Alum Named Poet Laureate of Kentucky

Frank X Walker ’03, Master of Fine Arts in Writing alum, was named the 2013-2014 Poet Laureate of Kentucky by Gov. Steve Beshear. Walker is the youngest person and first black writer to receive the award. Through this role, Walker will serve as a spokesperson for arts and literature throughout the state.

He is the author of five books of poetry: Issac Murphy: I Dedicate This Ride (Old Cove Press, 2010); When Winter Come: the Ascension of York (University Press of Kentucky, 2008); Black Box (Old Cove Press, 2005); Buffalo Dance: the Journey of York (University Press of Kentucky, 2003), winner of the 35th Annual Lillian Smith Book Award; and Affrilachia (Old Cove Press, 2000), and the editor of America! What’s My Name? The “Other” Poets Unfurl the Flag (Wind Publicatio
ns, 2007) and Eclipsing a Nappy New Millennium. Currently, he is an associate professor in the Department of English and co-chair of Africana Studies at the University of Kentucky.

Walker is also a founding member of the Affrilachian Poets, of which his says on his website:  “As a co-founder of the Affrilachian Poets and the creator of the word Affrilachia, I believe it is my responsibility to say as loudly and often as possible that people and artists of color are part of the past and present of the multi-state Appalachian region extending from northern Mississippi to southern New York.”

“We are extremely proud of our poetry graduate Frank X Walker,” says Sena Jeter Naslund, MFA program director. “Frank’s poetry shows a deep commitment to both his African-American and Appalachian heritages. He was in the first graduating class of Spalding’s MFA in Writing, an innovative, brief-residency program and the first MFA in Writing in Kentucky, now recognized nationally as among the top ten programs. Frank’s book-length poem on York, a slave who was part of the Lewis and Clark expedition, has brought him recognition on the national level.”

Walker will be formally inducted as Kentucky Poet Laureate on April 24. He is the third person affiliated with Spalding’s brief-residency MFA in Writing program to be named poet laureate. Maureen Morehead, MFA faculty member, was the 2011-2012 honoree, and Sena Jeter Naslund held the honor from 2005-2006.