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Poetry Spotlight: George Ella Lyon

Many-Storied House

As you know, April is National Poetry Month, so let’s continue to honor some of Kentucky’s great poets. George Ella Lyon is an award-winning poet and novelist from eastern Kentucky. Her latest book of poetry, Many-Storied House, was inspired from an assignment Lyon gave her writing students to write a poem based on memories from a house where they had lived. Lyon worked on the assignment as well, and wrote several poems for each room in her home as a way to answer questions about herself and her family. Her poems explore the nature of memory and relationships as well as the foundations of love, family, and community. Below is an excerpt from the “Downstairs” section:


This is the window
they put a kid through
when they lock their keys
in the house. It was
my brother till he got
too big, then my wiry
cousin David, then me.
No screen or storm window,
so once they haul up
the sash, somebody (not
Daddy because of
his back) puts hands on
both sides of your waist
and lifts you straight up
like a post hole digger,
then eases you through
the slot. Your task is
to find the linoleum
with your Keds, steady
yourself, go out the
bathroom door—avoiding
the scary faces in
the varnished pine—
step into the hall,

turn the latch left (that’s
toward the train track),
and let your keepers
back in the zoo.

The Poetry of Frank X Walker

Frank X Walker, noted professor and Affrilachian poet, is now Kentucky’s poet laureate. To continue our celebration of National Poetry Month, let’s take a look at some of his poetry published by the University Press of Kentucky. Buffalo DanceWhen Winter Come










Buffalo Dance and its sequel When Winter Come both tell the since unheard story of York, who was the slave to Clark on the famous Lewis & Clark expedition. In telling York’s story, Frank X Walker gives a voice to an important figure who would have otherwise gone unnoticed throughout history. Through the poems, we given insights into nature, race, slavery, freedom, and more. Below is an excerpt from Buffalo Dance:

Wind Talker

“I proceeded on the sandy coast and marked my name on a small pine, the day of the month and year…” –William Clark, November 19, 1905

If I could make my words dress
they naked selves in blackberry juice
and lay down on a piece a bark, sheep
or onion skin, the way Massa do.
If I could send a story home to my wife
float it in the wind, on wings or water
I’d tell her about Katonka, the buffalo
and all the big wide and high places
this side a the big river.
How his family, numbering three for every
star in the sky, look like a forest when they
graze together, turn into the muddy Mississippi
when they thunder along, faster than any horse,
making the grass lay down
long after the quiet has returned.
How they lead us through the mountain snow
single file, in drifts up to our necks.
How they don’t so much as raise a tail
when I come round with my wooly head
and tobacco skin, like I’m one a them
making the Sioux and Crow think me
“Big Medicine, Katonka who walk like man.”

Today we stood on the edge of all this
and looked out at so much water, the mountains we crossed
to get here seem a little smaller.

As I watched black fish as big as cabins take to the air
and splash back in the water like children playing
I thought about you, us and if we gone ever be free,
then I close my eyes and pray
that I don’t live long enough to see
Massa make this ugly too.

The Delicious World of Duncan Hines

We all recognize this image, but did you know that the man behind the mixes, Duncan Hines, came from Bowling Green, Kentucky? Duncan Hines started out not as a  trained baker or chef, but as a traveling salesman. As he traveled around 1930s America, he compiled lists of notable local restaurants and meals which he later published in Adventures in Good Eating. The rest is history as Hines went on to publish several cookbooks, including Adventures in Good Cooking and The Dessert Book, both of which are being republished at the University Press of Kentucky! Also look out for Duncan Hines: How a Traveling Salesman Became the Most Trusted Name in Food by Louis Hatchett for a complete history of Hines’ rise to success.

For a sneak peek at The Dessert Book, check out this recipe for Fresh Coconut Angel Cake:

Fresh Coconut Angel Cake

The White Turkey Town House, New York City


12 egg whites
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup pastry flour
1 cup sugar

Directions (Makes one 10-inch tube cake)

Beat together egg whites and salt until foamy. Add cream of tartar to eggs and beat until stiff, but moist. Sift flour and sugar together three or four times and carefully fold into the beaten eggs. Pour into a 10-inch tube pan free of grease and bake in 300° oven for 50 minutes. Turn off oven and let cake remain for another 10 minutes. Cool and frost with Boiled Frosting. Sprinkle top with fresh grated coconut.

Boiled Frosting

The White Turkey Town House, New York City


2 cups sugar
1 cup water
3 egg whites
1 coconut, grated

Directions (Frosts 10-inch tube cake)

Boil sugar and water until it forms a soft ball when dropped in cold water. Whip egg whites until stiff. Slowly add the sugar syrup and whip until cold. Spread over cake. Sprinkle top generously with fresh grated coconut.


