Last Thursday, Nov. 11, the Distinguished Writers Series welcomed poet Ada Limón in a virtual reading of her works, both published and unpublished. This series was established during the height of the pandemic and is hosted by the Binghamton Center for Writers, with a mission to bring nationally and internationally recognized writers to Binghamton University.
Ada Limón is a National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry winner for her poetry collection, “The Carrying.” She was also the finalist of the National Book Award, the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award for her fourth book, “Bright Dead Things.” Limón is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship for Poetry, serves as a faculty member for the Queens University of Charlotte’s low-residency Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program and is based in Lexington, Kentucky.
Tina Chang, director of the creative writing department and an associate professor of English at BU, introduced Limón’s work and welcomed her to the University. Limón started the reading with two poems from her collection “The Carrying”: the titular poem and “Love Poem with Apologies for My Appearance,” which is a love poem for her husband “and writers or partners of writers.”
Next, she read from her new book, which will be released in May. It’s a six-page poem which she encouraged the audience to think of as six individual poems. She read them like a private chat between close friends — emotional, excited, smiling through the lines.
“I’ve been focusing a lot on honoring lately and the importance of it,” Limón said. “This [poem] is about my ancestors and in particular, my grandmother and grandfather.”
A Q&A session followed Limón’s reading, moderated by María Álvarez, associate director of creative writing and a lecturer of English at BU. The questions were asked through the Zoom chat box feature throughout Limón’s reading. She discussed her writing process — both generally and for the longer six-page piece she read — her thoughts about the “writer” identity and the insecurities that come with it. One attendee asked about the poems inspired by her dreams in her previous book and whether she planned to publish the remaining ones on other platforms. Limón said those particular poems are a very intimate deep-dive into her brain which is why she won’t publish all of them.
“I really wanted to write because it gives me life, but I was so ill and couldn’t figure out how to do it,” Limón said. “So I basically use my dreams as my poems so that I could have this whole other world.”
Limón touched on her friendship with fellow writer Natalie Diaz, a Pulitzer Prize in Poetry winner and activist. The Q&A session closed with her discussing the process of tapping into something true when one struggles in bringing out a piece. Álvarez said this discussion about writer’s block and channeling emotions into writing stuck with her after the event had ended.
“One of the key takeaways for me was her disbelief in writer’s block and the necessity for sitting still and fully experiencing difficult moments and emotions rather than dismissing them,” Álvarez said. “It was a wonderful evening, and I’m happy to be a part of the program that brought Ada Limón to the [BU] community.”
This upcoming spring, the Distinguished Writers Series is welcoming Adrian Matejka, poet and author of “Somebody Else Sold the World,” in February and Melissa Febos, author of “Girlhood,” in March. The series will partially transition to in-person readings in fall 2023. The Binghamton Center for Writers can be found on Instagram at @binghamton_center_for_writers.