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Beautiful collection of poetry. Compacted as if a novel in song. I love how each poem tells its own story of a home and what makes up everyday life in a house. Each poem builds on a previous one and explains more. The final poem makes me think of dreams I often have of my father, who has been dead now for six years. I dream he is alive again and it seems so natural to speak with him. Good poetry evokes what is real to all of us and elevates the mundane as it also brings the sublime down to our own level where we can sense it around us.
This brilliant collection of poems— so relevant to our very mobile population and to baby boomers who are grappling with family homes—is the 68-year story of Ms. Lyon’s growing-up house. I love it. It is exquisitely written. The author goes through the house (by way of the bathroom window as a kid, as she is hoisted up when her parents have locked the keys inside) room by room, person by person, in careful detail, showing the making and unmaking of the house which she has to do at her mother’s death. This is a strong, cinematic work of the life within that house—the joys and sorrows; rites of passage and revelations—within the context of important national and world events. Ms. Lyon masterfully guides the reader around this house of universal memories with incredible metaphor: In “Provenance,” "Fourth/ house on the right, two-story,/ reddish brown and white./ You can’t miss it.” The chair her grandmother didn’t die in. “No/ wings on her back that day.” Cutting her doll’s hair into a spike punk style of the future. “That’s the kind/ of doll mother I was.” She tenderly renders the shelter we call home as, “A house is a child you carry/ on the outside.” I will read this book many times over.
Though anyone who has had the task of clearing out a family home will find a bit of his story in these poems, George Ella Lyon's Many-Storied House conveys much more. With wit, compassion, and a sure craftsmanship, she illuminates a time and place -- Eastern Kentucky, second half of the twentieth century -- even as the poems leap out to speak the human story each house contains. Room by room she leads us through events and fears, secrets and unveilings. A father's death. A mother's dying. Flood. Friendship. Successive carpets! A daughter's attempt at suicide. A love that lasts beyond all this. One of the strongest features of the book is that it is arranged spatially -- in rooms -- so that time compresses, overlaps, turns around on itself. And isn't this how it really is when you have lived a lifetime in a house? A whole life, all of it at once soaked into the walls, held in the spaces of that place. Like her grandfather, who built the house, Lyon has composed a structure that will last, a home not ours but one we will all recognize.