US Poet Laureate Ada Limón speaks at Santa Rosa Junior College

U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón, a native of Sonoma, read her poems exploring themes of love, grief and family Tuesday to an audience at Santa Rosa Junior College.|

Reverent snaps and claps filled Santa Rosa Junior College’s Burbank Auditorium on Tuesday as U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón read her poems exploring themes of love, grief and family.

“Poetry does millions of things, but if there’s one thing it does is that it helps you feel things,” said Limón, 46, during the lecture. “Poetry reminds us that we’re full human beings with thoughts and feelings ... and that might be enough.”

The reading is part of the college’s Fall Arts & Lectures series, which began in September and features authors, artists and community leaders.

Limón, a Sonoma native, was named the nation’s 24th poet laureate by the Library of Congress in July.

The writer now lives in Lexington, Kentucky, and hosts the critically acclaimed poetry podcast, “The Slowdown.” She also is a member of the faculty for the Master of Fine Arts program at Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina.

The author has written a half-dozen books of poetry. On Tuesday, she read 10 poems from her book, “Carrying,” which won the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2018, and from her recent work, “The Hurting Kind” — a collection about the interconnectedness between humans, the natural world, ancestors and the self.

Several poems she read that explored aging, love, grief and identity were about family members, some of whom were sitting in the audience, including her mother, stepfather and husband.

Tuesday’s reading ended with questions that spanned advice for aspiring young poets, tips for finding the right publisher and her creative process.

“What do you do with work you’re not proud of?” one audience member asked Limón.

She views three failed novels, which are stored in boxes, as lessons and doesn’t let go of their potential, she answered. Their lines may “return to her” after several years.

“Everything that I’ve made has brought me here,” she said. “I think of them as lessons as opposed to failure. So what if it’s not for public consumption? That’s OK.

“Maybe I made that for me, maybe I needed that. That’s never a waste of time.”

Adonis Bautista, an aspiring poet, discovered one of Limón’s quotes in 2019 while scrolling on the social networking app Tumblr.

“Feeling her words come out of her was thrilling. I feel like I’ve been sanded over and smoothed out,” said Bautista, 21, a Santa Rosa Junior College English major. “Poetry, music and love are the reasons why we stay alive.”

As the nation’s 24th poet laureate, Limón’s mission is to raise the nation’s consciousness to a greater appreciation for reading and writing poetry. She serves as the official poet of the U.S.

Since 1937, the Library of Congress has had a poet consultant. In 1985, an act of Congress established the role that is now known as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. The position is appointed annually.

“Poetry doesn’t have answers, it just has questions — they have endless possibilities,” Limón said. “That’s what I love...poetry carries complexity, mystery and clarity all at once.”

You can reach Staff Writer Mya Constantino at mya.constantino@pressdemocrat.com. @searchingformya on Twitter.

Mya Constantino

General Assignment/Features Reporter

Stories can inspire you, make you laugh, cry and sometimes, heal. I love a feature story that can encapsulate all of those things. I cover the interesting people that exist around us, art and music that move us and the hidden gems that make Sonoma County pretty cool. Let's explore those things together.

UPDATED: Please read and follow our commenting policy:

  • This is a family newspaper, please use a kind and respectful tone.
  • No profanity, hate speech or personal attacks. No off-topic remarks.
  • No disinformation about current events.
  • We will remove any comments — or commenters — that do not follow this commenting policy.
Send a letter to the editor