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Ada Limón is a poet laureate for the 21st century, exploring ‘what it looks like to have America in the room’

Ada Limón is the first woman of Mexican ancestry to be named U.S. poet laureate. Through her understanding of social media and the power of connection,…

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Ada Limón is the 24th U.S. poet laureate. Shawn Miller/Library of Congress

“Ada Limón is a poet who connects.” This was how Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden introduced the 24th poet laureate of the United States.

From my perspective as a poet and writing teacher, “a poet who connects” is a perfect encapsulation of who the poet laureate should be – and why I see Limón as so well suited for the role.

This appointment has consistently been filled by some of the most celebrated and lasting poets of their generations – Elizabeth Bishop, William Carlos Williams, Gwendolyn Brooks and many others. According to Limón, it was reading a Bishop poem, “One Art,” at age 15 that jump-started her own passion for poetry.

Ada Limón’s tenure as U.S. poet laureate begins Sep. 29, 2022.

What is a poet laureate?

The office of the U.S. poet laureate is a relatively recent one. Philanthropist Archer M. Huntington endowed the position in 1937 as the “Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress.” The official title of “Consultant in Poetry” remains, but “Poet Laureate,” the name most Americans associate with the role, was added by an Act of Congress in 1985.

Over time, the position has changed from one primarily advising the Library of Congress about their poetry collections to a more public-facing role. The most influential U.S. poets laureate have usually had a special interest or project: Maxine Kumin championed the work of women poets. Billy Collins’ “Poetry 180” project brought a poem a day to classrooms throughout the school year. And Robert Pinsky helped build an archive of Americans reading their favorite poems.

The terms of the laureateship are short, just one year, though some often stay for two terms. The most recent U.S. poet laureate – and the first Native American to fill the role – Joy Harjo, served for three, from 2019 until passing the baton to Limón in July 2022.

A doorway to poetry

Limón is the first woman of Mexican ancestry to be named poet laureate of the U.S. Few women have filled the role, and fewer women of color still.

Limón has grappled with the expectations that predominately white literary spaces have placed on her in poems like “The Contract Says: We’d Like the Conversation to be Bilingual.” She has also joked about her experience as a poet of color online. Rather than resign herself to being pigeonholed, however, Limón views identity – and poetry – as an avenue to greater possibilities.

“I’m very interested in what it is to have identity be a doorway, a place where we can open up to different possibilities,” Limón told me in a conversation on Aug. 15, 2022 about her new appointment. “I didn’t sign up for anything limited when I chose poetry. I signed up for something that is about trying on some level to harness the unsayable.”

While this will be Limón’s first walk through the door as the poet laureate, she has already followed in the footsteps of Tracy K. Smith, who was poet laureate from 2017 to 2019. During her tenure, Smith kicked off a weekday poetry podcast and radio show called “The Slowdown.” It was revived in September 2021 with Limón as host. She describes the experience of hosting the show as “a real gift and opportunity to spread poems.” In each episode, Limón shares a brief reflection drawn from her life, then reads a new poem she has selected for the day, chosen from a variety of poets.

With leisure time shrinking and the pandemic further blurring the boundaries between work and home, a podcast that rarely hits the five-minute mark may be as much time as many Americans can spare for literature. These episodes help poetry feel approachable, something that can slip into the fissures of a busy day.

The podcast can also serve as a guided tour of contemporary poetry, helmed by the attuned and attentive Limón. “I think being able to do a daily podcast has been really lovely because there’s so much opportunity to share really different styles of poetry,” Limón said. Offering listeners a wide range of poems, she explains, can help connect with different audiences.

A 21st century laureate

Part of poetry’s appeal is its brevity. Limón’s poems tend to be short enough to be suited to the screenshot, the share. It’s a 21st century way that poetry circulates, a way people can feel connected to the words and to each other.

Social media is frequently the place where people encounter poems. And poetry is something people can turn to when their own words fail. In 2016, Maggie Smith’s poem “Good Bones” went viral after the Pulse nightclub shooting. Ukranian-born poet Ilya Kaminsky’s poem “We Lived Happily During the War,” published in 2019, went viral earlier in 2022 as the world turned its eyes to the war-ravaged nation.

Social media posts and digestible podcast episodes invite even those whose attention feels fragmented to pause. When the world seems overwhelming, a poem can refresh like a sip of cold water, offering a meaningful moment in a hectic world.

Limón appreciates the role social media has played for poetry.

“[F]or the most part, the way we encounter poetry is one singular poem at a time,” she told me. “And so being able to post something on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, or any other social media platform, there is this amazing encounter that you can have where you’re flipping through, and it’s like – someone’s child, this lovely flower, there’s a shoe ad – and then you come to this poem and you’re suddenly bowled over by an Audre Lorde poem from 1978.” She acknowledges the ways social media can feel toxic, but Limón believes that beauty and connection also have a place. “I think that’s a power we really need to harness,” she said.

