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With a Hammer for My Heart

With a Hammer for My Heart
University Press of Kentucky
0813191750, $16.00 paper, for teens and adults
ISBN-13: 978-0813191751

Reissued in June 2007 as part of the Kentucky Voices series.

“A rich tale of healing, redemption, and social responsibility.”                 — Publishers Weekly

“Lyon gives readers a story rich in precise, gorgeous language that glows like a sword on the forge and cuts as deep. . . . Tragedies old and new weave a tiny Kentucky town into the center of the universe.” — starred review, Booklist

"The dialogue in this wonderful story is moving, often funny, and always true to life." — School Library Journal

"With her poet's pen, Lyon has fashioned as fine and moving a love story as you'll ever read, just about as strange and wonderful as life itself. Filled with passion, pain, and redemption, this novel is a classic." —Lee Smith

"With a love of language that comes from the heart of a people, George Ella Lyon has plunged right into the souls of a wide range of characters who are tender, human, funny and true." — Bobbie Ann Mason



Back to the Light

Back to the Light: Poems
The University Press of Kentucky
9780813181189, $29.95 hardcover
9780813181158, $19.95 paperback
April 2021

From the University Press of Kentucky:
Acclaimed poet George Ella Lyon returns with a brilliant new collection that traces the arc of a woman's life from girlhood to mature womanhood. In answer to the first poem, "Little Girl Who Knows Too Much," Lyon embarks on a journey from a child who was silenced to "Some Big Loud Woman" who claims the right to a voice. Along the way she meets allies and guides including Dickinson, Woolf, Mary Travers, Grace Paley, and the giver of dreams. As sailors once navigated by the stars, so Lyon navigates by these luminaries. They are not distant, though. Their light is always near.

Alternately witty, tender, shocking, and visionary, Back to the Light reveals the reunion of body and spirit, truth and story. In the process, it demonstrates the power of poetry to liberate and to heal.


"Through the 46 moving poems in Back to the Light, George Ella Lyon takes readers on a journey with her. The specificity with which she re-creates a moment in each--whether noticing a third-grader at one of her school visits, or the moment at age five when an older boy sexually assaults her, or the way a stone she finds puts her in mind of Virginia Woolf's suicide--adds up to a cumulative epiphany by the collection's end, and offers an overriding sense of hope."—Shelf Awareness

"This work is as strong and fine as anything I have read, and I would hope to write such poems myself. Back to the Light will be welcomed by many kinds of readers. It is visionary, highly accessible, and highly teachable."—Diane Gilliam, author of Kettle Bottom

"Back to the Light is a girl's song, is a big loud woman's song, is a country girl who has seen the blood of many things high note, is a woman who foolishly buys shoes she can't run in elegy, is a growling great mother's dirt road aria, is a terrified 5 year old's courageous chant to the world. George Ella reminds us, in elegant George Ella style, how the country located just below the nose and just above the chin of a woman's face is a sparkling cave of galaxies."—Nikky Finney

Many-Storied House
The University Press of Kentucky
978-0813142616, $19.95 paperback, for adults
»»  Download hi-resolution cover image

Born in the small, eastern Kentucky coal-mining town of Harlan, George Ella Lyon beMany-Storied Housegan her career with Mountain, a chapbook of poems. She has since published many more books in multiple genres and for readers of all ages, but poetry remains at the heart of her work. Many-Storied House is her fifth collection.

While teaching aspiring writers, Lyon asked her students to write a poem based on memories rooted in a house where they had lived. Working on the assignment herself, Lyon began a personal journey, writing many poems for each room. In this intimate book, she strives to answer lingering questions about herself and her family: "Here I stand, at the beginning," she writes in the opening lines of the volume, "with more questions than / answers."

Collectively, the poems tell the sixty-eight-year-long story of the house, beginning with its construction by Lyon's grandfather and culminating with the poet's memories of bidding farewell to it after her mother's death. Moving, provocative, and heartfelt, Lyon's poetic excavations evoke more than just stock and stone; they explore the nature of memory and relationships, as well as the innermost architecture of love, family, and community. A poignant memoir in poems, Many-Storied House is a personal and revealing addition to George Ella Lyon's body of work.

