I am a poetry therapist, single mother, homesteader, and writer living in a beloved old farmhouse in southern Appalachia. Our family has worked in community organizing and with international non-profits for over two decades, most recently with the Dream Catchers project in Lagos, Nigeria, teaching poetry to children coming off of the streets and helping Seyi Oluyole, founder of the first Free School of the Arts for Girls in Nigeria. I am also an herb grower and forager who descended from a long line of German Appalachian folk healers, hillpeople, farmers, wise women, artists, musicians, dreamers, and mystics. As a child, I was prone to daydream and wander, and my mother would send me out into the fields and woods to collect wild bouquets. That grew into Appalachian Sacred Smoke , herb bundles we grow and wild harvest, while also supporting other makers in the tradition of folk medicine and handmade ritual craft from the southern Appalachian mountains, inspired by lifelong involvement with the John C. Campbell Folk School, and years working in regional economics and fair trade advocacy with women's craft cooperatives in India.
Poetry helps me track my days by a map of aliveness. It breaks open the shell of each day, and allows me to find the soul of the thing pulsing inside. Poetry is how I put myself in the way of beauty, allowing myself to belong to the landscape, which came before and will remain long after I am gone. Because I think it wrecks us in all the right ways when we allow ourselves to stand at the shores of immensity and wildness.
I am fiercely devoted to all things tender and astounding - a woman for whom writing and art are inextricable from love. I teach poetry to veterans of war through the Asheville and NC Arts Councils and have a non-traditional undergraduate degree in Poetry and Community Health. I've trained with and written for The Institute for Poetic Medicine, was awarded recognition as a 2016 Resilient Woman Leader of the Year by Asheville Resilient Women's foundation, and have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize in Poetry. My writing has been published by Zymbol magazine, Americans for the Arts, Asheville Arts in Medicine, Chapel Hill Press, The Porch Magazine, and was selected as a runner up for the Orison Prize in Poetry.
I offer a Farmhouse Poetry Circle at our homestead, and facilitate poetry sessions in the community and online for veterans, mental health professionals, women and mothers, persons experiencing homelessness or addiction, public school teachers, religious leaders, and just ordinary folks looking for a way to express something they feel inside.
"There is no better companion on a porch at sunset. Mary Ellen doesn’t recount her life in dull, verbal home movies—which would be a shame given what an extraordinary life it has been so far, having lived in India, England, and countless other places; having moved through her days as a single mother of five. Instead, she speaks of these journeys and her experiences so vividly she takes you traveling with her across both continents and time. Mary Ellen will recite whole poems from memory, or call up the perfect quote to deepen the wisdom of what she’s sharing.
The result of this wisdom is evident throughout her life. Mary Ellen is not just someone who likes poetry, she’s someone who believes deeply in poetry’s transformative power, or as she wrote in the liner notes for an album of Veterans reading their work, the “sacred imagination which has the power to heal us . . ."
-Jessica Jacobs, author, In Whatever Light Left to Us & Pelvis with Distance
Work with me...
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on teaching, workshops, and speaking engagements