There will be a celebration of the life and work of Kentucky poet laureate and Harlan County native George Ella Lyon at the Harlan Extension Depot on Saturday in Harlan.
The “George Ellabration,” which is sponsored by several organizations in Harlan County, will include testimonials, readings from Lyon’s work by friends and colleagues, live music, an art exhibit, a dramatic enactment of one of Lyon’s books for children, a presentation of poems by local students inspired by Lyon’s work, words from Lyon herself and more.
The event will begin at 4 p.m. and includes a potluck dinner at 6 p.m., with the ceremony concluding at 8 p.m. Following the event, there will be a concert at The Portal in downtown Harlan by the Kudzu Killers, Karly Dawn and the Hillfolk and the Woodsheep. The event at the Depot is free and open to the public. There may be a nominal cover charge for the concert at The Portal.
Lyon grew up in Harlan County surrounded by the stories of her extended family. Lyon’s father, dry cleaner Robert Hoskins, read poems aloud and sang to Lyon as a child. Her mother, Gladys Hoskins, played imagination games with her. Lyon began writing poems in third-grade and studied piano, voice and flute. She has also been a dedicated fan and player of folk music since her teens.
Lyon graduated from Centre College and holds a Master of Arts in English from the University of Arkansas and doctorate in English from Indiana University. Lyon has taught writing on many campuses and spoken at hundreds of schools, libraries and conferences throughout the country. The mother of two grown sons, she is married to musician and writer Steve Lyon and lives in Lexington.
Writing in many genres for readers of all ages, George Ella Lyon has published over 40 books. Of her poetry collection She Let Herself Go, The Washington Independent Review of Books said, “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…[E]ach poem makes you feel better than the one before.”
Kirkus Reviews calls her novel for young adults, Holding on to Zoe, “an intriguing window into the life of a damaged teen.” Booklist reviewer wrote of the novel With a Hammer for My Heart, “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.” Publishers Weekly called her picture book “Which Side Are You On?” The Story of a Song “a high-stakes account of grace under pressure.” Lyon’s books have received many awards, including ALA’s Schneider Family Book Award, a Jane Addams Honor, a Golden Kite, the Appalachian Book of the Year, and the Bluegrass Award. She’s had numerous Notable and Best Book citations, and her poem “Where I’m From” is used as a writing model around the world.
Gov. Steve Beshear appointed George Ella Lyon to serve as Kentucky Poet Laureate for the 2015-2016 term. As poet laureate, Lyon promotes the arts and leads the state in literary endeavors through readings and public presentations at meetings, seminars, conferences and events, including Kentucky Writers’ Day.
Lyon was formally inducted at a public ceremony and reception, in conjunction with Kentucky Writers’ Day, on April 24, 2015, in the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort. The Kentucky Poet Laureate nomination and selection process is coordinated and administered by the Kentucky Arts Council, the state arts agency. An independent panel reviews the nominations and submits its recommendation to the governor for appointment.
The “George Ellabration” is sponsored by the Harlan County Arts Council, the Harlan County Historical Network, Harlan Tourism and Convention Commission, Harlan County Community Foundation, Harlan County Public Library and the Southeast Kentucky Community & Technical College Appalachian Program.
For more information, contact Robert Gipe, SKCTC Appalachian program director at [email protected] or 606-589-3130.
Support for the George Ellabration comes from the SKCTC Appalachian Program, Harlan Tourism and Convention Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.