"While Lyon conjures the house's physical space and atmosphere with such specificity and sensory detail that readers may well feel as if they too have inhabited its rooms, ultimately this is not a book about just one house or one family. These are poems that speak to the underlying universality of love, attachment, loss, letting go and the life of memory."—Joanna Lin Want,

"Many-Storied House shapes the history of the 68 years Lyon's family lived in the house her grandfather built, the same space where her mother died more than half a century later. The poems that relate objet to rooms to the people who inhabit and reflect them reveal, in elegant simplicity, the heart of what matters."—Elizabeth Beattie, The Courier-Journal

"The poems are real, of this earth, rooted, human and deeply satisfying. I pay them the highest compliment I have: They remind me of the poems of William Stafford."—Mary Ellen Miller, Bowling Green Daily News

"As Lyon resurrects the dead and reinvents the house she grew up in, she creates a space wherein art sustains and strengthens the fragility not only of her existence but of ours as well."—Sonja James, Martinsburg (WV) Journal

"Lyon makes the walls of 108 First Street talk. Room by room (a floor plan for each of the two levels is provided) stories are told making the house into a home. In the end, we all feel 'at home' in this place...While reading, I laughed and I cried. Rarely has a book so touched me the way"—Peter Brackney, The Kaintuckeean


Succinct: The Broadstone Anthology of Short Poems
Edited by Jonathan Greene and Robert West
Broadstone Books
978-1937968083, $18.00 paperback, for adults

"Short poem, be brief and tell us everything"—Charles Simic

This volume demonstrates the power of the short poem to fulfill Simic's charge extraordinarily well. For over a dozen years editors Greene and West have poured over the best short verse (defined here as less than sonnet length) from around the world and over the centuries, with their results compiled here. Over 150 poets are represented, each by one poem, and their appearance in alphabetical order by author makes for startling and illuminating juxtapositions.

She Let Herself Go

She Let Herself Go
Louisiana State University Press, 2012
978-0807142769, $19.95 paperback, for adults

"George Ella Lyon, with joy and conviction, teaches us how to write. The trick is to make life right so each day is energized, restoring the writer to herself. The poems are reflections; they are fun; they resonate; they are charitable; they are epiphanies; they make you hopeful; they fabricate a place where women are far beyond the common struggle; they cherish the world; each poem makes you feel better than the one before. Finally you wind up happy to be part of the whole human poetry community. Poetry and self knowledge are a winning combination."—The Washington Independent Review of Books


Back: Poems

Back: Poems
Wind Publications, 2010
978-1893239982, $15.00 paperback, for adults

“George Ella Lyon is a master storyteller. In this collection of poetry, the voice of each poem?s narrator is as close as a companion?s breath in our ear. The lives she offers up in the chalice of this book are a communion of spirits with all their laments and stark truths, a part of the liquor of life from which we all drink ? bitter, ephemeral, beautiful.” - Normandi Ellis, author of Fresh-Fleshed Sisters and Dreams of Isis: A Woman?s Spiritual Sojourn

“'I contain multitudes,' Walt Whitman wrote. He didn't know the half of it. George Ella Lyon's new poems, Back, contain the voices of girls and boys, women and men from other times and places. "I is someone else," Rimbaud wrote, but miraculously George Ella Lyon is both herself and "someone else" ? in detail, with heart, in songs that are utterly convincing and always sonorous. This collection is a visionary work, taking us out of our petty and narrow selves, transporting us into the stream of what it means to be human ? from within other souls and skins. In tribal cultures, George Ella Lyon would have been a shaman or a medicine woman with these healing songs. In our culture, she's a poet ? a real poet, one whose song liberates us from the confines of the ego, This ability to live in mystery is Positive Capability, and George Ella Lyon possesses this genius in spades.” - Marilyn Kallet, author of Packing Light: New and Selected Poems and director, creative writing program, University of Tennessee.