For me, it comes as no surprise that Limón’s own poems often circulate online. Her brilliant work and public persona offer an openhearted invitation into what language can do to connect people – to the natural world, to one another and to themselves.

At home in a poetic landscape

Across Limón’s six books of poems, an arresting voice emerges. Even her titles make the reader sit up and pay attention. Her poem “How to Triumph Like a Girl” begins “I like the lady horses best” – a funny and engaging first line that draws the reader in with surprising diction and a conversational tone. Her work is exultant and deeply felt, in touch with the emotions and experiences that make us human.

Limón isn’t widely thought of as a nature poet, but she frequently writes nature poems of the built environment, populated by backyard trees, weeds in the garden and neighborhood animals. “We live within nature … even in urban settings, in the small pocket parks that are in between freeways,” Limón said. “To live in that community and to live in that interconnectedness, I hope, will help us see our lives as reciprocal with nature. … [T]hat to me is as important as any poem that you could write.”

For Ada Limón, poetry offers a reminder of the nuance of language in an era of outrage.

Limón is a poet situated in a particularly American geography, first of California and now of Kentucky, grounding her work in the lush details of a lived-in landscape. Her poems “The Hurting Kind” and “A New National Anthem” draw on her perspective as an American proud of her blended background. These particularities, rather than making her work less welcoming, offer a texture of experience that many living in this mingled nation can relate to and see themselves in.

Speaking of taking on the mantle of U.S. poet laureate, Limón told me, “I’m really interested in what it looks like to have America in the room. And I think the face of America is often someone who is many things.”

Amy Cannon does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond her academic appointment.

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First-ever social responsibility report of Chinese enterprises in Saudi Arabia incorporates BGI Genomics projects

On December 1, 2022, the Social Responsibility Report of Chinese Companies in Saudi Arabia was officially launched, which is the first such report released…

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On December 1, 2022, the Social Responsibility Report of Chinese Companies in Saudi Arabia was officially launched, which is the first such report released by the Contact Office of Chinese Companies in Saudi Arabia. BGI Genomics projects in the Kingdom have been incorporated into this report.

Credit: BGI Genomics

On December 1, 2022, the Social Responsibility Report of Chinese Companies in Saudi Arabia was officially launched, which is the first such report released by the Contact Office of Chinese Companies in Saudi Arabia. BGI Genomics projects in the Kingdom have been incorporated into this report.

This event was attended by around 150 representatives of Chinese and Saudi enterprises, Saudi government officials, experts in the field of sustainable development, CCTV, Xinhua News Agency, Saudi Press Agency, Arab News and other media professionals. This Report presents the key projects and best practices of Chinese enterprises to fulfil their social and environmental responsibilities while advancing the Kingdom’s industry development.

Chen Weiqing, the Chinese ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said in his video speech that the Report highlighted Chinese enterprises’ best practices in serving the local community, safe production, green and low-carbon development and promoting local employment. The release of the Report helps Chinese enterprises in the Kingdom to strengthen communication with the local community, laying a stronger foundation for future collaboration.

Epidemic control and accelerating post-COVID 19 recovery

BGI Genomics has been fulfilling its corporate social responsibilities and worked with the Saudi people to fight the COVID-19 epidemic.

In March 2020, Saudi Arabia was hit by the pandemic. The Saudi government decided to adopt BGI Genomics’ Huo-Yan laboratory solution in April 2020. At the forefront of the fight against the epidemic, the company has built six laboratories in Riyadh, Makkah, Madinah, Dammam and Asir within two months, with a total area of nearly 5,000 square meters and a maximum daily testing throughput of 50,000 samples.

By the end of December 2021, BGI Genomics had sent 14 groups of experts, engineers and laboratory technicians to Saudi Arabia, amounting to over 700 people, and tested more than 16 million virus samples, accounting for more than half of the tests conducted during this period. The company has successfully trained over 400 qualified Saudi technicians, and all laboratories have been transferred to local authorities for the operation.

In the post-epidemic era, the Huo-Yan laboratories can continue to make positive contributions to public health, working with local medical institutions and the public health system to make breakthroughs in areas such as reproductive health, tumour prevention and control, and prevention.

Enhancing genomic technology localization and testing capabilities

In July 2022, BGI Almanahil and Tibbiyah Holdings, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Saudi Faisaliah Group, announced a joint venture (JV) to establish an integrated, trans-omics medical testing company specializing in genetic testing.

This JV company will help improve Saudi Arabia’s local clinical and public health testing and manufacturing capabilities, promote the localization of strategic products that have long been imported, contribute to the implementation and realization of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 roadmap, and significantly enhance local capacity for third-party medical testing services as well as local production of critical medical supplies.

