Let the Mystery be

June 1, 2020  • Institute Staff

Renowned poets (and friends) Jericho Brown, a 2020 Pulitzer Prize winner, and Ada Limón, a 2018 National Critics Circle Award winner, spoke with Adrienne Brodeur, the executive director of Aspen Words, in January as part of the Winter Words speaker series. The pair explored how to truly appreciate poetry as art. “We have a misconception that a poem is a puzzle to be solved,” said Limón, who gave the audience permission to enjoy a poem “and let the unknowing and mystery just be.” Brown said he has read poems that have helped him personally; in his work, he unmasks the deeply private as a way to give back to poetry itself. Brown and Limón then touched on the political and the personal. Limón said when politics enter poetry, the poem must evolve. She even quoted Brown: “If I begin a poem with the police, I don’t want to end with the police.” Then Brown echoed Limón: “If you really allow your poems to have all of you, then the political will appear” whether you like it or not. “It is important to put yourself in the position to experience art, and if we are receiving art, then it will come out of you,” Brown concluded, earning a nod from Limón.