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Frank X Walker Poetry Workshop

On Saturday, March 1st, Kentucky’s current Poet Laureate, Frank X Walker, came to the Warren County Public Library to host a poetry workshop. This was a huge opportunity for English majors and English lovers alike. I took my seat among the others from various ages, places, and backgrounds in a room decorated in paper mache to listen to one of Kentucky’s most brilliant poetic voices.

Frank X Walker is a native Kentuckian from Danville and is an associate professor at the University of Kentucky. He has lectured, conducted Frank Walkerworkshops, read poetry and exhibited at over 300 national conferences and universities. Walker is a co-founder of the Affrilachain Poets, and he is the author of six books of poetry including Affrilachia, Buffalo Dance: the Journey of York, Black Box: Poems, America! What’s My Name? The “Other” Poets Unfurl the Flag (Frank X Walker, ed.), When Winter Come: the Ascension of York, and Isaac Murphy: I Dedicate This Ride. More information on Walker’s history and artist statement can be found here.

Walker spent the first half of the workshop talking about his experiences. When asked why he started writing poetry, he said he had several reasons. The “cute” reason was “because of a girl in eighth grade.” However, his success as a poet came from a lot more than that. He is a self-claimed “failed fiction writer,” but Walker continually strives to become a better writer every day. His persona poetry comes from stepping “into a space that is accurate enough” to represent a kind of truth. His writing most often represents social justice, identity, place, and family.

We also touched on the rich literary culture in Kentucky…the culture that the rest of the world seems to either not know about or ignore. Kentucky produced the first US Poet Laureate (Robert Penn Warren) and has the largest amount of Governor’s Scholars in the country. Walker described Kentucky as a “treasure.” “That’s how I feel about this place,” he said. “Some people expect me to be embarrassed because I’m from Kentucky.” However, he believes that opinions about Kentucky are driven by mass media and the power of deliverance.

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Frank X Walker reading one of his poems after we insisted.

As the workshop continued, I started to get a sense of responsibility as a writer from what we talked about. “Your job is to write towards authenticity,” said Walker. Not only that, but we must carry out an oral tradition with our poetry; poetry is not complete until it is read out loud. It must succeed orally and it must fulfill its purpose. In addition to this, poetry needs to be economical — “you want the power of a symphony or three hour movie, but something small and portable.”

He briefly mentioned audience, saying “There are people who I don’t write for.” This idea is important for English majors. I think many of us get caught up in writing for academia, for the grade, that we lose the integrity of our work. Instead of focusing on who our audience is, maybe we should focus on who our audience isn’t and see what happens.

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The class editing their newly-written poems.

During the second half of the workshop, each of us composed four to five rough pieces of poetry under his guidelines. Each piece had a specific theme such as a found poem or a color study. Reading and listening to each other’s poetry was a fantastic experience that inspired many of us, including Walker who praised the talent in the room. Those who weren’t there missed out on one of the best workshops I’ve ever been to.

Thank you to the Warren County Public Library for hosting the event and to Frank X Walker for coming to Bowling Green (also thanks to him and those who attended for allowing me to take pictures)! Show your support for our Poet Laureate by checking out his work!Frank Walker 6

One Response to “Frank X Walker Poetry Workshop”

  1. Makes me wish I had been there, too. I usually go to hear him every chance I get. Great stuff about the Buffalo Soldiers. Kinda wish he would do some short plays. Perhaps he has? Great catch here, Tiffany. Thanks.

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