Students learn from professor’s poetry, words

By Abby Snider

Not all professors are native Kentuckians, famous African-American poets and world-known authors.

But those are exactly the credentials following Frank X. Walker, who is in his second semester as a professor in the English department at UK.

This semester, Walker is teaching an Introduction to Poetry class.

“He is a wonderful teacher and writer, he is a leader of our African studies program and he is a good link between the community and UK,” Chair of the Department of English Ellen Rosenman said. “We are all excited to have him.”

Walker is the co-founder of Affrilachian Poets and the creator of the word “Affrilachian.” The word  defines  African-Americans who are natives of the Appalachia region.

“It’s in the Oxford American Dictionary. It’s real,” Walker said.

Affrilachian Poets is a  group of poets that started at UK. The group writes and shares the history of African-Americans in Appalachia.

Walker continues to write and teach these concepts because he believes the mass media almost forgets or does not want readers to know the whole truth about subjects such as African-Americans.  He portrays this  through his poetry and other works.

“My mom always said there are always two parts of the story, and then there is the truth,” Walker said.

Walker is also the author of seven books, which are all poetry collections.  He has been in the process of writing a fiction book, the process of which he says “is going as slow as molasses.”

Poetry is a process that comes naturally to Walker.

“Poetry is a reflection of my schedule,” Walker said. “I can write a poem in my head.”

Walker’s poetry falls into two different categories. The first part reflects on family, personal history, identity and place, while the other part discusses the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Some of Walker’s poems have transformed into stage productions put on by the UK Department of Theatre. One, “I Dedicate This Ride,”  was turned into a play performed at the Children’s Theater Oct. 1-2.

“Because he is a multi-dimensional artist- painting, scriptwriting, poetry- his impact in and out of the state of Kentucky is a monumental one,” creative writing professor Nikky Finney said.

A Danville, Ky., native, Walker is the co-chair of African American Studies at UK and the editor and publisher of PLUCK!, a recent journal of Affrilachian art and culture that began in 2007.

The journal’s fifth issue will be out by the end of October.

“Frank X. Walker has for 25 years or more led a quiet, persistent movement in Kentucky,” Finney said.  “His desire has been to nurture the power of artistic expression out of every human being he happens to come in contact with.”

Walker will teach two classes in the spring,  African American History and Culture and an Affrilachian literature course.  He also plans on teaching a class in South Africa over the summer.

“Without teaching, I would be broken in half,” Walker said.