Coffee for the Adventurous

Scaggs Historic 3rd pages

Up next in our week of Kentucky recipes is a unique one from Deidre Scagg’s The Historic Kentucky Kitchen: coffee with egg! As Scaggs explains,

Sometimes called cowboy coffee or egg coffee, this is strong and rich. It is better than brewed coffee, but the cleanup is a labor of love for this delicious concoction. It is believed that the eggshell helps to make the grounds settle and that the alkaline properties of the egg balance out the acidic ones of the coffee, which can be bitter from the boiling. While the egg might have helped settle the grounds, straining is highly recommended before drinking.

Who’s willing to give this strangely appealing recipe a try?

Nannie Clay McDowell’s Boiled Coffee, 1882

1 cup ground coffee

4 cups cold water

1 egg, shell and white only

Place the coffee, water, eggshell, and egg white in a saucepan and boil the mixture for 30 minutes, stirring periodically. Do not allow the coffee to boil rapidly; keep the heat at medium for a low boil. Allow the coffee to settle, and send it to the table hot.

Poetry Spotlight: The Land We Dreamed

To kick off National Poetry Month, let’s take a look at the recently-published The Land We Dreamed by Joe Survant. In the author’s words, the poetry in the book “attempts to satisfy a long and deeply held curiosity about the early experiences of people in Kentucky, beginning with the first Ice Age hunters who wandered south of the glaciers into what must have seemed a paradise and stretching to the pioneers at the edge of civilization in the late eighteenth century.” Survant writes in the perspectives of the early settlers, missionaries, and Native Americans who populated the region. Survant’s poetry brings us up close to experiences that are so far away in time.

From “Noel, Seul”:

Under an infinite
canopy of leavesThe Land We Dreamed
I enter a mystery

unlike the blank forests
of the north. Stopping
to rest, I find

small wild strawberries
shining like sacred hearts
in their green viny nests,

but tasting not so sweet
as the berries of Dieppe.
I see again their stain upon

her lips and taste the juice
upon my own. I thought
this wild world would divide

me from myself, but
look and find my grief
hiding in these leaves.

I hear it in the
woodpecker’s furious
beating in the trees.

I cannot see my feet.
I turn and stumble
on the mole-molested ground.


Let’s Get Cooking!

For the rest of this week and the next week, we will be showcasing some of our great upcoming cookbooks, like Adventures in Good Cooking, The Dessert Book (both by notable Kentuckian Duncan Hines), The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook, and The Historic Kentucky Kitchen. What better way to show off these awesome new titles than through some sneak peeks at their recipes?

Let’s start off with an appetizer from The Historic Kentucky Kitchen, by Deidre Scaggs and Andrew McGraw, which is a collection of recipes from nineteenth- and twentieth-century Kentucky cooks:

Hominy Muffins

These are classic corn muffins to which hominy is added, giving the muffins a terrific moist texture. While not as well know, corn flour is a fine powder made from cornmeal. Do not use straight cornmeal in place of the corn flour, or the muffins will be too dry. If you can’t find corn flour, you can pulverize the cornmeal in a food processor or coffee grinder.

Makes 12 muffins

1 cup cooked hominy
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ tablespoon melted butter
1 egg, beaten
¾ cups milk
2 cups corn flour
4 tablespoons baking powder

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix together the hominy, salt, butter, egg, and milk. Sift the flour and baking powder and add them to the hominy mixture. Beat the resulting mixture well, spoon it into greased muffin tins, and bake for 20 to 30 minutes.

Try the recipe out, and then let us know how it turned out in the comments or on our Facebook!

National Poetry Month Coming Soon

National Poetry Month is almost here! Created by the Academy of American Poets, National Poetry Month has been held each and every April since 1996. It is a month-long celebration of all kinds of poetry, whether it be written, spoken, slammed, or even sung. Publishers, libraries, schools, universities, writing groups, and others come together to share and express themselves through poetry. It is a time to rejoice in our country’s poetic heritage, which includes poets such as Walt Whitman, Robert Frost, Maya Angelou, and Sylvia Plath. It serves as an opportunity to increase Americans’ awareness of this heritage as well as their knowledge of poetry crafted today.

What are ten ways that you can get involved with National Poetry Month? Below is an excerpt from “30 Ways to Celebrate,” a list made by the Academy of American Poets. The full list can be found here.

