George Ella Lyon, a Lexington-based writer and Harlan native, has been named Kentucky's Poet Laureate for 2015-16.
Lyon will be formally inducted during a ceremony on Kentucky Writer's Day, April 24, at the Capitol Rotunda in Frankfort.
Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, who made the appointment, praised Lyon's work as a poet and teacher as "a portrait of Kentucky heritage and tradition," in a news release from the Kentucky Arts Council.
Lyon succeeds poet laureate Frank X Walker, who was appointed in 2013.
Lyon, 65, said in the Arts Council release that she will continue her work to make poetry accessible: "Many people are afraid of poetry because they don't understand it. I hope to reach past that and welcome them, and (ask) that they infuse poetry into their everyday language and hear the poetry in their everyday speech."
"I am from clothespins, from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride,/I am from the dirt under the back porch/...I'm from fudge and eyeglasses,/from Imogene and Alafair/I'm from the know-it-alls and pass-in-ons/... I'm from the He restoreth my soul/with a cottonball lamb/and ten verses I can say myself."
The unusual name came from George Ella's mother, who named her after her brother George and sister Ella.
On her Web site, Georgeellalyon.com, Lyon describes her writing process: "When something touches me deeply, I write to capture or explore or understand it. This begins in my journal where it's just for me. Then if it seems like something I want to share, I move out of my journal and start working on a legal pad. I don't usually know what it's going to be or who it's for when I begin. I write to find out!"
Lyon's Appalachian roots figure in many of her more than 40 books. Her poetry collection Mountain won the Lamont Hall Award from Andrew Mountain Press. Lyon's poetry collection Catalpa was named Appalachian Book of the Year in 1993.
In one of her poems, Lyon recalls growing up in coal-mining country: "Most of that coal/flowed away from us like the river/on trains that shook our houses./But we kept back enough/that when ice turned trees to glass/and the bottom of the bowl was snowy/our cast-iron stoves glowed/with the mountain's dark heart."
On her Web site, Lyon remembers trading her flute for a guitar when folk music became popular: "Once I taught myself to play, I gave up my previous report card career ambitions — neon signmaker, tightrope walker, astronaut, zookeeper — and set about writing songs."
She attended Centre College, where she met her husband Steve. The two married in 1972.
The couple has two adult sons.
In an autobiographical essay on Encyclopedia.com, Lyon wrote that books "are written inside the writer, too, in thought and feeling, blood and bone, cell and soul. Taking part in Creation in turn creates me, and I feel blessed every day I get to do it."