George Ella Lyon Inducted as Kentucky's Poet Laureate
Joined by fellow writers, friends, students, teachers and state dignitaries on Friday (April 24), George Ella Lyon was inducted by Gov. Steve Beshear as the Kentucky poet laureate for 2015-17 in the Capitol Rotunda.
April 24, the birthday of Kentucky native and the nation’s first poet laureate Robert Penn Warren, is annually celebrated as Kentucky Writers’ Day. Kentucky’s poet laureate is selected biennially and is inducted on Writers’ Day.
Lyon, a Harlan County native who now lives in Lexington, was effusive in her remarks to the audience that filled the Rotunda.
“I hope that, as I ‘laureate’ around Kentucky these next two years, I can remind people that they have a voice and invite them to tell those stories. To do so is deeply healing,” Lyon said. “And, as writer Grace Paley declared at the Kentucky Women Writer’s Conference 20-some years ago, ‘Every time you speak the truth you’re making justice in this world.’”
Beshear expressed gratitude to Lyon for accepting the mantle as poet laureate, saying the state’s literary legacy is in good hands.
“We have a great tradition of such brilliant writers as Jesse Stuart, Harriet Simpson Arnow and Robert Penn Warren as ambassadors for the Commonwealth,” Beshear said. “Today we entrust that legacy to the capable hands and creativity of George Ella Lyon.”
The Kentucky poet laureate promotes the literary arts in Kentucky through readings of her work at meetings, seminars and conferences across the state. Since 1995, the position has been appointed by the governor and is coordinated by the Kentucky Arts Council. Lyon succeeds Poet Laureate Frank X Walker, who was appointed in 2013.
“I think the state can expect wonderful things from George Ella as she moves forward in her tenure as poet laureate,” said Lori Meadows, arts council executive director. “We’ve already talked about some of the ideas she has, one of which involves her award-winning, internationally known poem ‘Where I’m From,’ and we’re very excited at the arts council to help George Ella in her literary mission.”
Previous Kentucky poets laureate – Richard Taylor, Joe Survant, Sena Jeter Naslund, Gurney Norman, Maureen Morehead and Walker – read from their own respective work in celebration of Writers’ Day and Lyon’s induction.
The Kentucky Arts Council, the state arts agency, fosters environments for Kentuckians to value, participate in and benefit from the arts. Kentucky Arts Council funding is provided by the Kentucky General Assembly and the National Endowment for the Arts.
(story provided by the Kentucky Arts Council)