Jul 14, 2022 - World

Ada Limón has big plans as new U.S. poet laureate

Photo illustration of Ada Limón with a fountain pen and abstract shapes.

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photo: Library of Congress

The U.S.'s new national poet laureate hopes to use poetry to help heal the trauma so many Americans experience.

Driving the news: The Library of Congress on Tuesday named Ada Limón as the 24th national poet laureate. She's the first woman of Latino heritage to serve in the role.

Details: Limón, who has authored six collections and hosts a podcast on poetry, will start her tenure in the fall. Poet laureates are tasked with raising awareness of poetry.

  • Originally from California, Limón now lives in Kentucky. Her grandfather was a Mexican immigrant, and she has Scottish, English, and Irish ancestry.

Limón told Axios Latino that poetry can help people begin to process the trauma they've experienced by helping them connect with their humanity and the natural world.

  • “We will lose the battle for our souls if we don't stop to heal and process,” Limón said.
  • Limón said her goal is to make poetry more accessible in public spaces and through social media. She's in the early stages of planning this out.

Limón added that she is deeply proud of her Mexican heritage but dubious about pigeonholing people into categories based on their race or ethnicity.

  • “I’m suspicious of labels in a way that they can compartmentalize and sometimes harm us. Like, ‘Oh you’re Latino so I know what I can expect of you,’” she said.
  • Still, she hopes to shine a light on writers who've been ignored in American literature, such as Phillis Wheatley, who was enslaved, and Mexican poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz.
  • "Too often we have this idea that poetry existed in a white space," Limón said.

Limón said she feels grateful to write for a living, a choice her grandfather — who she says emigrated from Jalisco, Mexico by crossing the border in a chicken coop — didn't have.

  • “He didn’t get to choose art. He didn't get that opportunity. Who gets to choose art? I know that I have been given that gift of being able to choose that,” she said.

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