The writing and publishing industries have always been a white man’s game, which is why it’s so great to see Latinas still making strides—not to mention making history. In 2021, Natalie Diaz became the first Latina poet to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. This year, Ada Limón, who is of Mexican American descent, has been named the 24th U.S. Poet Laureate by the Library of Congress, the first Chicana to be awarded the honor. She will succeed another history-maker, Joy Harjo, the first poet laureate of Native American descent. Besides Limón, the only other Latinx poet who has held the position was Juan Felipe Herrera, who became the first Chicano poet laureate in U.S. history in 2015. To say that Limón is breaking new ground is an understatement.
“I was completely at a loss for words,” Limón said after the announcement according to the Lexington Herald Leader. “[Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden] was there with her team, and she said, ‘I would like to welcome you to be the 24th poet laureate of the United States.'”
In a press release from the Library of Congress, Hayden added, “Ada Limón is a poet who connects. Her accessible, engaging poems ground us in where we are and who we share our world with. They speak of intimate truths, of the beauty and heartbreak that is living, in ways that help us move forward.”
The poet laureate position has been a centuries-long tradition, first beginning in Italy with the appointment of the first-ever poet laureates Albertino Mussato and Francesco Petrarca. Since then, dozens of countries all over the world including the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States have annually named poets to serve as a “Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry.” During their year-long term in the U.S., the poet laureate is expected to travel to Washington, D.C. for a special poetry reading to open the literary season at the Library of Congress. They also promote a love and appreciation for poetry, both writing and reading it, across the country in any way they want throughout the year.
For Limón, she is considering focusing on bringing poetry to public spaces or reconnecting with the environment among other potential avenues, which she has been exploring in her recent work. Since 2005, she has published six award-winning books of poetry including Big Fake World, Bright Dead Things, and most recently, The Carrying, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry in 2018. She currently teaches in the MFA program at Queens University of Charlotte.
“I think that it’s really important to remember that even in this particularly hard moment, divided moment, poetry can really help us reclaim our humanity,” Limón said according to All Things Considered. “I think we need to remember that we possess the full spectrum of human emotions. And I think moving through that grief and trauma, anger, rage — through poetry I think we can actually remember that on the other side of that is also contentment, joy, a little peace now and again, and that those are all a part of the same spectrum. And that without one, we don’t have the other.”
We’re thrilled to see Ada Limón becoming a trailblazer and can’t wait to see what she will be up to during her term as the 24th National Poet Laurate!