Poet, educator and activist Frank X Walker is Kentucky’s first Black poet laureate, and at 53 the youngest to serve in the post. Governor Steve Beshear bestowed Mr. Walker with the honor in February 2013.
With a specialty in writing “persona” poems, which are works written in the voice of another, Walker has won several awards for his poetry, putting a new face on writers from the Appalachia region.
Born June 11, 1961 in Danville, Ky., Walker was the second of 10 children reared in public housing projects in the area. A self-professed nerd and athlete, Walker typically doesn’t reveal much about himself in his poetry but has shared more in interviews.
According to an essay from Shepherd University professor Dr. Slyvia Bailey Shurbutt, Walker experienced poverty as a child and other hardships but found triumph as a college student.
Initially, Walker entered the University of Kentucky in 1979 as an engineering student, but a creative writing class changed his course. Over the years, Walker honed his writing skills and released his first book, Affrilachia: Poems by Frank X Walker in 2000.
The term “Affrilachia” was coined by Walker after he read in a dictionary that for one to be considered an Appalachian, they had to be a white resident of the mountainous region. He later went on to create the Affrilachian Poets literary movement in his home state.