Last night at the National Book Critics Circle Awards ceremony at the New School in New York City, Ada Limón received the NBCC Award for Poetry for her 2018 collection, The Carrying, which the judges’ citation noted “opens a new chapter in an already beautiful and accomplished oeuvre.” The below is taken from Limón’s acceptance speech.
Muriel Rukeyser, in a poem, once asked “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” But she never asked what would happen after that, after the splitting open?
The truth is we are just now figuring that out. Every year another split in the world and out of that, more voices of more women. In that vein, let me accept this great honor from the National Book Critics Circle on behalf of not only my fellow nominees, but of all the women who were nominated in this category. And perhaps even beyond that, let me accept this in honor on behalf of all the women who wrote books this year. And beyond that, the women who are the reason we can and do write books, because while writing may seem like a lonely venture, the introverts isolated stadium, we know we never write in a vacuum. We write with all the good ghosts in our corners. I, for one, have never made anything alone, never written a single poem alone.
I made this book with my mother who showed me how to create. I made it with my stepfather and my father who taught me tenacity and storytelling, with my husband and his surprising willingness to be both my muse and my mirror.
I made this book for mothers and women who are not mothers—and maybe never wanted to be mothers—for my friends who told me the truth about their lives.
I made this book with Daniel and Joey and Yanna and everyone at Milkweed Editions, and Rob, Michael, and Vaughan who make me feel like what I made wasn’t something to be shelved and silenced, but something worthy of the world.
I made this book with the generosity of trees with booksellers and librarians and reviewers and critics and everyone who has taught my book or shared it or sent it to a friend.
I made this book with my teachers. I made this book with Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz and Aretha Franklin.
I made this book with my grandfather who crossed a border and went from living in a chicken coop to becoming one of the first Mexican Americans to graduate from San Diego State.
I made this book for everyone who didn’t get to choose to be an artist because something stood in the way, whether it was illness or money or pain or discrimination or trauma.
I made this book with everyone who allowed me to choose the path of art.
I have never done anything alone.
I made this book with you and for you.
So this award is also is in honor of all those shoulders I have stood on to be here. The real prize is this life you have given me. Thank you.