“In Back poet George Ella Lyon conducts us on a journey of spiritual exploration and transcendence, convincingly invoking the anonymous voices of our recent and ancient tribal past ? among them a Gypsy, a Buddhist boy, a Sioux woman ? in a series of monologues that embody our common experience as humans. In this mosaic she finds a composite voice that recreates our shared destiny of mystery and hope, "a web," as one of her voices tells us, "of my life's weaving." These are fine poems.” - Richard Taylor, author of Stone Eye and Girty.

Where I'm From

Where I'm From, Where Poems Come From
Absey and Co., 1999
0-888-84212-1, $13.95 hardcover, for adults

A hands-on poetry workshop

“This guide to poetry writing carries a simple message: You have within you everything you need to write.” - The Riverbank Review

“Novice poets will appreciate Lyon's encouragement and enthusiasm for a challenging genre.” - Booklist

“This combination memoir and how-to by a well-known children's book author will attract anyone interested in the creative writing process.” - Booklist 'Crossovers: Children's Books for Adults'

“This combination of memoir and writing guide is inspiring and thought provoking. A delicious read!”
- Kristine O'Connell George


  • NY Public Library Best Book for the Teenage


Wind Publications 1993, reissued in 2007 with an introduction by Robert West
0-96365452-7, $15.00 paperback, for adults

“Lyon is never trivial; she writes of things that matter - birth, death, family, community...her metaphors are always vivid and fresh, and often brilliant...Lyon's poems are visions to which art has given voice. ” - Jim Wayne Miller

“Modest and unpretentious...Whether she is describing her forebears, her children, or the life of her beloved Virginia Woolf, her ear is perfect, impeccable, full of lyric music.” - Ruth Whitman

“Lyon's poems offer many gifts, but a focus on the search for ancestry seems to me the unique gift of Catalpa. This searching begins locally and reaches beyond the bonds that unite us all, Appalachian and non-Appalachian, man and woman, to the essence of our common humanity. Here we discover lives brought forth in words, "'no waste and no hurry...tough as a poem for the burden that outlasts us, for a heart leaved with words like a tree.” - Jeff Daniel Marion

Catalpa will read you the riddle of family, of memory, of Oaksie Caudill and Virginia Woolf, of Red Bird Mission and the Air Force Museum, of searching 'way up the chromosome chain' for your mothers and fathers...Like leaves on a tree, these gentle, accurate poems will delight eye and ear; like leaves on a tree, they are both seeming-simple and intricately veined, each one individual yet part of a whispering, mantic whole.” - Jane Wilson Joyce


  • Winner of the Appalachian Book of the Year Award

Old Wounds, New Words: Poems from the Appalachian Poetry Project
Edited by Bob Henry Baber, George Ella Lyon, and Gurney Norman
The Jesse Stuart Foundation
0-945084-44-7, $10.00 hardcover, for adults


Choices: Stories for Adult New Readers
University Press of Kentucky 1989
0-8131-0900-0, $4.95 paperback, for adults

“I don't agree with all the choices people make,” says the author. “You probably won't either. My job is to let them tell their stories.” And so she does in these thirteen warm, funny, and sad short stories about people making hard decisions for themselves and for their families:
— Like Iona, who accidentally accepts a marriage proposal.
— And Daryll, just about to graduate from high school, whose mother is eager for him to “make something” of himself.
— And Lexie and Jeb, deep in debt and already struggling to feed their six children, who find out a seventh is on the way.


Don't You Remember?

Don't You Remember?
Motes Books
0-9778745-6-7, $17.00 paper, for adults

In Don't You Remember? poet, novelist and children's writer George Ella Lyon investigates a childhood experience in which she seemed to have uncovered memories from another lifetime. Her decades-long search takes her back to the town where the 'memories' surfaced, through libraries and archives, to past-life therapy, and eventually to Wales. Part mystery, part a study of the creative process, Don't You Remember? leads the reader deep into essential questions about who and how we are.

