New American Poet Laureate Ada Limón Loves Kentucky and the Art of Poetry

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The new American Poet Laureate was not born in Kentucky. But after more than a decade in the Commonwealth, the Bluegrass State became Ada Limón’s homeland and the inspiration behind many of her poems.

Limón is originally from Sonoma, Calif., but moved to Lexington 11 years ago when her husband found a new job in the Kentucky town. It wasn’t an easy transition, as she acknowledged in her 2014 poem “State Bird,” which opens with a confession: “I didn’t want to live here.”

But it was Kentucky flora and fauna, like sweetgum, that sparked her love for her new home.

“One of the first things I did was start identifying the trees and identifying all the birds,” Limón told the Courier Journal. “It’s become this way of anchoring myself here and really falling in love with the scenery. …I think of my early trips on the Kentucky River, or just hiking Raven Run…or the Gorge of the Red River, and really finding this natural beauty here. And I think, honestly, people don’t understand how beautiful Kentucky is.

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Limón was chosen as the nation’s 24th Poet Laureate in July, with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden calling her a “connecting poet” with works that “speak to intimate truths, living beauty and sorrow, a way that helps us to move”. forward.”

His one-year term begins Thursday, with responsibilities that include an introduction at the start and end of his term as well as the “freedom to shape the position according to their interests and inclinations,” according to the Library of Congress. . Alongside his planned presentations, Limón will work on a community-focused project with the goal of combining his love of poetry and nature and creating “spaces for poems to live” in public parks.

But while this week will mark her first day on the job, her career in poetry has spanned more than 20 years.

Limón grew up with a love for the art form. But before attending graduate school in poetry at New York University, she didn’t think she could make a living in the field. She worked for years in different magazines in New York and wrote poetry books on the side, with six releases in her 23-year career – her latest, ‘The Hurting Kind’, hit the market earlier this year.

The Hurting Kind is Ada Limon's most recent book of poetry.

Limón is “slowly” writing her next book, she said. But it is a rewarding process.

“The greatest joy I can feel as a poet is doing the poem,” Limón said. “I love reading poems to people and I love talking about poetry, but really, just that creative moment where you do something, there’s nothing like that exhilaration of that moment.”

You can sense her Kentucky roots in much of her writing, including “State Bird,” which she described as a love letter to her husband about not wanting to move out until he embraced his new home. It’s one of her personal favorites, she says. “Notes on the Underside,” meanwhile, was written about Mammoth Cave National Park and the “endless fall into more unknown.”

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She also admires other Kentucky writers, she said, such as iconic author Wendell Berry and Crystal Wilkinson, the state’s current Poet Laureate. But Limón, who is one of the few women to become an American Poet Laureate and is the first Latina to hold the position, isn’t just representing her Kentucky in her new role — she wants to represent her Mexican heritage, with both coasts and everywhere. between the two.

“A lot of times people think of the art that’s happening on the west coast or the east coast. And I think there’s so much exciting art that’s being done in Kentucky, in different parts of the country, in the south, in the Midwest,” she said. “And I think it’s important to really recognize and remember that the art is not just bicoastal…but it’s made here, and it’s made in the Bluegrass. And I’m with that. really proud and would like to honor this.”

Ada Limón was named Poet Laureate of the United States earlier this summer.

Honoring her heritage and representing the country are responsibilities she takes seriously, Limón said. A successful year as the country’s Poet Laureate, she added, could inspire the next generation of children in the Latin American community to take up the pen.

“I hope this inspires young people…that art is for them, poetry is for them, and…that watching someone like me step onto the national stage might help them write a poem , could help them read a poem and recognize that this is what America is like – and we’re not going anywhere,” Limón said.

Contact journalist Ana Rocío Álvarez Bríñez at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @SoyAnaAlvarez.

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