One poet's impact, written in the stars

Milkweed Staff — 12/22/2023

As an independent publisher, we look at more than just a book’s potential when a manuscript proposal comes our way. We also consider the promise of the artist behind the art, prioritizing transformative potential over profitability. Today, we’re proud to be the creative home of dozens of change-making artists—from international award winners to MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellows, and even a Poet Laureate of the United States. Ada Limón has achieved all of the above and more. We’re proud to point to her impact in the world today as an example of the effects of our commitment to build relationships with our authors, and to nurture their development through every stage of their careers—from emergence to stardom.

From the very beginning, Limón’s penchant for beholding beauty and loss in the same breath was immediately apparent; and her ability to do so in a remarkably approachable tone, rife with unpretentious wonder, still proves to be a gift beyond measure. While Limón’s first collection with Milkweed may have landed softly back in 2010, she would go on to deepen the mastery of her craft so much so that her next three collections of poems would all receive wide acclaim. Within the dizzying span of little more than a decade, Limón would evolve from aspirational artist to poet of the people, receiving countless accolades and the invitation from the Library of Congress to become the 24th US Poet Laureate. But the rest is more than just history—it’s astronomy, too.

Although Limón officially assumed the role of Poet Laureate in July of 2022, we celebrated the follow-up announcement of her historic two-year second term in April of 2023. Shortly after, Limón announced an exciting, first-of-its-kind collaboration with NASA, in which the poet was called to lend her gift of synthesizing our connection to the more-than-human world by crafting an original poem to be engraved on the Europa Clipper Spacecraft. And to top it all off, Limón was awarded the highly-prestigious MacArthur Fellowship (aka the “Genius Grant”) a few months later, in recognition of her singular ability to “[counterbalance] grief with wonder in works that heighten our awareness of the natural world and our connections to one another.”

The year 2023 may be coming to a close, but Limón’s work is far from over. Mid-year, the star-poet unveiled her ambitious, dual-pronged project, “You Are Here,” featuring both a stunning anthology of fifty original nature poems by commissioned poets from across the United States and a series of installations of poetry as public art in seven national parks; both of which are slated for Spring of 2024. If this isn’t reason enough to anticipate the coming year, the Europa Clipper Spacecraft bearing Limón’s transcendent poem, “In Praise of Mystery,” will travel 1.8 billion miles to Jupiter’s moon in search of conditions supporting life. As we celebrate each and every new milestone for our current Poet Laureate, we are humbled by the realization that her victories are ours—as a community, as a country, and as a culture influenced by a growing awareness of the profound importance of its arts and letters. Whether stoking reverence for life on earth, or launching her luminous words into the cosmos, Limón proves time and again that each victory for art is a victory for us—that each poem is a manifestation of collective wonder. We need only stop and listen.