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Frank X Walker Contributes New Award to Poetry Slam


By Whitney Hale


The Gypsy Poetry Slam, now in its sixth year as part of the Kentucky Women Writers Conference, to showcase the works of not only local poets, but also those from across the nation. As part of the event, headlined by noted poet Krista Franklin, the conference will also feature a new award. The Faith A. Smith Poetry Prize, established by Kentucky poet Frank X Walker, will be awarded to the winner of this year's slam to be held 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16, at the Downtown Arts Center. The slam is free and open to the public.


Frank X Walker, co-founder of the Affrilachian Poets and associate professor of English at the University of Kentucky, was excited to help honor women poets by creating this award named for his mother.


“I wanted to support the Gypsy Slam because anywhere there are women speaking with that much courage and conviction it reminds me of my mother,” says Walker. “She was a multi-disciplinary artist who celebrated creativity and social justice, and it’s easy for me to imagine all the energy she and her fellow female Pentecostal ministers exhibited from the pulpit being redirected at a poetry slam that features women. She was always ahead of her time. She used to say that she was raising me to be a minister until she came to one of my poetry readings and decided that she had accomplished her goal.”


The Faith A. Smith Poetry Prize, an honor that carries a $500 cash award, will be presented to the winner of the Gypsy Poetry Slam on Sept. 16. An existing prize of $300 will be awarded to the runner-up. With this new prize, the slam has become one of the most generous in the country, also furnishing a small stipend, a travel reimbursement and conference passes to every competitor.


Chicago poet and visual artist Krista Franklin will be featured as headliner and celebrity judge at this year's slam. Franklin says about her widely acclaimed performances, “I just read like I care about what I wrote.”


Originally from Dayton, Ohio, Franklin's poetry and mixed medium collages have been published in lifestyle and literary journals such as Nocturnes, RATTLE, Indiana Review, Ecotone, Clam and Callaloo, in the anthology "Gathering Ground," and in the webzines and Her visual artwork has been featured on the covers of books and exhibited nationally in solo and group exhibitions. Franklin is a Cave Canem Fellow, and a co-founder of the artist collective Tres Colony and 2nd Sun Salon, a community meeting space for writers, visual and performance artists, musicians and scholars.


In addition to the slam, Franklin will also present the workshop "Writing the Poetry of Your Dreams" for Kentucky Women Writers Conference registrants. This conference workshop is scheduled for 1:30-4 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Sept. 16 and 17, at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning. To see a full schedule of conference daytime sessions or to register for the conference, visit


While in the Bluegrass, this year's Gypsy Poetry Slam poets will also provide a showcase for women imprisoned at the Federal Medical Center. Audience members this year can look forward to a brief documentary-style presentation of pieces written by those women currently serving sentences who participate in a weekly creative writing–oriented support group called “The Swallowtail Project” through the Kentucky Domestic Violence Association.


The Kentucky Women Writers Conference is the longest running conference of its kind in the nation. A literary festival, the event's continuing purpose remains promoting imaginative conversation and lifting up women’s artistry for the benefit of all. The annual event is made possible in part by its presenting sponsor, UK, and continued community partnerships.


For more information on the Gypsy Poetry Slam, contact Julie Wrinn, conference director, at (859) 257-2874.