweed Editions), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry; Bright Dead Things (2015, Milkweed Editions), a finalist for the National Book Award, the National Books Critics Circle Award, ...

What are some good poems about life? ›

10 of the Best Poems about Life and Living
  • Sir Walter Raleigh, 'What Is This Life'. ...
  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 'A Psalm of Life'. ...
  • Walt Whitman, 'O Me! ...
  • Charlotte Brontë, 'Life'.
  • Emily Dickinson, 'Each Life Converges to some Centre'. ...
  • D. H. Lawrence, 'Full Life'. ...
  • Philip Larkin, 'Dockery and Son'.

What are some short poems? ›

  • “No Man Is An Island” by John Donne.
  • “Stopping by Woods On a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost.
  • “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou.
  • “Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer's Day?” by William Shakespeare.
  • “There Will Come Soft Rain” by Sara Teasdale.
  • “If You Forget Me” by Pablo Neruda.
  • “O Captain! ...
  • “Fire And Ice” by Robert Frost.
16 Apr 2019

Is poetry becoming more popular? ›

Still, overall, more people are reading poetry now than before. In the US, 28 million adults read poetry in 2017, the NEA found, the highest readership ever recorded since 2002. And young people, between the ages of 18 and 24, led the charge, with a readership that doubled when compared to numbers from 2012.

How far away we are Ada Limón? ›

“How Far Away We Are” by Ada Limon

I want to give you something, or I want to take / something from you,” she writes. “But I want to feel the exchange, / the warm hand on the shoulder.”

What is Ada Limón's best book? ›

Ada Limón

What is the most successful poem of all time? ›

The 32 Most Iconic Poems in the English Language
  • William Carlos Williams, “The Red Wheelbarrow” ...
  • T. S. Eliot, “The Waste Land” ...
  • Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken” ...
  • Gwendolyn Brooks, “We Real Cool” ...
  • Elizabeth Bishop, “One Art” ...
  • Emily Dickinson, “Because I could not stop for Death –” ...
  • Langston Hughes, “Harlem”
7 Mar 2019

What is considered the greatest poem of all time? ›

The Ten Best Poems of All Time
  • Still I Rise by Maya Angelou.
  • Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare.
  • O Captain! My Captain! by Walt Whitman.
  • The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe.
  • Do not go gentle into that good night by Dylan Thomas.
  • i carry your heart with me by e.e. cummings.
  • Power by Audre Lorde.
  • The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost.
28 Apr 2021

What's the longest poem ever written? ›

With more than 220,000 (100,000 shloka or couplets) verses and about 1.8 million words in total, the Mahābhārata is the longest epic poem in the world.

Is poetry losing popularity? ›

Some people are still reading it, although that number has been dropping steadily over the past two decades. In 1992, 17 percent of Americans had read a work of poetry at least once in the past year. 20 years later that number had fallen by more than half, to 6.7 percent.

Do people still write poetry? ›

We've seen that people write poetry for all kinds of reasons. Some poets want to convey a personal experience or feeling, while others try to make social commentary on the world around them. Still, others want to find beauty every day and share it with others.

Is poetry a luxury? ›

Poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action.

What is the lesson of the poem If? ›

The theme of the poem is about the challenges and conditions that we have to face and overcome so as to succeed in life and leave a mark.

What is our life poem meaning? ›

This poem was written as he was imprisoned on charges of treason and on the road to execution. He's pondering about life, but also about death. I think in one way he is quite upbeat about life and his experiences, but ends with a solemnity associated with his mortality.

How do you start a life poem? ›

Try to incorporate your actual memories, personal reflections, or lived experiences into your poetry. Starting your poem off with something personal and unique to your own life will give your poetry a jolt of authenticity and specificity.

How old is Ada Limon? ›

What it looks like to us and the words we use poem? ›

All these great barns out here in the outskirts, black creosote boards knee-deep in the bluegrass. They look so beautifully abandoned, even in use.

What is wife by Ada Limon about? ›

'Wife' by Ada Limón investigates how women are portrayed within their marriages and challenges the patriarchal mindset that women have to be submissive to their husbands.

