Tag Archives: Frank X Walker

Kentucky Novelist, UK Professor Enjoys Sweet Peach of a Summer

“Another sweaty summer presents itself like a gift. Sun is a peach outside the window, grass all calmed down.”

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University Press of Kentucky author Crystal Wilkinson has had a summer of gold. From her novel, The Birds of Opulencebeing named the winner of the 2016 Appalachian Writers Association‘s Appalachian Book of the Year for Fiction to Wilkinson herself being appointed as the 2018 Clinton and Mary Opal Moore Appalachian Writer-in-Residence at Murray State University, Wilkinson has spent the hot summer months earning both professional and personal honors.

Birds follows four generations of women in a bucolic southern black township as they live with—and sometimes surrender to—madness. The book hones in on the hopeful and sometimes tragic navigation of life as seen through the eyes of the Goode-Brown family. This marks the fourth award The Birds of Opulence has won, including the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, the Weatherford Award for Fiction, and the Judy Gaines Young Book Award. Wilkinson’s novel was also named the debut selection of the Open Canon Book Club, which was created by New York Times bestselling author Wiley Cash to introduce readers to varied voices and portrayals of the American experience.

Birds is not the only one of Wilkinson’s books that has gotten attention this summer. Her second short story collection, Water Street, has been selected as the One Book Read at West Kentucky Community and Technical College. The program is a community-wide effort to help eliminate illiteracy in the region, with faculty and staff at WKCTC collaborating with many local and college partners to promote reading.

WATER STREET

Wilkinson’s work has earned her personal honors as well. The Appalachian Heritage Writer-in-Residence Committee and the West Virginia Center for the Book selected her for the Appalachian Heritage Writer’s Award. Previous recipients include Henry Louis Gates, Charles Frazier, Frank X Walker, Denise Giardina, and Silas House. In conjunction with the award, she will be the One Book, One West Virginia Author for 2019, and Water Street will be read by students across the state.

In addition, Wilkinson has gained speaker representation from Authors Unbound, which will broker her events in the form of literary engagements, one book programs, distinguished lectures, keynote appearances, community visits, and a variety of signature events.

Pictured at the top is Wilkinson sitting on a book bench designed by Bowling Green artist Lora Gill. Book Benches: A Tribute to Kentucky Authors is a public art project that features book-shaped benches, each themed around a different work by a Kentucky author, that have been placed around Lexington as a way to encourage reading. Wilkinson’s bench will be installed along South Limestone Street in front of the University Press of Kentucky office in November.

To top it off, Wilkinson accepted a new position as Associate Professor of English in the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program at the University of Kentucky. Further information on Crystal Wilkinson, her books, and her upcoming events can be found on her new author website: https://www.crystalewilkinson.net/.

From all of us at Kentucky Press, congratulations on a wonderful summer, Crystal!

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Poetry Month in Kentucky

April marks the celebration of National Poetry Month, and in Kentucky, the poetic tradition runs strong. In recognition, we’re featuring some of our favorite collections from Kentucky Poet Laureates past and present.


From the Mountain, From the Valley: New and Collected Poems 9780813121994

James Still first achieved national recognition in the 1930s as a poet. Although he is better known today as a writer of fiction, it is his poetry that many of his essential images, such as the “mighty river of earth,” first found expression. Yet much of his poetry remains out of print or difficult to find.

From the Mountain, From the Valley collects all of Still’s poems, including several never before published, and corrects editorial mistakes that crept into previous collections. The poems are presented in chronological order, allowing the reader to trace the evolution of Still’s voice. Throughout, his language is fresh and vigorous and his insight profound. His respect for people and place never sounds sentimental or dated.

Ted Olson’s introduction recounts Still’s early literary career and explores the poetic origins of his acclaimed lyrical prose. Still himself has contributed the illuminating autobiographical essay “A Man Singing to Himself,” which will appeal to every lover of the work of Kentucky’s first Poet Laureate.


