Frank X Walker, Poet Laureate of Kentucky, visited EMU this past week, sharing his poetry with the campus community as part of the Writers Read series. Last Thursday at 8:30 p.m. in Lehman Auditorium, Walker read pieces from a number of his collections of poetry such as “When Winter Come: The Ascension of York” and “Turn me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers.”
Students and faculty of EMU also got an opportunity to engage with Walker Friday morning at nine in Common Grounds, through direct conversation about his writing and work.
While many of those who attended the first event were first-year students assigned to do so by their college writing professors, there were faculty, upperclassmen, and even off-campus visitors such as students from JMU who came to hear Walker read.
Walker shared poetry written from the points of view of a variety of his characters, including William Clark’s personal slave, York, York’s wife, and even York’s dagger and hatchet. First-year Jonathan Patterson was impressed by Walker’s ability to imagine the minds of many different characters. When asked about Walker’s persona poems, or poems about his characters, Patterson said, “I felt his persona poems were really cool because he wrote from a lot of different viewpoints [and] because not only did he speak from the viewpoints of slaves, but those that the slaves were unknowingly looking down on.”
Walker is known as an Affrilachian poet, as he is an African American poet who originates from the Appalachian Mountains. He grew up as one of 11 children, and was raised by his mother, Faith, whose name he likes to slip into his poetry when he can. When Walker went to college for the first time he majored in engineering at the request of his mother, and then flunked out of school. After an unsuccessful attempt at working in a factory, Walker went back to college to get a degree in journalism. Now, Walker is not only Kentucky’s Poet Laureate, but the editor of “Pluck!,” a journal of Affrilachian art and culture, and is a professor at the University of Kentucky. There, he teaches a number of classes including a creative writing course, a comic and graphic novel class, and a course on Affrilachian literature.
The next Writers Read will be on Nov. 14 at 6:30 p.m. in Common Grounds. The reader for this event will be Jessica Penner, author of the novel “Shaken in the Water.” While there is no set price for attendees to this next reading, donations will be accepted.
-Bethannie Parks, Style Editor ; photo credit, Michelle Mitchell