Shadelandhouse Modern Press



LEXINGTON, Ky., April 15, 2022—Shadelandhouse Modern Press is honored to announce the celebration and publication of The Tillable Land, the debut poetry book by Winchester, Kentucky, poet Melva Sue Priddy, with a foreword by Rebecca Gayle Howell, on April 21, 2022.

The Tillable Land book launch will be held at the Carnegie Center for Living and Learning, 251 West Second Street, Lexington, Kentucky, on April 21, 2022, from 5:15—7:00 p.m, with special guests George Ella Lyon and Pauletta Hansel. Poetry readings and discussion featuring Priddy, Lyon, and Hansel will begin at 5:15, followed by a book signing at 6:30 p.m. Books will be available for purchase on site. The event is free and open to the public. Masks are required for the event.

In The Tillable Land, Melva Sue Priddy’s poetry tells the story of a girlhood made of both land and family in midcentury Kentucky. There is a growing up and a coming of age in these poems. Part memoir in verse, part praise song, The Tillable Land—through the story of one woman’s hard-won Kentucky life and the physical and emotional work of growing up close to the land in a man’s world—reminds us that it is possible to be both a farmer and a woman and that healing can be found in both the earth and the power of Mother Nature within us.

“Priddy makes brilliant use of the repetitive, braiding form of the villanelle to convey the relentless cycles of farm work. But somehow, amid this punishing labor, ‘another god spoke with [her] . . . and words warm songed through [her] veins’. She never let go of that singing, and now she offers it to us,” according to George Ella Lyon, Kentucky Poet Laureate, 2015-2016, inductee into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame. Lyon’s most recent poetry collection is Back to the Light.

Rebecca Gayle Howell writes in her foreword to the book, “The Tillable Land is a heart-racing, heart breaking lyric, a liberating coming of age for our stunted relationship to all that feeds us. I am changed by this book.”

“It takes a village of brave women to help other women be brave. I am grateful for my village, which also includes brave men,” says Melva Sue Priddy. “The Tillable Land has been in my body and blood most of my life. I am so happy to see my poetry in print, to share it with others.”

“It has been an honor and a delightful adventure to work with Melva Sue Priddy on her debut poetry collection, The Tillable Land,” notes Virginia H. Underwood, publisher, Shadelandhouse Modern Press. “I am grateful to Rebecca Gayle Howell for having introduced me to Melva and her poetry.”

“This hard-won book of poetry portrays a family determined to beat a living out of the land-without realizing they belong to it. There is little comfort and there are very few moments even of calm in this hardscrabble farm life, a blunt reality these poems note, yet the speaker of these words so clearly longed for affection. What got left out? What in the speaker’s recollection of her childhood was misguided or poorly handled? In The Tillable Land, the poet’s answer is heavily shaded with ambiguity. Growing up and coming of age in these poems requires a tug in two directions at once—the desire to flee and the desire to hold on have held equal sway. It is a powerful double bond and makes the poet’s response all the more poignant,” writes Maurice Manning in his advance praise of the book.

Cover art: Julien Dupré, “In the Pasteur (The Milk Maid) (detail) 1883, oil on canvas Collection of the University of Kentucky Art Museum; gift of Mr. and Mrs. Henry H. Knight, 1958; transferred from the Carahan Conference Center

The Tillable Land is available for order from Shadelandhouse Modern Press and where fine books are sold.


Poetry | Women, Antipastoral
ISBN: 978-1-945049-22-4
Paperback: 128 pages, $17.00
Publication date: April 19, 2022
Publisher: Shadelandhouse Modern Press


Virginia H. Underwood
Shadelandhouse Modern Press
Lexington, Kentucky
[email protected]


Melva Sue PriddyMelva Sue Priddy, an American poet, grew up working on her family’s dairy and tobacco farm in Hardin County, Kentucky. She received a BA from Berea College, an MEd from the University of Kentucky, and an MFA from Spalding University. Priddy taught English Language Arts and Creative Writing for twenty years. Her poems have been published in Appalachian Review, Lexington Poetry Month, Motes, and Still: The Journal, among other print and online publications. She lives in Winchester, Kentucky, with her husband, and together they own a small farm in White Mills, Kentucky. The Tillable Land is her debut book.

George Ella Lyon, a native of Harlan County, Kentucky, writes in many genres for readers of all ages. Among her books are With a Hammer for My Heart, a novel; Don’t You Remember? a memoir; Many-Storied House: Poems, and Voices of Justice: Poems About People Working for a Better World. Recent picture books include Trains Run! written with her son Benn, and What Forest Knows. Her eighth poetry collection, Back to the Light, came out in 2021 from the University Press of Kentucky and was a runner-up for the Weatherford Award.

Lyon’s books have been chosen for the Appalachian Book of the Year award, the Aesop Prize, American Library Association’s Schneider Family Book Award, the Jane Addams Honor Book, the Golden Kite Award, the New York Public Library’s Best Book for Teens list and the Parents’ Choice Silver Medal. She is an Al Smith Fellowship recipient and a recent inductee into the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame.

Pauletta Hansel’s newest poetry collection is Heartbreak Tree, an exploration of the intersection of gender and place in Appalachia. Her writing has been featured in Oxford AmericanRattleAmerican Life in Poetry, and Poetry Daily, among others. Hansel was Cincinnati’s first Poet Laureate and is 2022 Writer-in-Residence for The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.


Shadelandhouse Modern Press, LLC is a Lexington, Kentucky–based, women-owned and family-operated independent book publishing company committed to the advancement of established and emerging writers, excellence in publishing, and the production of high-quality, entertaining, and artistic books. We believe that adults and children should have access to authentic and relevant stories that reflect diverse backgrounds, interests, and cultures. We publish authentic and compelling books for adults and young readers, including nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. The press debuted with two award-winning legal nonfiction (history and true crime) books and has since published award-winning fiction, poetry, and children’s books. Shadelandhouse Modern Press is a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association and an associate member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Poetry Society of America. Virginia H. Underwood, founder and publisher, is a graduate of Berea College and the University of Kentucky J. David Rosenberg College of Law. For more information, visit and follow us on Facebook,  Instagram, and Twitter.