Why do you think the poem is titled as leisure? ›

Answer: The poem is titled in leisure meaning relaxation and enjoyment, because the poet wants to emphasize that one should enjoy life by paying attention to beauty in world around us. Hope it's helps you!!

Where does Ada Limon start? ›

The best Ada Limón poems + collections
  • The Hurting Kind. Longlisted for the Brooklyn Public Library Book Prize. ...
  • The Carrying. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. ...
  • Bright Dead Things. Finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry and the National Book Critics Circle Award. ...
  • Sharks in the Rivers. ...
  • Lucky Wreck.
7 Oct 2022

What is instructions on not giving up about? ›

The poem suggests that while intense joy is fleeting, people can learn from the trees to embrace all parts of life and not give up when things get hard. The poem was originally published in the Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day series in 2017 and later collected in Limon's fifth collection, The Carrying, in 2018.

What is the advice that the poet gives at the end of the poem? ›

Answer: The poet tells the reader not to be tricked by "idle, silly, flattering words" at the end of the poem.

What is the most beautiful love poem ever written? ›

10 Best Love Poems Ever
  • "How Do I Love Thee?," by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. ...
  • "When You Are Old," by William Butler Yeats. ...
  • "Sonnet 116," by William Shakespeare. ...
  • "undefined," by e.e. cummings. ...
  • "Love Sonnet XI," by Pablo Neruda. ...
  • "When I Too Long Have Looked Upon Your Face," by Edna St. ...
  • "Valentine," by Carol Ann Duffy.
14 Feb 2019

What are the top 8 greatest poems of all time? ›

  • A Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) ...
  • Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) ...
  • Ode on a Grecian Urn by John Keats (1795-1821) ...
  • Invictus by William Ernest Henley (1849-1903) ...
  • Sonnet 29 by William Shakespeare (1564-1616) ...
  • Harlem by Langston Hughes (1902-1967)

What language has the best poetry? ›

Persian language is considered among the most poetic languages of the world. Persian words enjoy a soft and melodic quality and the phrases have a unique rhythmic nature.

What are the 3 types of poetry? ›

There are three main kinds of poetry: narrative, dramatic and lyrical. It is not always possible to make distinction between them. For example, an epic poem can contain lyrical passages, or lyrical poem can contain narrative parts.

What is a really long poem called? ›

Epics. An epic poem is a lengthy, narrative work of poetry.

What was the world's first epic poem? ›

The Epic of Gilgamesh (/ˈɡɪlɡəmɛʃ/) is an epic poem from ancient Mesopotamia, regarded as the earliest surviving notable literature and the second oldest religious text, after the Pyramid Texts.

Which American poet wrote the shortest poem? ›

"Lines on the Antiquity of Microbes", also known simply as "Fleas", is a couplet commonly cited as the shortest poem ever written, composed by American poet Strickland Gillilan in the early 20th century.

Is poetry still important to our world in 2022? ›


The day plays a significant role because poetry is the art of language that is understood by all. Art forms will help every individual to have a different perception of life. And on this day, poets come together to read poetry by reading poems to the public in general.

Why does poetry still exist? ›

From teaching history to expressing personal opinion on a social, political, cultural or economic issue, poetry remains an important way of penetrating human existence in a number of ways.

Why is poetry so underrated? ›

Poetry can be free-form or rigid, depending on factors such as the topic or word choice. Poetry will forever be underrated because readers are taught to understand the true meaning of the poem rather than creating their own meaning.

Can you make money from poetry? ›

If you want to get paid to write poetry, you can reasonably expect between $1.50 to $300 per poem. While that might not sound like a lot, compared to copywriting or other writing markets, getting your poetry published can be a stepping stone for bigger things.

What is the 5 elements of poetry? ›

The basic elements of poetry include meter, rhyme, scheme, verse, and stanza. In order to dive deeper into poetry, students will first need to understand these structural elements.

Who runs poetry is not a luxury? ›

I wrote the first poem I remember sharing with anyone when I was about 10 years old. It was a poem I gave to my father after both of his parents died not too long after one another.

