Ada Limón grew up loving theater, but in college she realized she would rather write her own words than perform someone else’s. Today, Limon (Sonoma Valley High class of 1993) is a successful writer with three published books of poetry under her belt (“Lucky Wreck,” “This Big Fake World” and “Sharks in the Rivers”) and two novels in the works. She was recently described by the San Francisco Examiner as “a rising star in the world of poetry.”
A self-described theater nerd in high school, Limón received a degree in theater from the University of Washington. Diploma in hand, she then crossed the country to enroll in the graduate writing program at New York University. “The fact that I got into such a prestigious graduate school was really shocking to me. I was pretty overwhelmed by it all. All my favorite writers were teaching there and it was an exceptional school.”
Limón paid next-to-nothing for college, but admits that she’ll be paying off her graduate school loans for some time. She said it is worth it. “I wanted to be at a university that really fostered my skills and appreciated my personality. I wanted to feel heard and to get one-on-one time with professors.”
While at NYU, Limón studied with former U.S. Poet Laureate Philip Levine. Since receiving her master’s of fine arts in poetry, Limon has been awarded the Chicago Literary Reward for Poetry, and received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center. She was also one of the judges for the 2013 National Book Award in Poetry.
While Limón recently relocated to Kentucky, she is a big fan of life in New York City. “New York was amazing. I thought I’d just stay for graduate school, but then I got hooked on the energy and ended up staying for 12 years.”
Limón’s first poems were published in 2001, and it is a feeling that she will remember forever. “I worried that it would never happen again. But then, more poems got published and more, and then finally the books came. It was a thrill. I’m not going to lie, it takes a ton of work and tenacity to get your work out in the world and to handle rejection and keep going, but every thing is a lesson and everything makes your work better and richer. The harder it is to be published, the more you appreciate it.”
In addition to her poems, Limón has had a blog (adalimon.blogspot.com/) since 2006 that she described as “a very simple, spare, online journal where I post photos and little lyric essays about my life. Writing can be such a solitary experience that I find it necessary sometimes to reach out and talk to other people who are trying to live the ‘writing life’ as well.”
Limón misses living in Sonoma and said that her third poetry book has a lot of that feeling of wanting to return home to the Valley. “I really got homesick for the landscape and the people.” She returned recently for a reading at Readers’ Books, where she worked in high school.
Up next for Limón is a fourth book of poems, “Bright Dead Things,” that’s with her publisher now. She is also working on finishing a novel that is set in Glen Ellen as well as a young adult novel. “Ever since high school, I have officially been obsessed with words,” she said.