Tomorrow is Kentucky Writers’ Day, the Kentucky Arts Council’s annual celebration of the state’s literary heritage and history. In advance of Writers’ Day, Emily B. Moses, arts council communications director, asked Kentucky Poet Laureate Frank X Walker a few questions about his first year as poet laureate. Walker, along with six past Kentucky poets laureate, will read and sign books at a public ceremony tomorrow, April 24, at 10 a.m. in the Capitol Rotunda. For more information about Kentucky Writers’ Day, visit artscouncil.ky.gov.
Can you share a highlight from your first year as Kentucky Poet Laureate?
My favorite experience is between being invited to share an original poem as part of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Frankfort and sitting in a classroom of fourth-graders at William Wells Brown Elementary on the day that it was officially announced to the public that I was the poet laureate. Looking out at those kids’ faces and knowing that I use to be one of them made me feel like I was in the ideal place to be and actively engaged in the business of being poet laureate.
As an educator, you have talked about how important it is to you to remain open to learning and discovering new things. What have you learned from your Poet Laureate experience thus far?
I’ve learned that the citizens of the state are very proud of their poet laureate. I can’t believe the number of keys to the city, resolutions, proclamations and Kentucky Colonel certificates I’ve received.
You recently were nominated for, and then won, an NAACP Image Award for your collection of poetry about Medgar Evers. Did you feel at all – or was it ever your intention – that you had helped Evers’ work in life and/or his life’s legacy come full circle through your work?
It was absolutely my intention to help impact Evers’ legacy with the publishing of “Turn Me Loose.” To receive the image award from the NAACP, given their history of social activism, was very meaningful. To stand on the national stage on television and have the world hear me say Kentucky into the microphone was also a proud moment that I had a chance to share with all my friends, family and literary community back at home.
What are your plans related to being Kentucky Poet Laureate for the final year of your term? Are there any goals you would like to accomplish?
I’ve adjusted my own goals a bit. If I could just handle all of the requests for my time without stealing too much time away from my own work, I’d be happy.
Are you working on any new projects that you would like to share with our readers?
I’m hoping to complete a final draft of my novel this year and have it released by the end of my term. It’s set in Kentucky. I hope it will add to an absence of published black male fiction in Kentucky since William Wells Brown.
Emily Moses, communication director