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Born in the small, eastern Kentucky coal-mining town of Harlan, George Ella Lyon began her career with Mountain, a chapbook of poems. She has since published many more books in multiple genres and for readers of all ages, but poetry remains at the heart of her work. Many-Storied House is her fifth collection.

While teaching aspiring writers, Lyon asked her students to write a poem based on memories rooted in a house where they had lived. Working on the assignment herself, Lyon began a personal journey, writing many poems for each room. In this intimate book, she strives to answer lingering questions about herself and her family: “Here I stand, at the beginning,” she writes in the opening lines of the volume, “with more questions than / answers.”

Collectively, the poems tell the sixty-eight-year-long story of the house, beginning with its construction by Lyon’s grandfather and culminating with the poet’s memories of bidding farewell to it after her mother’s death. Moving, provocative, and heartfelt, Lyon’s poetic excavations evoke more than just stock and stone; they explore the nature of memory and relationships, as well as the innermost architecture of love, family, and community. A poignant memoir in poems, Many-Storied House is a personal and revealing addition to George Ella Lyon’s body of work.

George Ella Lyon is the award-winning author of more than forty books, including Golden Kite Award winner Borrowed Children, Appalachian Writers Association Book of the Year Catalpa, Aesop Prize winner “Which Side Are You On?” The Story of a Song, and Bank Street Best Books selection and ALA notable All the Water in the World. Her most recent books are She Let Herself Go: Poems and the young adult novel Holding on to Zoe. Her poem “Where I’m From” is featured in the PBS series The United States of Poetry and has become a model for teachers around the world. Connect with her online at

Like Elizabeth Bishop, the poet has an ability to make startling metaphor with ordinary language. -- Lisa Williams, author of Woman Reading to the Sea, the winner of the Barnard Women Poets Prize

In a way, the reader is assembling the pieces of a puzzle to reassemble the writer’s life through the mosaic of experiences selected. -- Richard Taylor, author of Rare Bird: Sonnets on the Life of John James Audubon

"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 utterly magical how she does this) to include us all. I love, love, love this book." -Naomi Shihab Nye, author of the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award winner You and Yours

"The speaker in George Ella Lyon’s smoldering poem, “What Won’t Burn” – in her smoldering new book of poems, Many-Storied House – declares: “I didn’t know / they outlasted / conflagration / like the diary’s / charred metal lock.” Indeed this book, rooted as it is in the reliquary of memory, and the power of words to raise the dead, and absolve the living, is determined to outlast fire. This volume is itself storied, assembled with an architect’s acumen; yet the true craft is commemoration, and the tool is the poet’s heart. Each room, each curio, each haunted nail and joist is catalogued, named, and invested with chiseled language. This house is Lyon’s muse. Within it, she commingles ethnography, archeology and catechism. Many-Storied House is a heartbreaking, yet triumphant, inventory of acquisition, loss, the sacramental offices of love, the vanished beloved, and their shades that forever walk the rooms of recollection." --Joseph Bathanti, North Carolina Poet Laureate

"George Ella Lyon's Many-Storied House embodies and vividly brings to life the principles set forth in Gaston Bachelard's Poetics of Space. Whether linen closet, junk drawer, or bedroom, space here becomes story and these stories in turn give us the broad range and depth of a family's experiences—from births and deaths to flood, from dark memories to joyous occasions. These honest and searching poems bristle with energy and take us into the very soul of a many-storied house!" —Jeff Daniel Marion, author of Fathers or Letters to the Dead: A Memoir

All the poems are the best poem in the book. This is one of the most even-handed poets I have ever read: She does not write bad poems or weak poems or overwrought poems....The poems are real, of this earth, rooted, human and deeply satisfying. -- Mary Ellen Miller, professor of English, Western Kentucky University -- Park City Daily News

Captures with perfect grace the taut familial ties that can tether heart to heart or that can cut, in a flash, to the bone...Wisdom coupled with well-chosen words is the medium with which Lyon navigates her memories and translates them for her readers to inhabit too. -- The Courier-Journal

Lyon's simple worlds evoke so much emotion...Emotion ran throughout Many-Storied House...Rarely has a book so touched me the way that this anthology of George Ella Lyon's poetry did. The collection is one of beauty and simplicity and comes highly recommended. -- The Kaintuckeean

The stories in this memoir-in-verse are recounted with remarkable clarity tempered by a compassionate gaze, a feat that enables Lyon to position readers as guests rather than voyeurs...These are poems that speak to the underlying universality of love, attachment, loss, letting go and the life of memory...Like the homes of actual family and friends, readers will find a place they want to return to again and again. -- Arts-Lousiville

Many-Storied House is a book of poems that are striking tributes to not only the beauty but the necessity of home...[It] is a comfort to all who would pay homage to the stages of life. Read it, and feel respect for what sustains you. -- Martinsburg Journal

Taking Rainier Maria Rilke's advice, [Lyon] has learned to love the questions that have arisen about both her family and herself, exploring them on the page in this tender volume. -- Appalachian Heritage

George Ella Lyon's Many-Storied House is instant, take off your shoes, curl up on the couch, comfortable. This encyclopedic examination of the social history of the family home is so blessed wise and careful that the reader thinks Lyon might be some sympathetic poltergeist. -- Michael Dennis

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Families, Poetry


Creative Writing

Many-Storied House: Poems
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