Frank X Walker celebrates voices of past and present

February 14, 2014

By Margaret Cipriano ‘15

As soon as Frank X Walker opened his book and began reading, the audience of more than 200 students, community members and faculty in Neumiller Hall leaned in.

Walker is no stranger to this kind of attention. Since coining the term “Affrilachia” to speak to the presence of the African American community in the Appalachia region, Walker’s devotion to his art and his message have continued to receive national attention. An author of five volumes of poetry, Poet Laureate of Kentucky, and an associate professor at the University of Kentucky, Walker’s words have consistently surprised and enlightened his readership.

At the reading on Tuesday night, the Bradley University community got to witness first-hand Walker’s careful illumination of marginalized voices. The poems he read called attention to the assassination of civil-rights activist, Medgar Evers, the African slave York who accompanied Lewis and Clark on their expedition, and Isaac Murphy, an African American jockey who had won the Kentucky Derby three times.

In addition to his cultural and historical awareness, Walker admitted he is a family man, regaling the audience with stories and poems of his son and his youth. Though the poems were certainly not always happy, Walker’s role as a self-proclaimed “artist-activist” was apparent in each work.

At the end of the reading, during a question and answer session, Walker asserted that although the past is influential in his work, he finds that his students are most inspiring.

“It feels good as a teacher to see my students maturing and being able to see how seriously they take their craft,” said Walker. “I am a teacher who happens to write poetry.”