Ada Limón was once the self-proclaimed “kid that stared out the window and looked at trees when [she] should have been paying attention to the teacher.” Now, she’s a 2023 MacArthur Fellow. She credits this transition to the very same tenets of her personality that informed her early preoccupation with nature. That child, absorbed in the world outside the four walls of her classroom, was a poet, too.
The MacArthur Foundation awards fellowships to creatives who display notable innovation and originality in their pursuits. Since there are no restrictions, the fellowship functions as a profound belief in the recipient and a trust that they will continue to do vital work. It is a major achievement and recognition of talent and impact. Only 20 artists, spanning multiple disciplines, were chosen in 2023.
Ada, at age 47, already has a storied career as a poet. She was named the 24th Poet Laureate of the United States in 2022, and is the first Latina in this role. As the author of six poetry collections, she received the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, and was a finalist for the National Book Award with Bright Dead Things published in 2015.
Her prose is accessible, the diaristic styling engaging her reader in an intimate conversation where connection is a priority.
Throughout her career, Ada has been the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the New York Foundation for the Arts, among others. Her pieces have appeared in renowned publications such as The New Yorker and the Harvard Review. Established as a prolific and acclaimed writer, she explored other mediums with which to share her many talents when hosting the poetry podcast The Slowdown in 2021 and 2022.
From her birthplace of Sonoma (CA) to earning a Bachelor’s degree at the University of Washington, a Master of Fine Arts at New York University, and finally settling down in Lexington (KY), Ada remains dedicated to the idea of interconnectedness and finding light in the darkness through her work.
Her prose is accessible, the diaristic styling engaging her reader in an intimate conversation where connection is a priority. It’s clear that she values drawing the audience into her mind, and, in turn, encouraging them to identify with a new perspective on life that balances joy and suffering. Her poems recognize that, though our existence is transient, the eventual end does not preclude the wonder inherent in everyday life. We come to understand this in our own mortality through her writings on personal experience, or those reflected in our natural counterparts: horses, lizards, or the changing of seasons.
“The act of writing itself is a radical act of claiming a part of this moment in time.”
“The act of writing itself is a radical act of claiming a part of this moment in time,” Ada believes. By claiming a part of this moment, she documents the ephemeral beauty of our world and urges us to hold onto it, especially in the face of hardship.
On April 2, 2024, her newest project, a collection of fifty poems from celebrated American poets titled You Are Here will be published in association with the Library of Congress. The book focuses on contemporary, fluid understandings of “nature poetry” and our relationship with the environment. Each author writes from a local perspective, and together develops a comprehensive look at the diversity of the American landscape.
Congratulations, Ada Limón!
© Anna Nappi (10/23/2023) FF2 Media
LEARN MORE/DO MORE
Read more about Ada’s career and her MacArthur award here.
Read more about Ada’s poetry here.
Listen to The Slowdown.
Pre-order Ada’s newest project You Are Here.
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Photos courtesy of John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.