SOMOS Writers Showcase Reading, featuring Ada Limón. April 9, 2022

Introduction by Levi Romero, Inaugural New Mexico State Poet Laureate

Santas y buenas tardes, a blessed and good evening to everyone,

I am assuming that because you are here, you are not only a lover of poetry but that you are a poet yourself. It is a commonality we hold between us, the aching need to express and make something tangible out of abstractions and ambiguity, where words are used to create joy out of sorrow, and the joy we cultivate nudges the constant reminder that anything can change at any minute and we will need to be resilient and float through it all with a frightening sense of conviction, where community is formed from even amongst the most lonely.

If the pandemic rekindled an awareness of yet one more thing, it is to know how a poet feels and sees the world, for we reside in that zone Chicana writer Gloria Anzaldua referred to as Nepantla, the middle space. Through these challenging times we see our sisters and brethren inhabiting physical space amongst, within, and yet always at the periphery. Social distance, is that not what they call it? And although no poet is the same as another, for each carries the distinct sound of their own inner voice, there are poets that go in a little deeper into the abyss, that burn a little hotter from the flame and heat.

Such a poet is Ada Limón. “I used to think I wrote poems in order to help readers recommit to the world,” she says. “I wanted to believe I was using my intense attention to nature, to beauty, to language in order to offer proof that we should keep surviving. But through the years, I’ve realized, the person I am writing for the most is myself. I am the one who needs to be reminded that this life holds all sorts of goodness even when it is often shoved to the edges by the enormity of ugliness or fear. The poems I write, the ones that offer shreds of hope or gratitude, are written because I need that hope or gratitude desperately in that moment—I need it the way plants need light.”

The fallout from the pandemic lingers and the warm glow of hope we cast upon ourselves and each other makes us feel more secure than we did a year ago. We turn to the page, writing out of necessity, crafting our way through the dark, hoping and believing that the next word, image, or stanza will light the way. And again poets like Ada Limón are there to guide and usher us through. In that unknowing we seek comfort, and this is what she tells us. “Everyone is terrified of the blank page. Perhaps we are even more scared of it now during the pandemic. What is there left to say? What is even worthy of a poem…? The idea of writing is often harder than the writing itself.” And she is right. As poets we know what the act of writing calls for. We find ourselves alone, in the quiet time, with the bombs of life exploding around us. Because if it were that easy, everyone would do it.

This evening let us welcome the courageous and resilient Ada Limón, a current Guggenheim fellow, the author of five poetry collections, including The Carrying, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry. Her fourth book Bright Dead Things was named a finalist for the National Book Award, a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. She serves on the faculty of Queens University of Charlotte Low Residency M.F.A program and lives in Lexington, Kentucky.

Bien venida a SOMOS, Ada, nuestra comunidad de poesía. Welcome to our poetry community.