03 October 2013

Frank X. Walker

Walker spoke here the other day. I was unfamiliar with the man's work so I wasn't sure what to expect other than a lecture. I couldn't have been more impressed.First, he spoke about the diversity of Appalachian culture and some of the specifics of Affrilachian history. My familiarity with the history of Black America was lacking here so his introduction was helpful. Second, he read from his poetry. The canon of Western poetry did not prepare me for Walker so here he blew me away. He read Death By Basketball, My Boy D, In Hell Exhale, Rock Star, Cold Still, and My Poems Been Runnin' They Mouths Again. A live reading never hurts, but the formal beauties of the work couldn't be louder: subtle emotion, warm humor, and straightforward expression. Walker turned on a light and as your eyes adjust you see the details. The poems were not complicated or abstract. They were narrative, but boiled down to the emotional subtext we intuit when we get down to what another is saying. He records the struggle of life with great sympathy. Rock Star was especially impressive in its assured use of metaphor to discuss drug use as bad candy that eats away at you. My Poems Been Runnin' They Mouths Again was also impressive in how Walker simply showed the ways art communicates back to us just as we try to use it to communicate with others. Straightforward, measured craft that expressed the maximum of emotional and truthful nuances of life and our relationships with others. Walker's work opened my mind to new ways of expressing love and truth.

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