First Black Poet Laureate in Kentucky Is Selected

Frank Walker, a professor and writer of several books of poetry, is also the youngest to hold the position in the state’s history.

Posted: 02/28/2013 04:42 PM EST

Frank X. Walker, an associate professor of English at the University of Kentucky, has been named as the poet laureate of Kentucky by Steve Beshear, the state’s governor. He is the first African-American poet to hold that position.

Walker also serves as the university’s director of African-American and Africana studies program. He will take the position of poet laureate in a public ceremony that is to take place at the state capitol building in Frankfort.

Walker, who is the author of a number of books, has taught at the University of Kentucky since 2010. Before that, he was a member of the faculty at Northern Kentucky University and at Eastern Kentucky University.

He has become well-known for creating the term "Affrilachia," which is designed to unify Appalachian and African-American culture and history.

"I want to remind them that books are important, developing and using their creativity is important. Everybody is creative, they just need the tools to harness and control their creativity," Walker said, in an interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader.

"I grew up in the projects so I want to tell them, 'Your circumstance is not an excuse.' If you commit to something, if you work hard and have discipline, you can accomplish anything."

Walker, 51, is also the youngest poet laureate in the state’s history.

As Kentucky’s poet laureate, Walker will be an advocate of the literary arts and will actively participate in readings at meetings, seminars and conferences throughout Kentucky over the next year.

His sixth full collection of poetry, Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers, is due to be released this spring from the University of Georgia Press.

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(Photo: Courtesy University of Kentucky)

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