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Beautiful Quotes From U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón

On July 12, 2022, poet Ada Limón became the 24th Poet Laureate of the United States — the first Latina to ever receive the accolade. Her work has been described as “powerfully observant” and “genuine,” and is filled with self-discovery; Limón herself said she sees her poetry as an intimate reflection, a deeply personal portrait that makes readers feel like she’s a close friend.

Limón grew up in Sonoma, California, and when she was 15 years old, she read a poem titled “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop and decided to pursue the craft. “I really remember thinking I want to know how this is possible, I want to know how this is made,” she told PBS Newshour in 2022. “I was immediately drawn to not just the music and meaning of the poem but the form and the craft of the poem.”

Limón went on to publish six collected works and contribute to magazines such as The New Yorker and The Harvard Review. Her 2018 book The Carrying won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, and her most recent collection, The Hurting Kind, features poems written by Limón as “gifts” to the people she could no longer see in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to her poetry, Limón has also published nonfiction works, including 2022’s The Shelter, and hosts a popular podcast called The Slowdown, which explores the modern world through the reading of one poem every day.

These 16 quotes highlight Limón’s thoughts on life and art, as well as excerpts from her poetry that illustrate her mastery of the art form — a mastery that would no doubt make her 15-year-old self proud.

I cannot tell anymore when a door opens or closes, / I can only hear the frame saying, Walk through.

People have done this before, but not us.

Caring for each other is a form of radical survival that we don't always take into account.

But love is impossible and it goes on / despite the impossible.

I will play on this blessed earth until I die.

Look, we are not unspectacular things. We’ve come this far, survived this much. What would happen if we decided to survive more? To love harder?

Poetry is a place where both grief and grace can live, where rage can be explored and examined, not simply exploited.

I'm afraid that I won't do the right thing / in the face of disaster. / Or, I'm afraid I will be stupidly brave.

I remembered what had been circling in me: I am beautiful. I am full of love. I am dying.

Desire is a tricky thing, the boiling of the body’s wants.

Mercy is not frozen in time, but flits about frantically, unsure where to land.

Don’t think about Laika in orbit. Don’t think about cringe and catastrophe.

I think a lot about the word “tenacity.” What it takes to survive in a world that is sometimes beautiful and sometimes hostile. I’m always amazed at the body’s willingness to continue, to keep going. The heart that keeps pumping, the lungs that keep breathing, the way the will to live can outsmart those other dark voices inside.

Perhaps we are hurtling our bodies towards the thing that will obliterate us, begging for love from the speeding passage of time.

One of the biggest things about poetry is that it holds all of humanity. It holds the huge and enormous and tumbling sphere of human emotions.

How masterful and mad is hope.

Photo credit: MANDEL NGAN/ AFP via Getty Images

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About the Author
Darren Orf
Darren lives in Portland, Oregon, has two cats, and writes about science, technology, nature, and history.
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