By Cassondra Kirby/Editor
The rain kept pouring down Tuesday, and no matter how fast the windshield wipers swished backward and forward, nothing could stop the tapping against Frank X Walker’s windshield.Walker, who has been on the road for three months promoting his newest books, couldn’t help but think the day was a perfect one to be curled up in a far place, in a rocking chair with a big quilt and a new Walter Mosley book.
“The average day for me has been going to sleep in a different city than I woke up in,” Walker said. “The only thing consistent about my days are I wake up early and fall asleep exhausted.”
Walker may find a little more consistency in the fall, however, when he begins his job as a faculty member of the English department at Eastern.
“I’m really excited and am looking forward to being a part of the EKU family,” he said.
Walker said there are several qualities he has to offer Eastern including diversity, passion for writing and experience.
“I know the university is generally committed to the retention of African Americans and other students of color – that’s going to have to be reflected in the faculty and the administration,” he said. “I hope I will be a visible evidence of the university’s commitment to that.”
Walker, who is a native of Danville and a graduate of the University of Kentucky, completed a Master’s of Fine Arts in writing at Spalding University in May 2003. He has lectured, conducted workshops, read poetry and exhibited at over 250 national conferences and universities.
He is also a founding member of the Affrilachian Poets, the editor of Eclipsing a Nappy New Millennium and the author of “Affrilachia,” a collection of poems that has recently been nominated for the Kentucky Public Librarians’ Choice Award.
Walker has recently completed two new poetry collections – “Cold Still” and “Buffalo Dance, the Journey of York.” Buffalo Dance, is written in the voice of York, the slave who accompanied his master, William Clark, on the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Although Walker may be most known for his poetry, he said he also writes plays, newspaper and magazine articles and creative nonfiction and fiction pieces.
He said he could not remember the first piece of writing he ever did, but said he does remember his first creative writing class he had in high school.
“I still have my journal from that class – that was 1976,” he said. “I read it sometimes and laugh at myself. I was pretty good then; I was clearly interested in writing in high school, but it was not something I considered as a career.”
He said everyone in his family wanted him to be a doctor or a lawyer because he was a good student.
“But my passion was in the area of writing and the arts,” he said. “I’m happy to finally bring my avocation and my vocation together, instead of wear a bunch of hats at the same time.
Walker said he finds his inspiration for his writing in everyday life – “anything that makes me feel something, either anger, love or intimacy,” he said.
Because of this, Walker said you could ask him to define the word poetry 20 times and he would give 20 different answers.
On Tuesday the definition of poetry lay in the hands of Michael Jordan.
“Today to me poetry is Michael Jordan, with the game on the line and tied, and three seconds left and the ball in his hands,” he said. “He’s going to do something special, people are going to remember it forever, no matter what the outcome is. I think those powerful moments in the world – those are things that make poetry.
“Ask me again tomorrow, I’ll say the birth of my first child – watching the head pop out and the first time her eyes opened and looked into mine. It’s everywhere. It’s constantly changing and evolving, poetry can’t be just one thing.”
These events, the inspiration, are the easy part of poetry, according to Walker. He said the editing and the revision is where the craft of writing comes in – a place that as a professor at Eastern, he can help with.
“I fancy myself as a committed craft person, mostly because I am also a teacher and I know how much work it takes to carve a really good inspiration lump of clay into a beautiful piece of poetry or some other kind of writing.”
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