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” (see below). It has since become one of the foremost poetry writing models in the world.
Lyon, Kentucky poet laureate for 2015-16, is using “Kentucky’s ‘Where I’m From’: A Poetry of Place” as the central theme of a project that will touch all 120 of Kentucky’s counties.
The Kentucky Arts Council and Lyon are encouraging organizations and agencies in each Kentucky county to collect submissions of “Where I’m From” poems. Each county will designate a group to select one poem to be included on the 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. In addition, each county is encouraged to create a public presentation of its community’s poems as a part of the 2016 Kentucky Writers’ Day, April 25. Ideas for presentations as well as information on how to submit pieces are included on the “Where I’m From” “Where I’m From” web page.
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.
A local project could be organized by one or more entities, including local arts organizations; public libraries; public, private and home schools; colleges and universities; county cooperative extension offices; community centers; businesses; hospitals; senior citizen centers; assisted living facilities and nursing homes; and other community organizations that foster creativity and civic pride.
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,” Lyon said. “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 deadline for submitting poems to the “Where I’m From” web page is March 7.
“We are shooting for 100 percent participation in this statewide project, and for us to be able to showcase work from each Kentucky county on Kentucky Writers’ Day in 2016 would be an outstanding way to celebrate the arts council’s 50th anniversary,” said Lori Meadows, arts council executive director. “I encourage all Kentuckians to look within yourselves and your communities and find something that inspires you to express your pride of place.”
For more information on the “Where I’m From” project, contact Tamara Coffey, individual artist director, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 502-564-3757, ext. 479.
From Kentucky Arts Council