I have accepted the responsibility of challenging the notion of a homogeneous all-white literary landscape in this region.
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.
As a writer/observer/truth teller, I choose to focus on social justice issues as well as multiple themes of family, identity and place.
I also accept the dual responsibility of existing as a teaching artist and making a commitment to the identification and development of the next generation of young writers and artists.
Isaac Murphy: I Dedicate This Ride
In this new collection of poems, Frank X Walker immerses himself in the story of legendary African American jockey Isaac Burns Murphy (1861-1896). The son of a slave, Murphy rose to the top of thoroughbred racing to become the most successful Jockey in America. Through poetic imagination, Walker gives us the voices of Isaac Murphy and his wife Lucy, his trainer Eli Jordan, and his parents James and America Burns. Through their words we follow Murphy's dramatic Journey to become America's most celebrated black jockey.
When Winter Come: the Ascension of York
University Press of Kentucky, 2008
A sequel to the award-winning Buffalo Dance, Frank X Walker's When Winter Come: The Ascension of York is a dramatic reimagining of 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.
"Frank X Walker has re-imagined the story of the Lewis and Clark expedition in a way no one else has before. This powerful and insightful book is more than an admirable sequel to Buffalo Dance. It is a careful re-examination of historical records, re-imagined and conjured into a concert of voices whose aim is truth. One can read When Winter Come through from beginning to end like a good novel, and then go back and savor it one poem at time. Walker has given all of us who care about American Literature a lasting gift." —Greg Pape, Montana Poet Laureate (2007-2009) and author of Sunflower Facing the Sun and Border Crossings
"When Winter Come is an astonishing collection of poems that ushers Frank X Walker into the company of other memorable poets like Roethke, Hugo, Clifton, and Dove but he also recollects the powerful narrative voice of Michael Ondaatje's Coming Through Slaughter or Alice Walker's The Color Purple. Frank X Walker magically captures York, not the flat historical figure represented in Lewis & Clark's journals — Walker has tapped into the true voice of York and conjured him on the page. This is not just a book of poems — this is a book of spirits and shimmering apparitions." — Debra Magpie Earling, author of Perma Red
America! What's My Name? The "Other" Poets Unfurl the Flag (Frank X Walker, ed.)
Wind Publications, 2007
The degree to which university professors have staked their academic lives and intellectual selves on every accented syllable of dead white men, having diagramed their “brilliant” intentions and held it up as evidence that poetry is the caviar on the literary menu, has helped carve out an elitist mystique and ruined many a promising young poet. In the pages that follow, we offer a counter argument: that poetry is bread. That it is whole grain sustenance and comes in all colors, ethnicities, sizes, genders, and sexual preferences. It is not just the leather-bound private joy of scholars, but new and naked and pouring out of the stomachs and hearts of emerging and established writers all over this country.
America needs poetry more than it needs prisons; ill-conceived government policies, inadequate schools, political spin, or exit polls. Poetry, when used correctly, is the most democratic thing we own. It belongs to the people. It is for the people and it rings truest when written by the people.
You probably won’t find these poets in your syllabus, though there are more prize-winning writers in these pages than you will find in many university English departments. But wherever you can find a table or a hungry mouth; wherever people need nothing else with their soup but homemade biscuits, cornbread, tortillas, challah, or frybread, fresh out of the oven, I hope you will find this book being read aloud or passed hand to hand with love, with appreciation for genuine solutions for real hunger.
America is hungry for truth and it’s being served right here, right now.
Black Box: Poems
Black Box (Old Cove Press, 2005) continues the personal and autobiographical journey of Affrilachia with sixty eight new poems from Walker.
Old Cove Press, 2005
Buffalo Dance: the Journey of York
Winner of the 35th Annual Lillian Smith Book Award, 2004
A BookSense 76 Spring 2004 Top 10 Poetry Book!
University Press of Kentucky, 2003
This collection of persona poems tells the story of the infamous Lewis & Clark expedition from the point of view of Clark's personal slave, York. The poems form a narrative of York's inner and outer journey, before, during and after the expedition — a journey from slavery to freedom, from the plantation to the great northwest, from servant to soul yearning to be free.
Over the course of the saga and through the poems, we are treated to subtle and overt commentaries on literacy, slavery, native Americans, buffalo, the environment, and more. Though Buffalo Dance purposely references historic accounts and facts, it is fictionalized poetry, and Frank X Walker's rare blend of history and art breathes life into an important but overlooked historical figure.
"And now York, finally, has a voice. The man who made the voyage, the man with all the hopes and dreams of freedom has a voice, raises a song to his freedom, understands that his life was not his best self, only the best he could do. Let us all raise a praise song to Frank X Walker, for giivng voice to York. What a magnificent achievement." —Nikki Giovanni
"Buffalo Dance has great power and beauty. This is poetry and storytelling of high order." —Gurney Norman
Affrilachia (Old Cove Press, 2000) is Walker's groundbreaking first collection of poems, now in its fourth printing.
Old Cove Press, 2000