What is poetry important? ›

Poetry can be a powerful teaching tool, helping students improve their literacy. It can also allow writers to express their emotions and allow readers to connect to those emotions. Poetry is also connected to aesthetics, or the exploration of what is beautiful in the world.

What is the transformation of silence into language and action about? ›

Audre Lorde's speech, “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action, “sheds light on the margins of rhetoric in the sense of the public speech because she examines factors that may cause some people to remain silent while enabling others to speak and act.

What kind of poet is Ada Limón? ›

Ada Limón (born March 28, 1976) is an American poet. On 12 July 2022, she was named the 24th Poet Laureate of the United States by the Librarian of Congress. This made her the first Latina to be Poet Laureate of the United States.
Ada Limón
4 more rows

What is US poet laureate salary? ›

How much is the U.S. Poet Laureate paid? The poet laureate currently receives a $35,000 annual stipend, plus $5,000 for travel expenses.

Who is the current Poet Laureate 2022? ›

Current Poet Laureate

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden appointed Ada Limón as the 24th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress on July 12, 2022. Ada Limón was born in Sonoma, California, in 1976 and is of Mexican ancestry.

What is wife by Ada Limón about? ›

'Wife' by Ada Limón investigates how women are portrayed within their marriages and challenges the patriarchal mindset that women have to be submissive to their husbands.

How old is Ada Limon? ›

Where does Ada Limon start? ›

The best Ada Limón poems + collections
  • The Hurting Kind. Longlisted for the Brooklyn Public Library Book Prize. ...
  • The Carrying. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award. ...
  • Bright Dead Things. Finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry and the National Book Critics Circle Award. ...
  • Sharks in the Rivers. ...
  • Lucky Wreck.
7 Oct 2022

How do you triumph like a girl poem analysis? ›

Analysis: “How to Triumph Like a Girl"

The speaker suggests that she will reveal a secret or trick to help the reader learn how to succeed, specifically the way that a “girl” succeeds. It immediately introduces themes of feminism, success, and self-confidence.

Who is the most famous Poet Laureate? ›

Alfred, Lord Tennyson: A*

The poet laureate par excellence. He looks like a beardy old Victorian to us, but Tennyson was a rock star of his time. His poetry is technically virtuosic, but eminently accessible (even to modern readers). Most of all, Tennyson's verse was perfectly in tune with the Victorian zeitgeist.

How long do they stay the laureate for? ›

Originally, the Poet Laureate would hold the post for his lifetime but, since 1999, the period was set at ten years.

How long can you be Poet Laureate? ›

Until the death of Ted Hughes in 1998, the position of Poet Laureate was a lifetime appointment. Andrew Motion (Poet Laureate 1999-2009) was the first Laureate to be appointed for a fixed ten-year term. Carol Ann Duffy also served a ten-year term (2009-2019). The next Laureate will serve from 2019-2029.

Who is the national poet of USA? ›

Current U. S. Poet Laureate: Ada Limón

Ada Limón was appointed the United States Poet Laureate in 2022.

How much does Poet Laureate make UK? ›

The position of Birmingham's Poet Laureate is an honorary one, for which there is no payment.

Who is the current national poet? ›

Ada Limón

When was Ada Limon born? ›

Ada Limón, (born March 28, 1976, Sonoma, California, U.S.), American poet who is best known for creating intimacy with readers through her emotional sincerity and thoughtful observations of nature and humans' place within it.

What nationality is Ada Limon? ›

Who are Ada Limon parents? ›

Limón's parents, Stacia Brady and Ken Limon, separated when she was 8 years old, and as a result she grew up in both Glen Ellen and downtown Sonoma. Her mother is an artist and has painted the covers of all of her books.


1. U.S. poet laureate Ada Limón on reclaiming humanity through poetry
(Washington Post Live)
2. Ada Limón on becoming the new U.S. poet laureate
(PBS NewsHour)
3. Book Trailer: The Hurting Kind by Ada Limón
(Milkweed Editions)
4. U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón And The Power Of Poetry
5. #PouredOver: Ada Limón on THE HURTING KIND
(Barnes & Noble)
6. Ada Limón: 24th Poet Laureate
(Library of Congress)
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