AHWIR Event: The Writing Life with Frank X Walker

Frank X Walker held a discussion of his works and his experience as a writer to a full house this past Wednesday. Besides going into detail about the contents of his published works, he also spoke about how he became a writer and his own life experiences that have inspired his writing.

Walker is an accomplished poet and has written a number of critically acclaimed works, including “Affrilachia,” titled after a term that Walker coined to represent the African-American experience living in Appalachia. His other works include historical fictions such as “Buffalo Dance: the Journey of York,” “Black Box,” “When Winter Come: The Ascension of York,” “Isaac Murphy: I Dedicate This Ride” and “Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers.” Other than untold stories of historical figures, Walker says that he enjoys historical fiction because “imagination prevents the historical from being just history.”

Two pieces of historical fiction that Walker discussed in great length were his works that focused on Medgar Evers and Isaac Murphy. “Isaac Murphy, I Dedicate This Ride” focuses on an extraordinary African-American jockey who was the first person to ever win the Kentucky Derby three times. Unbeknownst to many, African-Americans were very active and some of the best riders within the sport of horse racing before the reconstruction era.

In “Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers,” Walker uses his imagination to fill in the gaps about a substantial character in the civil rights movement who has since been disremembered. The story of Medgar Evers is an example of what Walker calls the “deconstruction of the civil rights movement” where students are no longer learning essential information about a critical period in United States history.

Besides being a writer, Walker is also a professor at the University of Kentucky and spoke about his experience. He told the audience that he tries to help students find what he calls “writes of passage” and eventually the point “when a book becomes something [the students] can’t live without.” He strives to have his readers feel something when they read his works. “I’m trying to be honest with the world,” said Walker. “When I’m angry, my poems will be angry.”

One audience member asked him how he knew that he wanted to be a writer. Walker replied that he connects reading with healing. When he was very young, he hurt his arm and had to wear a cast. While healing, his mother brought him books to help him deal with not being able to play outside with the rest of his siblings. Since then, he has always enjoyed reading and writing.

He explained that he has used poetry to help himself through the healing process, like the death of his mother. In one of his readings, he spoke about telling his sister, who is currently in jail, that their mother had passed. Even in a horrible situation such as that, he says that he can recognize the beauty of that moment because he is a poet.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.