The Total Light Process: New and Selected Poems

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Nationally acclaimed poet, photographer, filmmaker, and novelist James Baker Hall (Kentucky Poet Laureate, 2001-2002) has long been regarded as one of Kentucky’s most profound artists. Hall’s growing body of work is an essential part of Kentucky’s literary tradition, and yet his poetry in particular transcends the borders of the Commonwealth.

The Total Light Process collects poems spanning Hall’s celebrated career as well as new poems that have never before been published. The subjects of Hall’s poems range from humorous and revealing portraits of his fellow writers and friends Wendell Berry, Ed McClanahan, and Gurney Norman, to the traumatic experience of his mother’s suicide when he was eight years old, to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the tragic murder of Matthew Shepherd.


The Land We Dreamed: Poems 9780813144580

Weaving together universal themes of family, geography, and death with images of America’s frontier landscape, former Kentucky Poet Laureate (2003-2004) Joe Survant has been lauded for his ability to capture the spirit of the land and its people. Kliatt magazine has praised his work, stating, “Survant’s words sing. . . . This is storytelling at its best.”

Exploring the pre-Columbian and frontier history of the commonwealth, The Land We Dreamed is the final installment in the poet’s trilogy on rural Kentucky. The poems in the book feature several well-known figures and their stories, reimagining Dr. Thomas Walker’s naming of the Cumberland Plateau, Mary Draper Ingles’s treacherous journey from Big Bone Lick to western Virginia following her abduction by Native Americans, and Daniel Boone’s ruminations on the fall season of 1770. Survant also explores the Bluegrass from the perspectives of the chiefs of the Shawnee and Seneca tribes.

Drawing on primary documents such as the seventeenth-century reports of French Jesuit missionaries, excerpts from the Draper manuscripts, and the journals of pioneers George Croghan and Christopher Gist, this collection surveys a broad and under-recorded history. Poem by poem, Survant takes readers on an imaginative expedition—through unspoiled Shawnee cornfields, down the wild Ohio River, and into the depths of the region’s ancient coal seams.


The New and Collected Poems of Jane Gentry

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A consummate poet, Jane Gentry (1941–2014) possessed an uncanny ability to spin quietly expansive and wise verses from small details, objects, and remembered moments. Her poetry is deeply rooted in place, exuding a strong connection to the life and land of her native Kentucky. Gentry was also a beloved and influential teacher, as well as serving as Kentucky Poet Laureate from 2007-2008. She served as a mentor to generations of young writers and worked tirelessly to promote new voices.

Gentry and her daughters collaborated with editor Julia Johnson to organize this definitive collection. The result is an important assembly of Gentry’s most celebrated poems alongside new, previously unpublished works. Johnson uses Gentry’s own methodology to organize the book, showcasing the range of the poet’s work an
d the flexibility of her style—sometimes ironic and humorous; sometimes poignant; but always clear, intelligent, and revelatory.

This volume includes two previously published full-length collections of poetry in their entirety—A Garden in Kentucky and Portrait of the Artist as a White Pig. The final section includes Gentry’s unpublished work, from verses written for loved ones to a large group of recent poems that may have been intended for future collections. Alternately startling and heart-wrenching, The New and Collected Poetry of Jane Gentry offers a valuable retrospective of the celebrated poet’s work.


