Acclaimed poet George Ella Lyon returns with a brilliant new collection that traces the course of a woman's life from girlhood to mature female wisdom. From the introductory poem, "Little Girl Who Knows Too Much," readers embark on a journey from youth, with its darker moments and denials of voice and story, to a place of strength and power with the poems themselves as a guide.
The collection follows the narrator as she reconnects with her body and recovers memories of violence from early childhood as well as the wilderness of adolescence and of young wife- and motherhood. Gradually, a wider vision appears to her, and she turns to the Great Mother in all her manifestations -- writers, teachers, singers, Earth Herself--to reach new regions of self-knowledge and inner strength. In so doing, the narrator reaches beyond her personal experience and begins a healing process that situates her story within the larger human story.
Alternately witty, charming, tender, thought-provoking, and bracing, Back to the Light expresses a vision of breathtaking breadth and depth. Following the arc of a woman's life, the collection traces the cycles of growth and change the narrator experiences in becoming more herself and finding the spirit to persevere while lyrically demonstrating the power of poetry to help and heal.
"This work is as strong and fine as anything I have read, and I would hope to write such poems myself. Back to the Light will be welcomed by many kinds of readers. It is visionary, highly accessible, and highly teachable." -- Diane Gilliam, author of Kettle Bottom
" Back to the Light is a girl's song, is a big loud woman's song, is a country girl who has seen the blood of many things high note, is a woman who foolishly buys shoes she can't run in elegy, is a growling great mother's dirt road aria, is a terrified 5 year old's courageous chant to the world. George Ella reminds us, in elegant George Ella style, how the country located just below the nose and just above the chin of a woman's face is a sparkling cave of galaxies." -- Nikky Finney
"For nearly four decades, George Ella Lyon's poetry has shown us the healing power of writing about place. Hers is a music where the self and community meet, and she has empowered countless others to sing their songs of their places. I know I am one of the countless, having found my way thanks to George Ella's humble, radical, enduring life's work. For me, she walks in the lineage of other luminaries like Joy Harjo, Alicia Ostriker, and Sonia Sanchez, those women writers who refuse to leave others behind, and though I can't imagine being without any of George Ella's books, if I could own only one, it would be this one. In Back to the Light, George Ella Lyon turns her courage inward, sharing the hard fact that she is not only from "clothespins" and "Clorox" but also abuse and shame. As the book moves through the years, each poem lifts the poet's inner-child out of trauma, holding her close, tenderly giving the fierce love that child always needed to sing her own freedom song. Back to the Light is a pivotal new piece to George Ella's oeuvre, a road map to that place all too often abandoned ourselves. I wish I could buy this book for every woman I know." -- Rebecca Gayle Howell