PIKEVILLE – In the summer of 1993, Kentucky poet George Ella Lyon started working on the piece that would become her award-winning and internationally acclaimed poem “Where I’m From.” It has since become one of the foremost poetry writing models in the world.
Lyon, Kentucky poet laureate for 2015-2016, is using “Where I’m From” as the central theme of a project that will touch all of Kentucky’s 120 counties.
Amanda Runyon, assistant professor of English and “Where I’m From” organizer for Pike County, is collecting submissions of “Where I’m From” poems to be included on the Kentucky Arts Council’s “Where I’m From” web page. Poems may be submitted as Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF documents, YouTube videos or SoundCloud audio files.
“We all have individual and unique experiences even though we may be from the same county,” said Runyon. “This project is wonderful not only for poems that are written but for the preservation of our memories. A memory poem is a compilation of memories that define who we are as a people and are so much more than just where we are from but rather includes things, people and beliefs.”
Runyon will host a workshop on campus that includes activities and exercises to generate ideas for poems. Session will be held Tuesday, Oct. 12, from 6-8 p.m. in Chrisman Auditorium, Armington Learning Center. The poetry workshop is open to the public and everyone is welcome.
The idea came about as Lyon was mapping out her mission as poet laureate for the next two years.
“When I tried to think what I might contribute as poet laureate that goes beyond visiting schools, I thought of my poem ‘Where I’m From,’ which has been used so widely as a writing model,” said Lyon. “I’ve gotten poems from all over the world and I thought ‘wouldn’t it be fascinating to have a poem from every county in Kentucky.’”
Lyon hopes the project sparks creativity among all Kentuckians.
“There are multigenerational possibilities. There wouldn’t just be poetry from high school or college students, but people in senior centers, nursing homes, other adults, a multitude of voices,” Lyon said. “It gives the opportunity for a community to have celebration of poetry, and gives an opportunity for all those voices to express themselves about their places and people.”
The University of Pikeville will also host a public presentation of the community’s poems as a part of the 2016 Kentucky Writers’ Day, April 25. Ideas for presentations and information on how to submit pieces are included on the “Where I’m From” web page, which includes a link to Lyon’s poem “Where I’m From” for reference.
Presentations may include readings, video, audio and musical representations of individual poems. The arts council will include a listing of county presentations on its website.
The deadline for submitting poems to the “Where I’m From” Web page is Dec. 1.
For more information on the “Where I’m From” project, contact Runyon at (606) 218-5345 or firstname.lastname@example.org.