  1. Take a poem out to lunch or put a poem in your lunchbox
  2. Get out the sidewalk chalk and commit a poem to pavement
  3. Leave a copy of a poem in an unexpected place
  4. Write a letter to a poet
  5. Watch a poetry-related movie
  6. Visit a poetry landmark
  7. Listen to poetry on your commute
  8. Attend a poetry reading
  9. Buy a book of poems for your local library
  10. Subscribe to a literary magazine

Another way to celebrate and prepare for National Poetry Month is to read George Ella Lyon’s Many-Storied House: Poems (University Press of Kentucky, 2013). If the walls of Lyon’s childhood home could talk, they would tell stories of her brother waking everyone in the middle of the night by playing the trumpet, describe the various contents of the junk drawer, and reveal Lyon’s intimate discussions with her mother. Since walls cannot speak, Lyon speaks for them, writing about such memories in a collection of poetry centered on the love and hardships shared by a family.

So think about how you will enrich your life and the lives of others through poetry, and consider using poet George Ella Lyon’s words to do so. You only have five days left before April arrives—get ready!


This Day in History…

Forty-nine years ago today, activists’ third and final attempt to march from Selma to Montgomery succeeded. It all started after the Civil Rights movement of 1864 was passed by President Johnson. African Americans were granted new rights, however the Jim Crow laws still remained intact, continuing to prevent a large portion of the black population from voting.

Despite this, John Lewis led fifty African Americans to the courthouse in Selma, Alabama, on registration day in the name of the equality and freedom. As a result, they were arrested and local judge James Hare implemented an injunction forbidding gatherings of three or more people organizing under the banner of civil rights. Even if three or more people were just talking about civil rights, this was considered a violation.

Martin Luther King Jr. was then contacted and brought in to form the Selma Voting Rights Movement in January 1965, which began protests in support of voting rights in various cities outside of Selma. As the organization grew, they began to attempt marches to appeal to higher authority in Montgomery, Alabama. After two previous attempts, the participants arrived at the state capitol forty-nine years ago today—a major win in the battle for civil rights.

Be sure to check out In Peace and Freedom: My Journey in Selma by Bernard LaFayette Jr. and Kathryn Lee Johnson. Lafayette was one of the primary organizers of the Selma Voting Rights movement and participated in these historic marches. This electrifying memoir depicts the inspiring story of his time in Selma and presents an intriguing perspective on the civil rights movement from one of its greatest leaders.

Q&A with Amy Clark

With all of the excitement about the upcoming Appalachian Studies Association conference, we decided to get in touch with UPK author Amy Clark. Check out our question and answer session to learn about the University of Virginia professor:

UPK:       What first prompted you to think about and study Appalachian Englishes?

AC:           I grew up in the coalfields of southwest Virginia, and my first education in vernacular dialects had to be my upbringing. Voice was at the center of everything, like how my family told stories, the cadence of a preacher’s sermon, and music…always music. My dad sang in a quartet on weekends so I grew up traveling and listening to old-style mountain music, which is full of vernacular grammar, accent, and words.


UPK:       Who are some of your role models in the Appalachian community?

AC:           I grew up with three living generations of family, so I have to say they were my first role models because they were my first teachers, historians, sociologists…you name it. Everyone who came after simply added on to that foundation they gave me. I know everyone says this but it’s true of me, as well: I discovered Appalachian literature when I was introduced to Lee Smith’s and Denise Giardina’s books. And seeing my own voice on the printed page was a revelation, because it meant there was artistic integrity in the way we speak. I continue to be inspired by other writers like those I’ve gotten to know through the Appalachian Writer’s Workshop at Hindman. Helen Lewis has inspired me because of her service and activism. And so many scholars who have done good work…too many to name.


UPK:       Have you ever been a victim of linguistic bigotry?

AC:           I’ve experienced regional bigotry, which likely had a great deal to do with my accent because that’s the first indicator of where I’m from. It surprises me that denigrating Appalachia is still not taboo, and it surprises me when the bigotry comes from highly-educated or high-ranking people.


UPK:       What are your responsibilities as the founding director of the Appalachian Writing Project?

AC:           My primary responsibility is growing a network of teachers who are good role models for their colleagues in progressive ways to teach writing in all disciplines, at all levels. I write grants to support my leadership team of teachers, who train a new batch of teachers every summer to develop workshops that we offer in public schools. We also have Young Writer’s Camps and Writing Retreats. As co-founder/Director of our new Center for Appalachian Studies, I’m including the AWP as part of the CAS outreach, and there will be more opportunities for teachers to integrate Appalachian studies into their curriculums.


UPK:       What have you learned from working with the Appalachian Writing Project?

AC:           I was a public school teacher at the beginning of my career, so I know how hard it can be. There are so many excellent, hard-working teachers in our system who-if given the resources, support, and time-are willing to go beyond the call of duty in the classroom and share their good practices with colleagues. So many of them are good writers, too, but like their students, they have trouble acknowledging it. We spend time in our writing institutes working on that insecurity. Several of our teachers, like Rebecca Elswick, author of Mama’s Shoes, have gone on to publish their work.


