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Libraries Host Authors @ Alden with Poet Frank X. Walker

Published: October 26, 2021 Author: Morgan Spehar

Ohio University Libraries will host poet Frank X. Walker for the next Authors @ Alden presentation on Nov. 9 at 4:30 p.m. to talk about his latest volume of poems, “Masked Man, Black: Pandemic & Protest Poems.” The event will be held via Microsoft Teams.

Walker is a professor of African American and Africana studies and English, as well as the director of the English MFA program at the University of Kentucky. His research interests include poetry, fiction, creative writing, playwriting and Black Theater, among other related topics. To date, Walker has written 11 collections of poetry. 

“I’m trained as a fiction writer, and I’m a visual artist, but poetry seems to be the best fit for my very complicated life,” he said, adding that “poetry is kind of a starter language for every kind of writing.”

His most recent collection of poetry, “Masked Man, Black,” was written during the pandemic, after Walker started writing a poem a day during National Poetry Month in April 2020 and sharing them on social media.

“I didn’t set out to write a book,” Walker said, explaining that he was just trying to respond to the onset of the pandemic. “But I did make a conscious decision that I wanted to write about what I felt was my personal response, [as well as] my family’s response and my communities’ response to COVID, which descended so quickly.”

Walker said that at the end of April 2020, he couldn’t stop writing poetry and continued writing pandemic poems until the police killing of George Floyd at the end of May 2020. He then expanded his focus and began writing about the Black Lives Matter protests that followed as well.

Poems in “Masked Man, Black,” which Walker will speak about in his Authors @ Alden talk, cover pandemic- and protest-related subjects ranging from the impacts of COVID on the meat-packing plants, how people were being affected differently because of their race, gender, and age, and how nursing homes and Native American reservations were responding to the pandemic.

“It was almost like being a reporter and [a] poet,” Walker said. “I was just trying to respond to what was happening.”

Walker’s previous collections of poems have earned him awards such as the 2014 NAACP Image Award and the 2020 Judy Gaines Young Book Award. He was also the first African American writer to be named Kentucky Poet Laureate in 2013. Walker said that his most recent collection of poems was created in a much different process than his previous work.

“This book happened really quickly,” he said. “It took five months, and that’s about seven months shorter than the record for me, but I think because of COVID and National Poetry Month this was different. It didn’t take a year or two of research.”

lorraine wochna, subject librarian for film, theatre, English and African American studies, will interview Walker for the Authors @ Alden talk. Walker said that all who were impacted by the pandemic or the protests last year would be interested in the poems and his Authors @ Alden talk, as well as those who are interested in politics.

For more information, or to request accessibility accommodations, contact Jen Harvey.