On Death and Rebirth With U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón

Limón, who was named Poet Laureate in July 2022, read poetry, answered questions and reflected on mortality and resurrection during a virtual Writers House event at Merrimack College.
Image of a woman alongside an event date.
U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón spoke to Merrimack College students on Nov. 1.

Ada Limón, the current U.S. Poet Laureate, celebrated Dia de Los Muertos this November with an online poetry reading and Q&A session with Merrimack College students and faculty. True to the holiday’s theme, the Mexican-American writer read a handful of her poems that reflected death and resurrection.

“Last night we killed a possum, / out of mercy, in the middle of the road,” Limón read from “In the Country of Resurrection.” “We drove home under the sickle moon/laundry gone cold and dry on the line. / But that was last night. This morning / the sun is coming alive in the kitchen. / You’ve gone to get us gas station coffee / and there is so much life all over the place.”

Limón was invited to speak virtually via Zoom by The Writers House of Merrimack College, a multidisciplinary initiative supported by the College’s English and creative writing departments.

Diana Arterian, assistant director of the Writers House and assistant professor of practice and creative writing, said she long admired Limón as a poet and public thinker.

“I heard her do an interview this summer to promote her most recent book, ‘The Hurting Kind,’ and immediately thought that she would be great to bring to Merrimack for that reason,” she explained. “I think maybe a month after I had written to Emma (Duffy-Comparone, director of the Writers House and associate professor of English) to invite Ada, she was named Poet Laureate of the United States.”

Prior to her national appointment in July, Limón won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry for her book, “The Carrying.” Another collection, “Bright Dead Things,” was nominated for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award.

“‘The Hurting Kind’ just came out this summer,” said Arterian, “and she has a very aggressive book tour going on so we were lucky to squeak into her schedule.”

During the Q&A portion, Steven Scherwatzky, the interim dean of the School of Liberal Arts, asked Limón how she knows when her poems are finished.

“For me it’s very important for a poem to feel complete and I think that oftentimes I can overwrite,” she responded. “I think I’m always looking for that balance that the poem is actually teaching me something. At some point, we think we’re starting a poem with an idea or an image or with sound…We think we’re in charge and at some point, the poem is in charge. That’s usually when I know something exciting is going to happen, that something’s going to become more complete.”

Duffy-Comparone asked if Limón had any advice to the creative writing students watching the event.

“There’s so many different ways to be an artist,” Limón said. “It does a disservice if we think there’s only one way to do it. You’ll find your own path. The best thing is to find the way that keeps you the healthiest and keeps you enjoying it. If it makes you feel more alive, if it makes you feel more connected to the world, then keep making things.”

The Writers House hosts weekly student-led writers’ workshops; book clubs, slam poetry nights and study hours at their space inside the Volpe Athletic Complex.

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