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She Let Herself Go


104 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / None


  Paperback / 9780807142769 / March 2012

From George Ella Lyon comes a dynamic and humorous collection examining the transformations of one woman’s life as she tries on, takes on, and peels off identities learned from family stories, gender, fairy tales, and myths. She Let Herself Go spirals through girlhood, wifehood, motherhood, and writerhood, through the poet’s evolution, casting a discerning—and often irreverent—eye on the cultural expectations that have shaped her. Claiming Virginia Woolf as word-mother, these poems converse with powerful feminist poets, including Muriel Rukeyser, Ruth Stone, and Grace Paley.

Beginning with the physical “change of life,” where the poet is “Strung / on muscle / of myth and miracle / a uterine knot / of work and words” Lyon reveals the interiors of previous selves like the opening of a nesting doll. Although the collection upholds a unifying theme, Lyon’s work resists homogeneity. As with the many personas the poet assumes and casts aside, the poems take on wildly divergent shapes that must be recognized before the parts can be united in a new way. By turns wry, funny, outraged, wailing, and triumphant, She Let Herself Go offers an important contribution to feminist poetics.

George Ella Lyon's poetry collections include Catalpa, winner of the Appalachian Book of the Year, Mountain, winner of the Lamont Hall Award, and most recently, Back. She is also the author of a novel, a memoir, and a short story collection, in addition to numerous award-winning books for children. A recipient of fellowships from the Kentucky Arts Council and the Hambidge Center for the Arts, as well as grants from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, Lyon makes her living as a freelance writer and teacher based in Lexington, Kentucky.

Praise for She Let Herself Go

“Lyon’s creative work, no matter what form it takes, is most often underscored by her use of visually arousing imagery, incantatory language, quick-witted speakers, and bright turns of phrase. . . . Rural and domestic imagery ground the poems; what’s more, they are deeply rooted in classic storytelling, the oldest kind we have.”—Journal of Appalachian Studies

She Let Herself Go is a beautiful book—a gift and celebration for women, a gift and revelation for men who love women.”—Pat Schneider

She Let Herself Go could describe the leap from the imagination’s edge that Lyon has walked as a writer for years. I’ve listened often to her approaching that edge and I’ve read much of her journey, but these poems are ones that breathe in the air of that leap, the startling voices that rise up, the tender ones that speak of what remains behind, the way language liberates and enfolds us as we let go.”—Kathryn Stripling Byer

“In this book we see the depth and breadth of Lyon’s achievement as never before.”—Robert Morgan

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