In an event held on September 23, Frank X Walker and his fellow Affrilachian writers stunned a standing room only audience at the Byrd Legislative Center with recitations from the newest anthology of Appalachian writers.
For the uninitiated, the Affrilachian writer’s movement is a creative platform centered around multi-cultural poets who live and write in the greater Appalachian region. According to the Affrilachian poets on their website, they are “a spectrum of people who consider Appalachia home and/or identify strongly with the trials and triumphs of being of this region.”
Walker, who began the event, read from a yet unnamed piece of Appalachian fiction that he is in the process of writing. Before Walker began reading, he remarked that he would read something new, as all of the members of the audience were familiar with his already-published works. Walker’s reading was delivered with characteristic poise and charisma, successfully transporting the enthralled audience into rural Kentucky.
The next reader, Randall Horton, read “Etude #4, Thoughts on the Races” aloud with an impassioned rhythm that made the piece of prose feel like poetry, even though it was traditionally structured. His description of the conflict between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman as well as his subsequent declaration that the aforementioned conflict was one of race fighting race resonated strongly, especially when juxtaposed against recent events in Ferguson, Missouri.
Shauna Morgan Kirlew followed Horton with a series of poems presenting a contrast between her old home of the Caribbean and her new home of Appalachia. Kirlew’s imagery, evocative of taste, color, and nature, flowed meaningfully into the Appalachian setting, delivering a sensory package to the audience designed to incite memory and nostalgia.
Omope Cater Daboiku followed Kirlew with a recitation of her short story titled “The Power of Water Baptism” that provided a comically accurate portrayal of life in small, religious Appalachian towns. Daboiku had an absolute command of the audience, wielding her words like scythes through greenery as she told her story of familial love to the enthralled audience.
The final performer of the group, Tracy Seffers, is a Shepherd University employee who read “Lessons in Ballad-Singing,” a poem that serves as both an instructional guide to singing a ballad as well as a performative ballad itself. Her singing voice, raw and unfiltered through the lens of production that we are all used to, created an emotional resonance in the room that left more than a few audience members in tears.
In summation, the Affrilachian event that Shepherd held on September 23 was an enriching experience that served as an excellent example of Appalachian culture. If the event sounds of interest to you and you missed it, purchase or peruse a copy of The Anthology of Appalachian Writers to see the words of the aforementioned writers in print.