Sonoma native named 24th American Poet Laureate


Her father is a retired school administrator who served as the principal of Dunbar Elementary School. Her first mother-in-law, Cynthia Limon, was a speech therapist who died of cancer in 2010, and her current mother-in-law, Linda Limon, is a retired teacher.

Ada Limon’s older brother, Cyrus Limon, teaches an elementary Spanish immersion school in San Mateo and her younger brother, Bryce Limon, is a technical writer in Seattle.

She was a student at Dunbar when her father was principal, then attended Altimira Middle School and Sonoma Valley High School (SVHS), graduating in 1993.

“I fell in love with poetry in high school,” she said. “I remember reading Elizabeth Bishop’s ‘One Art’ in Mrs. [Meta] Lale’s English class and falling in love with it. But poetry was also in both my homes and in the community. My father writes and plays music. My stepfather, Brady, wrote fiction and he was friends with poets and I remember going to readings here and there around town.

“I’ve always loved going to poetry readings. I was always so moved to hear poetry out loud, even when I was young.

As a 16-year-old attending SVHS, Limon was living with her family above what is now Cafe The Hague on East Napa Street when she discovered a new bookstore was opening across the street. .

“I remember they had a sign, ‘Book Store Coming Soon!’ and I walked in and asked if I could get a job,” Limon said. “I loved working for Andy and Lila [Weinberger]. And I loved the bookstore. I worked there on and off during high school and several of my college summers. I probably worked there on and off for six years. I particularly liked their poetry section.

Emergence as a poet

Limon was also heavily involved in theater productions at SVHS and after graduating she headed to the University of Washington, where she majored in theater while cultivating a growing interest in poetry.

“I loved it, but I didn’t start studying poetry until my junior and senior years,” she said. “As I was about to graduate, the poet and my professor, Colleen J. McElroy, pulled me aside and told me that I should consider getting a graduate degree. in poetry. She was not one to give praise lightly and when she opened up on that possibility, I decided to see if I could really give a try at being a writer.

Limon was accepted into New York University’s prestigious graduate writing program, where she studied with Levine and other prominent poets and earned an MFA.

Since then, she has not only written six books of poetry – including ‘Sharks in the River’, ‘Lucky Wreck’, ‘Bright Dead Things’ and ‘The Carrying’ in addition to the two previously mentioned works – but also won several prestigious awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2005 Autumn House Poetry Prize.

“I think as an artist, I started by looking for subjects, what mattered most to me. I started desperately looking for inspiration, then growing up as a writer, as a human being, I realized that what matters is simple. It is to live. Just this life. That’s it, that’s the point, it doesn’t get any bigger than that.

“Toni Morrison once said, ‘We die. Maybe that’s the meaning of life. But we make language. Maybe that’s that measure of our lives.

Limon says that each poem she writes has its own specific intention.

“I always try to stay true to what is happening in my life, with my body, with my breath. I am interested in the depth of observation, in how attention can transform what I explore as a writer. Questioning the image, the memory, the natural landscape is a big part of my approach. I want my poetry to help me reengage with the world.

She believes that writing and reading poetry can be transformative.

“It’s a space where we can rage, cry, love, explore the real mess of our lives, of our feelings,” she said. “Reading and writing poetry can reaffirm our humanity and remind us that we are complex and imperfect animals. We live much of our lives in denial of our feelings, compartmentalizing our fears and numbing ourselves until the next tragedy, but poetry can help us regain our emotions, and in doing so, can help us regain our joy.

Limon is currently working on “Beast: An Anthology of Animal Poems,” a book that she says will be accessible to animal lovers of all ages and is slated for release in 2024. She then plans to compile a volume of her novel poems. and selected.

She’s also the host of “The Slowdown,” a podcast that features a short reflection and new poem by a wide range of poets.

“I love working on ‘The Slowdown,’ and I love promoting other writers’ poetry,” Limon said. “It’s only five minutes a day every day of the week, but we’re working incredibly hard to make it happen.”

Limon lives in Lexington, Ky., with her husband, Lucas Marquardt, who owns a successful business, ThoroStride, which makes high-end marketing videos of thoroughbred racehorses ahead of auctions.

In addition to writing, Limon enjoys music, dancing, theatre, spending time with her dog and cat, traveling “when the pandemic allows” and tending to her garden.

“Also, one of the greatest joys in my life is connecting with nature and connecting with my loved ones,” she said. “I have many dear friends and family, and I love being with them.”

Her mother and stepfather still live in Sonoma, and she often visits the area, including occasional readings at Readers’ Books.

“Also, my two dear friends gave me a small apartment on their property in Moon Mountain which I have stayed in on and off since 2020,” she said. “I love it. It was so generous of them. It’s both a place to write and a place to come home and reconnect with my family, friends and favorite landscape.

Contact the reporter, Dan Johnson, at [email protected]

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