Sunday, January 24, 2010

Where I'm From by George Ella Lyon

Award winning author George Ella Lyon was born and raised in the mountains of Kentucky. She has published two collections of poems (Mountain and Catalpa, winner of the Appalachian Book of the Year award), 18 picture books (including Come a Tide, featured on "Reading Rainbow," Who Came Down That Road? a Publishers' Weekly Best Book of the Year, Basket, winner of the Kentucky Bluegrass Award, and, most recently, A Sign, Counting on the Woods, A Traveling Cat, and Book), 3 novels for young readers (including Borrowed Children, winner of the Golden Kite Award), an autobiography (A Wonderful Child, in the Richard Owen Meet-the-Author series), and Choices, a book of stories for adult new readers. Her work appears in the PBS series, "The United States of Poetry," and her adult novel, With a Hammer for My Heart, was featured in Borders Bookstores' "Original Voices" series. She lives in Lexington, Kentucky.

The subtitle of the book is "Where Poems Come From", and this little treasure of a book is not only sprinkled with her poems, but wise little gems about the source and inspiration for them, and suggestions on how to focus on what you want to say and how to say it. I found this book to be a pure delight, just like George Ella Lyon herself is. As she says, "poetry is for you. It's in you--in the rhythm of your heartbeat and your walking, in the music of your talk. This book is to help you see and say that. This book is for the poems in us all."

Here's a little taste of it, the first poem in the book, which is where the title of the book came from:

Where I'm From

I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride,
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
(Black, glistening,
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush
the Dutch elm
whose long-gone limbs I remember
as if they were my own.

I'm from fudge and eyeglasses,
from Imogene and Alafair.
I'm from the know-it-alls
and the pass-it-ons,
from Perk up! and Pipe down!
I'm from He restoreth my soul
with a cottonball lamb
and ten verses I can say myself.

I'm from Artemus and Billie's Branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
From the finger my grandfather lost
to the auger,
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments--
snapped before I budded--
leaf-fall from the family tree.

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