BGI Genomics attaches great importance to fulfilling its corporate social responsibility and has released its social responsibility report for four consecutive years since 2017. Since its establishment, the company has always been guided by the goal of enhancing health outcomes for all, relying on its autonomous multi-omics platform to accelerate technological innovation, promote reproductive health, strengthen tumour prevention and control, and accurately cure infections, and is committed to becoming a global leader in precision medicine and covering the entire public health industry chain.

The company will continue to work together with all stakeholders to contribute to the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 and the Belt and Road Initiative and looks forward to growing with our partners.

 

About BGI Genomics

BGI Genomics, headquartered in Shenzhen China, is the world’s leading integrated solutions provider of precision medicine. Our services cover over 100 countries and regions, involving more than 2,300 medical institutions. In July 2017, as a subsidiary of BGI Group, BGI Genomics (300676.SZ) was officially listed on the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.

 


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Alcohol deaths in the UK rose to record level in 2021

Nearly 10,000 people died from alcohol in 2021.

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Deaths from alcohol in the UK have risen to their highest level since records began in 2001, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). In 2021, 9,641 people (14.8 per 100,000) died as a result of alcohol: a rise of 7.4% from 2020.

The leading cause of alcohol-specific deaths (deaths caused by diseases known to be a direct consequence of alcohol) continues to be liver disease. More than three-quarters (78%) of all alcohol deaths in 2021 were attributed to this cause. The remainder of the deaths were due to “mental and behavioural disorders because of the use of alcohol” and “accidental poisoning by, and exposure to, alcohol”.

Although there is no such thing as a safe level of drinking, and many people would feel the health benefits of reducing consumption, most of the risks of developing health problems and dying are skewed towards those who drink the most.

Between 2012 and 2019 alcohol-specific deaths remained relatively stable. It is no coincidence that deaths rose sharply during the first two years of the pandemic: those that were already drinking at harmful levels increased their consumption further during this period. Although liver disease can take years to develop, this process is accelerated when those drinking at harmful levels increase their consumption further.

Other statistics show that unplanned alcohol-related hospital admissions decreased during this period, which may have meant missed opportunities to provide help for those people experiencing problems with alcohol.

Looking beyond the headline figures, there are important differences in various groups within the population. Alcohol-specific deaths were not spread equally. For example, men were twice as likely to die as women. In 2021, 20.1 men per 100,000 died compared with 9.9 women.

Where you live in the UK matters, too, as deaths in Scotland are the highest, followed by Northern Ireland, Wales then and England – although the gap between the nations seems to be narrowing.

In England, deaths are highest in the north-east of England (20.4 per 100,000), which is twice as high as those in London (10.2 per 100,000). Although rates have increased in all regions; for example, there was a rise of 38% in south-west England from 2019 to 2021. This reflects what is already known about the relationship between deprivation and harm from alcohol. There is a two to fivefold higher risk of dying among lower-income groups compared with those from the higher-income groups.

Reflecting the growing trend of young people drinking less than older age groups, it is those aged 50 to 64 that account for most deaths due to liver disease. In 2021, for example, 39 people aged 25 to 29 died from alcohol-related liver disease, compared with 1,326 of those aged 50 to 59. This is related to a greater number of years of drinking but is also a general reflection that when older adults were younger, they tended to drink more than younger people do now.

Numbers of alcohol-specific deaths, by five-year age group and individual cause. Office for National Statistics – Alcohol-specific deaths in the UK: registered in 2021, National Records of Scotland and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency

Addressing harms

So what can be done to begin to address alcohol harms? It has been estimated that almost a quarter of drinkers in the UK drink above the recommended low-risk drinking guidelines. So this is a health and social issue that requires a national response. Low-impact initiatives, such as education and awareness raising, may not be enough.

The costs of alcohol to society are significant. A recent review estimated this to be £27 billion annually, with only half of this offset by tax revenue on alcohol products.

Timely access to specialist treatment can help to reduce the health risks associated with alcohol. Unfortunately, there have been significant cuts to funding for this type of intervention.

Around 80% of people classed as dependent on alcohol in England are not currently getting treatment support. While there has recently been extra funding for drug services to try and correct historic cuts, this has not been extended to alcohol. Reversing this by investing in services could help to reduce the rising number dying prematurely from alcohol.

A new strategy is long overdue

The last government strategy for alcohol was published in 2012, so there is a pressing need for a new one. This must address all the ways that the harms from alcohol can be tackled, from marketing and pricing to specialist treatment and recovery services.

A group, led by Liverpool MP Dan Carden, with cross-party support, recently called on the government to initiate an independent review of alcohol harm, along the lines of the review led by Dame Carol Black, which had a significant influence on drug policy and treatment funding.

