George Ella Lyon
Kentucky Poet Laureate
2015 - 2016

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George Ella Lyon is the author of four books of poetry, a novel, a memoir and a short story collection as well as 37 books for young readers. Her first book, Mountain (a poetry chapbook), came out in 1983.

Of her novel With a Hammer for My Heart (DK 1997, University Press of Ky, 2007), a starred review in Booklist said, "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." Hammer was chosen for Borders' "Original Voices" series, adapted as a play, and optioned by filmmakers.

Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, Naomi Shihab Nye wrote of Many-Storied House, Lyon's most recent poetry collection, "We all live in this house. These stories belong to everyone. George Ella Lyon writes the most transporting, intuitive, inviting poems; their doors feel wide open. Her balancing touch is generous enough (it's magical how she does this) to include us all. I love, love, love this book."

Of Lyon's memoir, Don't You Remember? (MotesBooks, 2007) novelist Lee Smith said, "Enthralling...a mystery story of the highest order," and Bobbie Ann Mason called it "an irresistible story, filled with suspense and wonder."

Lyon's honors include a Kentucky Arts Council Al Smith Fellowship, fellowships to the Hambidge Center for the Arts, numerous grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, a Pushcart Prize nomination and a feature in the PBS series, The United States of Poetry. Her books have been chosen for the Appalachian Book of the Year award, the Aesop Prize, American Library Association's Schneider Family Book Award, the Jane Addams Honor Book, the Golden Kite Award, the New York Public Library's Best Book for Teens list and the Parents' Choice Silver Medal.

She attended Centre College, the University of Arkansas and Indiana University, where she studied with poet Ruth Stone.

A native of Harlan County, Lyon is the daughter of Gladys and Robert Hoskins. She works as a freelance writer and teacher based in Lexington. With her husband, musician and writer Steve Lyon, she has raised two sons. More information is available at




Kentucky Arts Council