Posts Tagged With: Frank X Walker

Q&A with Kentucky Poet Laureate Frank X Walker

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.

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Frank X Walker and past Kentucky poets laureate, Kentucky Writers’ Day 2013.

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

Categories: Literary Arts | Tags: , , , , ,

Students shine at Poetry Out Loud Finals

After months of preparation, the Poetry Out Loud state championship took place March 13 in Frankfort at the Capital Plaza Hotel. The winner, Taryn Syck, of Pike County Central High School, will travel April 28-30 to Washington, D.C., for the National Poetry Out Loud Championship to represent Kentucky. While she was a tough competitor through the first two rounds, it was Syck’s third poem, “The Great Blue Heron,” by Carolyn Kizer, that put her on top.

I love the moment when everything comes together: The words, the delivery and the passion. Before I became the arts education director for the Kentucky Arts Council, I was not overly impressed with the Poetry Out Loud program. I did not appreciate the value of reciting poetry written by other people. I have seen some very powerful performances at high school poetry slams. So I believed having students perform their own poetry would be much more effective.

Today, I understand the value of this kind of poetry recitation. All 14 school champions were impressive. I am so glad I was not a judge. Each student in the program had been coached by one of the arts council’s teaching artists. They won their school competitions to advance to the state finals. All competitors recited two poems and then five finalists made it to the final round.

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Mary Hamilton, one of the teaching artists that worked with the champions, attended Thursday’s championship and later shared some of her thoughts about the day with me.

“There were three specific performances today that, if they would be available for Kentucky Poetry Out Loud programs to view, would provide excellent examples of very specific performance successes,” she said.

“Beautiful Wreckage” — recited by Titus Carter — “That recitation was stunning, absolutely stunning. He so captured the emotion of that poem. A video of that performance would provide a wonderful demonstration of how thrilling and amazing a recitation can be when the student allows their emotional connection to the poem to come charging through.  So many young men tend to be exceedingly reluctant to allow feelings to show. I think providing his recitation of ‘Beautiful Wreckage’ as an example of an emotional connection to a poem would especially encourage young men to give themselves the permission he clearly gave himself for that recitation.”

“I Remember, I Remember”  recited by Gabrielle Thompson  “That recitation provides a fantastic example of how pauses are not empty, but full. The spaces between the two ‘I Remembers’ at the beginning of each section were handled superbly. Sitting in the audience we could feel strongly that all memories are not remembered the same way. Her face, voice, and especially her communication during pauses, were wonderful to behold.”

“Famous”  recited by Haley Reed  “This is a lighter poem, and Haley did a marvelous job of clearly conveying the lighthearted nature and even the humor within the poem. There was also a clear change from when she was talking in third person and in first person. I considered it a wonderful example  well worth providing for future Poetry Out Loud students.”

Each of these performances, as well as Taryn Syck’s recitation of the “Great Blue Heron,” will soon be available on the arts council’s website. I invite you to visit our website to view these amazing performances by high school youth. And, next year, I hope other teachers and schools across the state will give their high school students the opportunity to participate in the Poetry Out Loud program.

Jean St. John, arts education director

Categories: Literary Arts | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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