“This is a gorgeous and deeply unsettling book...[Lyon] lays it all out, allowing us to see and draw our own conclusions. What she also does is write with passionate clarity about the life of stories and the telling of lives, about what writers do and how they work.” — Booklist


The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science

The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science
Edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong
Pomelo Books, $29.99

The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science (Grades K-5) features 218 poems by 78 award-winning and popular poets, connecting science with reading and language arts. The ?Take 5!? activities highlight concepts and topics identified in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) as well state science standards such as the Texas TEKS. The "Take 5!" activities also incorporate the literacy skills identified in the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Poetry TEKS.



What Comes Down to Us: 25 Contemporary Kentucky Poets

What Comes Down to Us: 25 Contemporary Kentucky Poets
Edited by Jeff Worley
The University Press of Kentucky, 978-0813125572

What Comes Down To Us features twenty-five of Kentucky's most accomplished contemporary poets. Together they serve to illustrate the diversity and richness of poetry being written today in the Commonwealth. The poems were collected by Jeff Worley, a poet who has lived in Kentucky for more than two decades. Although the subject matter of the poems transcends the state's borders, the collection communicates a strong sense of Kentucky as a place. Worley's introduction places contemporary Kentucky poetry in the context of the state's rich literary tradition, and the poet biographies include their reflections and, often, their poetic approach and technique.

This I Believe: Kentucky

This I Believe: Kentucky
Edited by Dan Gediman and Mary Jo Gediman

This collection of This I Believe essays gathers 60 thoughtful explorations of the core values and guiding principles of authors who are either from Kentucky or who are writing about Kentucky. The book also features a dozen essays from Edward R. Murrow's original 1950s This I Believe radio series.

With a foreword from public radio host and Kentuckian Bob Edwards and an introduction from former Courier-Journal Opinion Pages and Book Editor Keith Runyon, this book is filled with inspiring and thought-provoking essays that compel us to rethink not only how we have arrived at our own beliefs, but also the extent to which we share them with others.

Harvest of Fire

Harvest of Fire: New and Collected Work
by Lee Howard, Edited by George Ella Lyon
Motes Books, 2010

Lee Howard was an original. Tormented by her past, courageous in her lifetime, she chiseled lasting words of hard-won truth into modern Appalachia's literary bedrock. Lee Howard's work, too much of it left unpublished until now, is a crucial piece of heritage. Her method had a profound impact on many of the region's most beloved (and better-known) authors. This definitive collection of Lee's published and unpublished works, edited by her colleague George Ella Lyon, proves Lee Howard's genius, her ear for language, and her love for the place of her birth, in spite of the hurt it handed her. Here are the speech and storytelling traditions of the rural South, served up like a home-cooked meal for all the world to savor.

A Kentucky Christmas

A Kentucky Christmas
University Press of Kentucky 2003
Edited by George Ella Lyon
0-813-12279-1, $28.00 hardcover, for adults

A Kentucky Christmas is a celebration of holiday poetry, fiction, essays, recipes, and songs by more than fifty of the Bluegrass state's finest writers. Gathered here are yuletide writings from some of the legendary voices of Kentucky — and the nation — as well as original Christmas stories and poetry from some of the state's emerging talents. A delight for anyone interested in Kentucky literature, history, or traditions, A Kentucky Christmas promises to be a wonderful holiday gift, a treasured family keepsake, and a necessary addition for libraries and for personal collections.

“In A Kentucky Christmas, readers get a gigantic gift full of literary goodies — some 337 pages — under their tree...This is a heartfelt present we have made ourselves and that is usually the best kind.”
- Steve Flairty, Kentucky Monthly

“Lyon's collection, distinguished by its literary quality and transcendence of the mawkish diction that so often defines holiday give books, is superb.” - L. Elisabeth Beattie, Lexington Herald-Leader

Crossing Troublesome

Crossing Troublesome: Twenty-Five Years of the Appalachian Writers Workshop
Edited by Leatha Kendrick and George Ella Lyon
Preface by Robert Morgan
Wind Publications, 2002 1-893239-07-1, $18.00 paperback, for adults


These have seen numerous productions; excerpts have been published in literary journals.

  • Braids, 1985
  • Looking Back for Words, with music by Steve Lyon, 1988
  • Sonny's House of Spies
It All Connects

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