UPK:       What do you most look forward to at the 2014 Appalachian Studies Conference at Marshall University?

AC:           I’m doing a workshop on Friday about teaching writing to vernacular speakers, which is based on my chapter in the book, so I’m excited to have that opportunity (see my answer to 7 for more about that.) I’m looking forward to catching up with people I haven’t seen in a while, and hearing about the new work that’s being done.


UPK:       What advice would you give a teacher from outside of the Appalachian region who might be teaching in Appalachia for the first time?

AC:           Come with your cup empty and learn as much as you can about our histories. And because most teachers aren’t well-versed in sociolinguistics, I would urge them to learn more about the dialects-where they come from, why people speak them, and how best to teach bi-dialectal speakers. Contrary to institutionalized ideas about a “right” and “wrong” English, we speak on a continuum of Englishes. So I would advise them not to simply dismiss what is nonstandard as wrong or incorrect, but instead, appreciate the historical significance of it and then teach students how to sensitively shift into a standard spoken and written version when they need it, but understand that they don’t have to deny their “first” voices.


UPK:       What was it like to have your co-edited book, Talking Appalachian: Voice, Identity, and Community, be used as a dialect resource for actors during the filming of Big Stone Gap?

AC:           It was thrilling. Adriana Trigiani called me when she saw a piece I had written about Appalachian dialects and she said she wanted to use the book. She also asked me to do a phonetic rendering of the script so actors would know how to pronounce some of the words, so we met and talked about that once the movie was underway. I was able to watch Patrick Wilson and Ashley Judd (who Tweeted about the book) as they filmed a scene, and our dog, Sadie, ended up in the scene with them.


UPK:       What other successes has Talking Appalachian seen in the past year? Has it been used as a resource in other areas?

AC:           It is being taught in several university classrooms, such as University of Kentucky and UVa.’s College at Wise, and it was recently nominated for the Library of Virginia Literary Award in Nonfiction. I’ve received some wonderful feedback from readers, especially after a recent piece I published in the New York Times about writing in a vernacular voice. I’m also happy to report that it will be released in paperback this fall.


UPK:       Did you have any favorite Appalachian traditions or pastimes growing up in Virginia?

AC:           My family made and sold molasses on my great-grandmother’s farm, and I have good memories of participating every fall. They harvested the cane, which was crushed in horse-drawn mill. We boiled it in pans flanked by benches that someone had taken out of old school buses. The kids used hole-punched pie pans nailed to broomstick handles to skim the batch as it cooked. Then, the pan would be hoisted on chains so the molasses could be poured into mason jars. My family took orders and sold out before a batch was even finished. I can still remember the smell of smoke in my hair every night, and the older folks sitting on the bus benches near the evaporating pan, smoking and listening to the high school football game on the radio. I’m quilting now with my mother and grandmother, and my four-year old daughter watches and pretends to help. I’m eager to start new traditions with my own children that they will carry forward.

To delve deeper into the life of Appalachia and Amy Clark, check out her book Talking Appalachia!

Reminder: Bernard LaFayette Jr. to Speak at the University of Kentucky

Bernard Lafayette Jr. at the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma, standing in front of two photographs from 1963: one a mug shot from his arrest, the other from when he was attacked in Selma.

Don’t forget! Bernard LaFayette Jr., civil rights leader and author of In Peace and Freedom: My Journey in Selma, will be speaking at the University of Kentucky tomorrow, March 25, at 7 pm. Don’t miss this exciting opportunity to hear from the man who worked with Martin Luther King Jr. and headed the Alabama Voter Registration Project in Selma, Alabama.  Take a look at this excerpt from the chapter “Central Alabama Heats Up”:

One night I was driving back from Wilcox County alone, and three vehicles were blocking the road ahead. It looked like trouble, so I had to decide whether to turn around and go back to safety, swerve off the side of the road around them, or just pull up to them and stop. I decided that if it was my time to go, then I’d just take my chances…An old man aimed a double-barrel shotgun straight at my head, his hands shaking.  He looked at me and said, “Hey, are you the one who can’t say ‘yes sir’ and ‘no sir’?”

I told him, “I don’t have a problem with those words. I can say them just fine.” I turned and stared straight into the muzzle of his shotgun and said, “Yes sir, no sir, yes sir, no sir.”

Join us tomorrow evening at the Martin Luther King Center in the Student Center of the University of Kentucky to hear more from this inspiring man.

And remember, you still have a chance to win a copy of LaFayette’s book by commenting on this post or on our Facebook page! The winner will be announced tomorrow at 1pm.