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U.S. Poet Laureate Ada Limón on importance of poetry ahead of Las Vegas visit

Ada Limón, 24th Poet Laureate of the United States, speaks during an event for the Class of 2022 National Student Poets at the White House in Washington Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022.
Carolyn Kaster
Ada Limón, 24th Poet Laureate of the United States, speaks during an event for the Class of 2022 National Student Poets at the White House in Washington Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022.

The Reagan Administration established the U.S. Poet Laureate position in 1937 and an Act of Congress made it official in 1985. Since then, 24 people have held the job. Ada Limón, the current U.S. poet laureate, will be in Las Vegas on Sunday, June 2nd for a program produced by the local nonprofit Poetry Promise, along with Clark County, the Library District, and Nevada Humanities. It's not Limón's first time visiting the city, she told KNPR's State of Nevada, but it will be the first time she comes to share her work and help local groups expand public awareness of and engagement with poetry.

A native of Sonoma, California, Limón said her body of work is infused with a Western (U.S.) sensibility. "I am someone that is deeply aware of the landscape around me," she said. "I do think that it is the Western landscape that informs a lot of my writing. Throughout the years, of course, I've changed and altered with each new book and each new location that I've been in, whether it was Seattle, or New York, or Kentucky. But I think that I still remain deeply rooted in the West's idea of connection to land."

Limón's work is known for creating a strong connection between the reader and her, in part through her empathetic description of interactions with other people and the world around her. Nature is a favorite theme, and she often writes about experiences she's had gardening, hiking, horseback riding, and doing other things outdoors. "Truly, my favorite place to write is outside," she said. "It kind of stops you and roots you again, and you can get out of your own mind."

Related to that strain in her own work, Limón's signature project as Poet Laureate is an anthology that she edited titled, You Are Here. Focusing on humans' connection to the natural world, it can't help but highlight the evolution in that connection brought about by a greater awareness of climate change.

"One of the reasons this book exists is that I felt like I really wanted to recognize the need for a new type of nature poem," she says. "As the climate crisis deepens, and as we address it every day in our own patterns of living, whether it's wildfires in my hometown in the Sonoma Valley or wildfires in Nevada, it feels like every day we're recognizing the changing nature of our climate and the difference in our ecology that we're experiencing at such a huge an rapid rate. And I think that you couldn't go back to the old nature poem with the same kind of fervor, because our nature has changed. And so, this is an answer to that in so many ways."

A few tickets are left for her reading at West Charleston Library Lecture Hall, happening on Sunday, June 2 at 7 p.m. RSVP for free tickets here.

Guest: Ada Limón, 24th Poet Laureate of the United States

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Desert Companion welcomed Heidi Kyser as staff writer in January 2014. In 2018, she was promoted to senior writer and producer, working for both DC and KNPR's State of Nevada. She produced KNPR’s first podcast, the Edward R. Murrow Regional Award-winning Native Nevada, in 2020. The following year, she returned her focus full-time to Desert Companion, becoming Deputy Editor, which meant she was next in line to take over when longtime editor Andrew Kiraly left in July 2022. In 2024, CEO Favian Perez promoted Heidi to managing editor, charged with integrating the Desert Companion and State of Nevada newsroom operations.