Ada Limón is the author of five collections of poetry. The most well-known, Bright Dead Things (Milkweed Editions, 2015), was a finalist for the 2016 National Book Critics Circle Award among other prestigious nominations. Her newest collection, The Carrying, will be released in August of this year. NPR calls it, “her best yet, a much needed shot of if not hope, then perseverance amidst much uncertainty.” Writer Jami Attenberg called it a “dazzling, precise, transformative collection.”
Limón was born in Sonoma, California and received an MFA from New York University. At NYU, Limón learned from the two of the greatest poets of their generations: Philip Levine and Sharon Olds.
About her two great mentors, Limón says in an interview in Compose Journal, “Olds and Levine were my mami and my papi. I had Phil Levine first, and he scolded me and was hard and tough and incredibly good at making me work hard. Then, I had Sharon Olds and it was like working with a unicorn. She was kind and caring and supportive and yet, without me even realizing it, she helped me with my endings like no one else. They were both amazing.”ada
She learned valuable lessons in her poetic craft that she carried through to her own teaching. In an interview with Seattle Arts & Lectures, Limón emphasized the importance of accomplishing great endings in poems. “I’m obsessed with endings. I see a lot of contemporary or younger poets maybe not making choices for endings. They just leave the poem. And I always tell students: it’s like you have us in a room, we’re right there with you, we kind of have a crush on you—and then you just walk away. And there’s a lot of poems that do that, primarily because people are scared to make a choice.”
Previously Limón worked as a writer for Travel + Leisure but left in 2010 to devote more time to her own writing. Making the shift away from her job at the magazine, she also decided to move away from New York. Now she divides her time between Kentucky and California where she finds her time in nature conducive to writing. “I not only have a connection to the wild, but also a connection with being alone.” Limón said in the Compose Journal interview. “I am very comfortable being by myself, sometimes to a fault. The natural world—and that sense of being alone and alive—is perhaps what offers a great deal of what you call ‘bounty’ in my work.” Limón works elements of nature and the inner workings of herself to fuse and create beautiful and luminous poetry.
Hear more about Limón’s poetry and what she has to say about the craft this Saturday, April 14, for the Word Works: Writers on Writing series.