Winter Come: The Ascension of York Walkerjktcomprev3.indd

In the sequel to his award-winning Buffalo Dance, Frank X Walker (Kentucky Poet Laureate, 2013-2015) reimagines Lewis and Clark’s legendary exploration of the American West. Grounded in the history of the famous trip, Walker’s vibrant account allows York—little more than a forgotten footnote in traditional narratives—to embody the full range of human ability, knowledge, emotion, and experience. Knowledge of the seasons unfolds to York “like a book,” and he “can read moss, sunsets, the moon, and a mare’s foaling time with a touch.” During the journey, York forges a spiritual connection and shares sensual delights with a Nez Perce woman, and Walker’s poems capture the profound feelings of love and loss on each side of this ill-fated meeting of souls. As the perspectives of Lewis, Clark, Sacagawea, and others in the party emerge, Walker also gives voice to York’s knife, his hunting shirt, and the river waters that have borne thousands of travelers before and after the Lewis and Clark expedition. The alternately heartbreaking and uplifting poems in When Winter Come are told from multiple perspectives and rendered in vivid detail. When Winter Come exalts the historical persona of a slave and lifts the soul of a man; York ascends out of his chains, out of oblivion, and into flight.


LyonManyFinal2.inddMany-Storied House: Poems

“The speaker in George Ella Lyon’s smoldering poem, “What Won’t Burn” – in her smoldering new book of poems, Many-Storied House – declares: “I didn’t know / they outlasted / conflagration / like the diary’s / charred metal lock.” Indeed this book, rooted as it is in the reliquary of memory, and the power of words to raise the dead, and absolve the living, is determined to outlast fire. This volume is itself storied, assembled with an architect’s acumen; yet the true craft is commemoration, and the tool is the poet’s heart. Each room, each curio, each haunted nail and joist is catalogued, named, and invested with chiseled language. This house is Lyon’s muse. Within it, she commingles ethnography, archeology and catechism. Many-Storied House is a heartbreaking, yet triumphant, inventory of acquisition, loss, the sacramental offices of love, the vanished beloved, and their shades that forever walk the rooms of recollection.” –Joseph Bathanti, North Carolina Poet Laureate

The Poetry of Frank X Walker

Frank X Walker, noted professor and Affrilachian poet, is now Kentucky’s poet laureate. To continue our celebration of National Poetry Month, let’s take a look at some of his poetry published by the University Press of Kentucky. Buffalo DanceWhen Winter Come

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buffalo Dance and its sequel When Winter Come both tell the since unheard story of York, who was the slave to Clark on the famous Lewis & Clark expedition. In telling York’s story, Frank X Walker gives a voice to an important figure who would have otherwise gone unnoticed throughout history. Through the poems, we given insights into nature, race, slavery, freedom, and more. Below is an excerpt from Buffalo Dance:

Wind Talker

“I proceeded on the sandy coast and marked my name on a small pine, the day of the month and year…” –William Clark, November 19, 1905

If I could make my words dress
they naked selves in blackberry juice
and lay down on a piece a bark, sheep
or onion skin, the way Massa do.
If I could send a story home to my wife
float it in the wind, on wings or water
I’d tell her about Katonka, the buffalo
and all the big wide and high places
this side a the big river.
How his family, numbering three for every
star in the sky, look like a forest when they
graze together, turn into the muddy Mississippi
when they thunder along, faster than any horse,
making the grass lay down
long after the quiet has returned.
How they lead us through the mountain snow
single file, in drifts up to our necks.
How they don’t so much as raise a tail
when I come round with my wooly head
and tobacco skin, like I’m one a them
making the Sioux and Crow think me
“Big Medicine, Katonka who walk like man.”

Today we stood on the edge of all this
and looked out at so much water, the mountains we crossed
to get here seem a little smaller.

As I watched black fish as big as cabins take to the air
and splash back in the water like children playing
I thought about you, us and if we gone ever be free,
then I close my eyes and pray
that I don’t live long enough to see
Massa make this ugly too.

Happy National Poetry Month

Tomorrow marks the beginning of National Poetry Month! Check out some of the University Press of Kentucky’s favorite poetry titles:

Each book provides insight into Kentucky’s rich history, be it recent or distant, personal or on a grander scale. Frank X Walker, author of Buffalo Dance and When Winter Come, is also currently Kentucky’s Poet Laureate!

Visit our website for these and more poetry titles, and keep your eyes out for more poetry-related posts in the coming week!