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George Ella Lyon, Writer and Teacher; For All Our Voices
Issue No. 15 April 2015
George Ella in the mountain house

Happy National Poetry Month!

I was seventeen in 1966 when I made this, my first book of poems. I went to a local printer for the paper and bought the gold ink—it came with a little dip pen--at the ten-cent store. The poems are sonnets, but I took the title from a Gordon Lightfoot song.

Now, almost fifty years later and in a different century, I’m about to be inducted as Kentucky’s Poet Laureate! How did this happen? It must be all those poems I wrote . . . my father’s love of poetry and my mother’s love of stories . . . the support of family, teachers, editors and friends . . . all those trees I talked to, songs I sang . . . the lifesaving gifts of other writers and of writing itself.

If you’re in Kentucky and want to come celebrate, we’ll be in the Capitol rotunda at 10 a.m. on April 24th, Kentucky Writer’s Day.

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Voices from the March on Washington, 1963


Voices from the March on Washington, co-written with J. Patrick Lewis (WordSong, 2014), has won the Cybil Award for Poetry! It also made the Chicago Public Library’s list of Best Informational Books for Older Readers and Booklist’s Top Ten Best Multicultural Titles for Youth. Ongoing thanks to Rebecca Davis, our astute editor.

Poetry FridaysI’m happy to have poems for World Water Day and National Yo-Yo Day in The Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations, compiled by Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell, just out from Pomelo Books. This fourth volume in the Poetry Friday series is bilingual.

Picture Books:

What Forest Knows, illustrated by August Hall (Atheneum, Richard Jackson Books, 2014) has been chosen as a 2015 Charlotte Zolotow Award "Highly Commended" book.

The f & g’s for Boats Float!, co-written with my son Benn and illustrated by Mick Wiggins, sailed into harbor right around the Spring Equinox. It is gorgeous. A regatta of thanks to Mick, to our editor Dick Jackson, our art director Deb Sfetsios, and all at Atheneum. Look for a fall launch.

What Forest Knows     Boats Float
QUOTATIONS recently copied into my journal

"The choices for writing . . . begin before which word will follow which word...begin earlier...choosing to go in the direction of the call...choosing to go alone...to expose oneself to the loneliness..."—Louise Borden

Saturday 31 December 1932
"If one does not lie back & sum up & say to the moment, this very moment, stay you are so fair, what will be one’s gain, dying? No: stay, this moment. No one ever says that enough. Always hurry. I am now going in to see L[eonard] & say stay this moment. "We are working to make hearts that know how to love this world."—Virginia Woolf, in her diary



Taut sheet
Sail waiting for the wind of my breath
You are all horizon

Screen onto which I project my dreams
Window empty of vista

Just-stretched canvas
Stage before the first rehearsal
Tongue that has not tasted or spoken

Silence on the edge of song


Choose something you feel drawn to write about and make a list of other things it is like. Play with the arrangement of these images till you feel a quickening, some energy that arises from combining them. More lines may occur to you as you do this. Welcome them. Keep playing until the poem settles. Voilà! The joy of the maker is yours.

Happy poetry! Happy spring!

George Ella Lyon

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