Finding inspiration in spoken word

Award-winning artist inspires audiences through poetry, encourages them to use their voices and discusses journey on creative platform

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Madeleine Viceconte | The Daily Wildcat Poet Ada Limon reads some of her poems from her book Bright Dead Things and her most recent book The Carrying which will be released in August at the University of Arizona Poetry Center on April 5.

“It’s been a long time, since I’ve wanted to die, it makes me feel, like taking off, my skin suit, and seeing how, my light flies all, on its own, neon, and bouncy like a, wannabe star,” Ada Limón writes in her award-winning poetry book, “Bright Dead Things.”

Limón is one of several who performed during the University of Arizona Poetry Center’s Reading and Lecture Series for the 2017–2018 school year. She is the author of four books, including “Bright Dead Things,” her most popular, which was a finalist for numerous book awards, won the Chicago Literary Award for Poetry and named a “Top Ten Poetry Books of the Year” by The New York Times She has also received a grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts.

Limón’s presentation at the center began at 7 p.m. with an introduction speech by Raquel Gutiérrez, an MFA student at the UA, and the presentation of a national student poet, Camila Sanmiguel, who is a senior at the John B. Alexander High School in Laredo, Texas.  

“Ada Limón is someone that I’ve admired for a while,” Sanmiguel said. “Since I’m a national student poet, my supervisor has spoken about the reach of her poetry, and to witness that tonight was so affirming, so incredible.” 

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After a brief introduction, Limón began the reading with seven poems from “Bright Dead Things.” She started with light-hearted poems, then moved on to harder subjects, such as the death of her stepmother. She noted that, while it was a difficult subject, Limón emphasized the need to “sing out poetry.” 

During the second half of her readings, she recited eight new poems from her unreleased book called “The Carrying.” Following a Q&A session, many readers lined up to meet the writer. 

Limón seeks to inspire her audience through her belief that “we’re all in this together and that we’re united in trying to get through this world.” Her new book will be released by Milkweed Editions in August. 

Jacqueline Farley, a junior studying creative writing and English at the UA, was one of the readers who attended the event because of her love for Limón and her work. She became interested in Limón’s images and the use of her language throughout her works.

“She’s helping me build on my own writing identity by listening to her works. I’m having a major fangirl moment right now,” Farley said.

Limón’s fearless spirit and ability to conjure life-like, beautiful images is something else Farley said she admires. There’s power in the animals she uses, according to Farley.

“The way she can turn a phrase into something new is remarkable,” Farley said.

Born and raised in Sonoma, California, Limón began writing seriously when she was about 19 years old. She decided to be a poet when she was an undergraduate at the University of Washington.

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“It was really about being able to use my own voice and realize how important that is to the world,” Limón said. 

After pursuing an undergraduate degree, Limón received her MFA from the Creative Writing Program at New York University. She gets her inspiration from influential women poets such as Lucille Clifton, Sharon Olds and Natalie Diaz.

“It’s important to tell your own truths and say something that is transformative and makes someone want to commit to the world a little longer,” Limón said. 

Sarah Gzemski, the publicity and publications coordinator at the UA Poetry Center, is involved in the marketing of events. Limón is one of her favorite poets.

“There’s a poem called ‘Down-hearted?’ that has really helped me get through some really hard times,” Gzemski said.

The UA Poetry Center, located at 1508 E. Helen St., will hold more events similar to Limón’s reading, like “Main Library Poetry Circle: Aimee Nezhukumatathil” on April 21 at 10:30 a.m., or “Oro Valley Poetry Circle: Charles Simic and Surrealism” on April 26 at 2 p.m.

In addition to writing poetry, Limón serves on the faculty at Queens University of Charlotte Low Residency MFA program and the online program for the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. She still has eight more stops on her national book tour, which will end in Provincetown, Massachusetts.


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