Without such a review and strategy based on it, the harms caused by alcohol including premature death will continue to rise year after year. So much has changed since the last alcohol strategy in 2012 not least the current cost of living crisis. The outlook for investment in public health looks bleak, added to which this government doesn’t seem willing to curtail the efforts of the alcohol industry in marketing and protecting its products.

Harry Sumnall receives and has received funding from grant awarding bodies for alcohol and other drug research. He sits on grant-awarding funding panels, and is an unpaid scientific adviser to the MIND Foundation.

Ian Hamilton does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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International

Alcohol deaths in the UK rose to record levels in 2021

Nearly 10,000 people died from alcohol in 2021.

Published

on

By

There has been a record rise in deaths from alcohol in the UK, according to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS). In 2021, 9,641 people died as a result of alcohol: a rise of 7.4% from 2020.

The leading cause of alcohol-specific deaths (deaths caused by diseases known to be a direct consequence of alcohol) continues to be liver disease. More than three-quarters (78%) of all alcohol deaths in 2021 were attributed to this cause. The remainder of the deaths were due to “mental and behavioural disorders because of the use of alcohol” and “accidental poisoning by, and exposure to, alcohol”.

Although there is no such thing as a safe level of drinking, and many people would feel the health benefits of reducing consumption, most of the risks of developing health problems and dying are skewed towards those who drink the most.

Between 2012 and 2019 alcohol-specific deaths remained relatively stable. It is no coincidence that deaths rose sharply during the first two years of the pandemic: those that were already drinking at harmful levels increased their consumption further during this period. Although liver disease can take years to develop, this process is accelerated when those drinking at harmful levels increase their consumption further.

Other statistics show that unplanned alcohol-related hospital admissions decreased during this period, which may have meant missed opportunities to provide help for those people experiencing problems with alcohol.

Looking beyond the headline figures, there are important differences in various groups within the population. Alcohol-specific deaths were not spread equally. For example, men were twice as likely to die as women. In 2021, 20.1 men per 100,000 died compared with 9.9 women.

Where you live in the UK matters, too, as deaths in Scotland are the highest, followed by Northern Ireland, Wales then and England – although the gap between the nations seems to be narrowing.

In England, deaths are highest in the north-east of England (20.4 per 100,000), which is twice as high as those in London (10.2 per 100,000). Although rates have increased in all regions; for example, there was a rise of 38% in south-west England from 2019 to 2021. This reflects what is already known about the relationship between deprivation and harm from alcohol. There is a two to fivefold higher risk of dying among lower-income groups compared with those from the higher-income groups.

Reflecting the growing trend of young people drinking less than older age groups, it is those aged 50 to 64 that account for most deaths due to liver disease. In 2021, for example, 39 people aged 25 to 29 died from alcohol-related liver disease, compared with 1,326 of those aged 50 to 59. This is related to a greater number of years of drinking but is also a general reflection that when older adults were younger, they tended to drink more than younger people do now.

Numbers of alcohol-specific deaths, by five-year age group and individual cause. Office for National Statistics – Alcohol-specific deaths in the UK: registered in 2021, National Records of Scotland and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency

Addressing harms

So what can be done to begin to address alcohol harms? It has been estimated that almost a quarter of drinkers in the UK drink above the recommended low-risk drinking guidelines. So this is a health and social issue that requires a national response. Low-impact initiatives, such as education and awareness raising, may not be enough.

The costs of alcohol to society are significant. A recent review estimated this to be £27 billion annually, with only half of this offset by tax revenue on alcohol products.

Timely access to specialist treatment can help to reduce the health risks associated with alcohol. Unfortunately, there have been significant cuts to funding for this type of intervention.

Around 80% of people classed as dependent on alcohol in England are not currently getting treatment support. While there has recently been extra funding for drug services to try and correct historic cuts, this has not been extended to alcohol. Reversing this by investing in services could help to reduce the rising number dying prematurely from alcohol.

A new strategy is long overdue

The last government strategy for alcohol was published in 2012, so there is a pressing need for a new one. This must address all the ways that the harms from alcohol can be tackled, from marketing and pricing to specialist treatment and recovery services.

A group, led by Liverpool MP Dan Carden, with cross-party support, recently called on the government to initiate an independent review of alcohol harm, along the lines of the review led by Dame Carol Black, which had a significant influence on drug policy and treatment funding.

Without such a review and strategy based on it, the harms caused by alcohol including premature death will continue to rise year after year. So much has changed since the last alcohol strategy in 2012 not least the current cost of living crisis. The outlook for investment in public health looks bleak, added to which this government doesn’t seem willing to curtail the efforts of the alcohol industry in marketing and protecting its products.

Harry Sumnall receives and has received funding from grant awarding bodies for alcohol and other drug research. He sits on grant-awarding funding panels, and is an unpaid scientific adviser to the MIND Foundation.

Ian Hamilton does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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