Frank X Walker is a native of Danville, Kentucky, and Associate Professor of English at the University of Kentucky. He was appointed Kentucky Poet Laureate, 2013-2014, by Governor Steve Beshear. A founding member of the Affrilachian Poets, he created the word Affrilachia to help make visible the black experience in the Appalachian South. He is the author of five poetry collections: Affrilachia (Old Cove Press, 2000); Buffalo Dance: the Journey of York (University Press of Kentucky 2003); Black Box Poems (Old Cove Press, 2005); When Winter Come: the Ascension of York (University Press of Kentucky, 2008), and Isaac Murphy: I Dedicate This Ride (Old Cove Press, 2010).
Walker is a member of Cave Canem, a national organization committed to cultivating the artistic and professional growth of black poets. His work has appeared in numerous journals and magazines, and has been featured on NPR, Kentucky Educational Television (KET), XM Radio and other media outlets. In January 2013, KET broadcast “I Dedicate This Ride: Frank X Walker” as part of its Kentucky Muse series. The program explored Walker’s writing and research on African American jockey Isaac Murphy.
He was awarded the 2013 Appalachian Heritage Literary Award from the West Virginia Humanities Council. In 2011, the Kentucky Conference for Community and Justice named him one of its Humanitarian Award winners. He was featured as one of “The most creative teachers in the South” by Oxford American magazine (2011).
In May 2003, Walker completed an MFA in Writing from Spalding University. He has lectured, conducted workshops, read poetry and exhibited at national and international conferences and universities including the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry, Northern Ireland; University of California at Berkeley; Notre Dame; Louisiana State University at Alexandria; University of Washington; Virginia Tech; Radford University; and Appalachian State University.
In 2001, he received an Al Smith Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council. His poems have been developed into stage productions by the University of Kentucky Theatre department and Lexington Children’s Theater. With filmmakers Jean Donohue and Fred Johnson of Media Working Group, he co-produced a video documentary on the Affrilachian Poets entitled Coal Black Voices.
Walker has served as executive director of Kentucky’s Governor’s School for the Arts, vice president of Kentucky Center for the Arts, founder/executive director of the Bluegrass Black Arts Consortium, program coordinator of the University of Kentucky’s King Cultural Center, and assistant director of Purdue University’s Black Cultural Center. He received an honorary Doctorate of Humanities in 2001 from the University of Kentucky for his collective community work and artistic achievements, and an honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Transylvania University in 2002.
His awards include the Thomas D. Clark Literary Award for Excellence, Actors Theatre’s Keeper of the Chronicle Award, and a Lannan Literary Fellowship in Poetry. He has held board positions for the Kentucky Humanities Council, Appalshop, the Kentucky Writers Coalition, and appointments for the Cabinet for Education, Arts and Humanities and the Committee on Gifted Education.
He is the editor and publisher of PLUCK!, Journal of Affrilachian Arts and Culture. His forthcoming book Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers will be released in Spring 2013 by the University of Georgia Press.