We're so proud that poet and Sonoma native Ada Limón has been named the 24th US Poet Laureate!
Local girl makes good.
First, a little history. Ada Limón came to work for us at the tender age of fifteen. She lived right across the street from Readers’ Books in an apartment over an art gallery, so her commute was mercifully short.
We hired her because she knocked on our door, even before we opened for business. We were still unpacking books, still assembling shelves. My memory is that we were pretty unmoored back then, bewildered like first-time parents: we were so new to the book biz we didn’t own a job application to hand her. In fact, it hadn’t occurred to us that we might soon need employees. That she had taken the initiative and asked, well, that was enough.
Ada stayed with us through high school. I like to think that we matured together, that her enthusiasm and humor and charm and love of language provided the perfect mix for our customers to see who we were, who we aspired to be as booksellers. I also knew, even then, that Ada was destined for more than Readers’ Books. Not to get too metaphorical about it, but everything she touched invariably turned to gold, every time she stepped up to the plate, she hit it out of the park.
Which is why it came as no surprise to me to see that she has just been named our country’s 24th National Poet Laureate, succeeding Joy Harjo.
In the world of American poets, where millions of unrequited, anonymous souls struggle privately with their thoughts, this is the whole ball of wax, the pinnacle, the Show. There are poets, and then there are the very, very few who become Poet Laureate. It’s better than winning an Oscar, it’s more akin to getting your name on a newly discovered planet. Think Robert Frost. Think Maya Angelou. Robert Pinsky. Randall Jarrell. Elizabeth Bishop. Kay Ryan. Amanda Gorman. Robert Lowell. James Dickey. Billy Collins. Robert Hass. I’d bet money that you are familiar with many of these names. Maybe you’ve had the good fortune to read their work. Maybe a poem they wrote changed your life.
Well, now it’s Ada’s turn.
We’ve set up a whole display of her books at Readers’. When she last came through in May, I recall introducing her. Along with all the laudatory stuff an emcee is supposed to say, I added a notion that had been lurking in the back of my mind for a while–that one day, maybe in 2025, when Joe Biden is back at the Capitol being sworn in for the second time, don’t be surprised to see Ada Limón, Sonoma born and bred, up in front of the whole world reading the inaugural poem. Her time is coming, I may have said, or words to that effect.
I knew I was right about her then; she was on a roll, she was bound to be a star. I just didn’t know how soon it would happen. Hey, mazel tov!!