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“This book is powerful and beautiful. It is honest and true.”—Gurney Norman, author of Ancient Creek: A Folktale and Allegiance

A native of Danville, Kentucky, Frank X Walker is the first African American writer to be named Kentucky Poet Laureate. Walker has published eleven collections of poetry, including Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers, which was awarded the 2014 NAACP Image Award for Poetry and the Black Caucus American Library Association Honor Award for Poetry. He is also the author of Buffalo Dance: The Journey of York, winner of the 2004 Lillian Smith Book Award, and Isaac Murphy: I Dedicate This Ride, which he adapted for stage, earning him the Paul Green Foundation Playwrights Fellowship Award. His poetry was also dramatized for the 2016 Contemporary American Theater Festival in Shepherdstown, WV and staged by Message Theater for the 2015 Breeders Cup Festival. A lover of comics, Walker curated “We Wear the Mask: Black Superheroes through the Ages,” an exhibit of his personal collection of action figures, comics, and related memorabilia at the Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center in 2015; he reprised the exhibit in 2018 at Purdue University and Western Carolina University. Walker recently returned to the world of visual art with a collection of new and early multimedia works, “Black Star Seed: When Mi Cyaan Find Di Words” which was on exhibit at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning in Lexington.

Voted one of the most creative professors in the south, Walker coined the term “Affrilachia” and co- founded the Affrilachian Poets, subsequently publishing the much-celebrated eponymous collection. His honors also include a 2004 Lannan Literary Fellowship for Poetry, the 2008 and 2009 Denny C. Plattner Award for Outstanding Poetry in Appalachian Heritage, the 2013 West Virginia Humanities Council’s Appalachian Heritage Award, as well as fellowships and residences with Cave Canem, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Kentucky Arts Council. In 2020 Walker received the Donald Justice Award for Poetry from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. The recipient of honorary doctorates from University of Kentucky, Transylvania University, Spalding University and Centre College, Walker is the founding editor of pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture and serves as Professor of English and African American and Africana Studies at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. His most recent collection is Masked Man, Black: Pandemic & Protest Poems, and forthcoming Load in Nine Times: Poems (October 2024).

Click here to view Frank’s Authors Unbound Profile:

Load in Nine Times: Poems

Liveright |

From former poet laureate of Kentucky and founder of the Affrilachian Poets, a collection of historical poetry that gives voice to Black Civil War soldiers.

For decades, Frank X Walker has reclaimed essential American lives through his pathbreaking historical poetry: from Medgar Evers in Turn Me Loose, winner of the NAACP Award; to York, the enslaved explorer who joined the Lewis and Clark expedition, in Buffalo Dance, winner of the Lillian Smith Book Award. In this stirring new collection, he reimagines the experiences of Black Civil War soldiers―including his own ancestors―who enlisted in the Union Army in exchange for emancipation. Moving chronologically from antebellum Kentucky through Reconstruction, Walker braids the voices of the United States Colored Troops with their family members, as well as slaveowners and prominent historical figures―including Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and Margaret Garner―into a wide-ranging series of “persona poems” imbued with atmospheric imagery and brimming with indomitable spirit. Evoking the pride and perseverance of formerly enslaved General Charles Young, Walker hums: “I, am America’s promise, my mother’s song, / and the reason my father had every right to dream.”

Love House

Accents Publishing |

“In his new book of poems, Love House, Frank X Walker invites his readers in and speaks to them with consummate grace and intimacy about the things that matter most: loving, parenting, aging, living, dying, as well as basketball, birds, gardens, and golf. Walker, who is well known for giving voice to historical characters and bringing their stories to life, uses his insight, imagination, and hard-earned wisdom to write about himself and his family, including secrets, fears, and the unsolved mysteries that underlie daily living. Love House is “made of air, poems, books, and art” and real loving people brought to the page by one of today’s finest and most prolific poets.” – Greg Pape, author of A Field of First Things

A is for Affrilachia

University Press of Kentucky |

The people and places in Appalachia make it a rich, multifaceted, and diverse region. When author Frank X Walker first coined the phrase “Affrilachia,” he wanted to ensure that the voices and accomplishments of African Americans in that region were recognized and exalted. A Is for Affrilachia not only brings awareness of notable African Americans from this region, but this inspired children’s alphabet book is also an exuberant celebration of the people, physical spaces, and historical events that may not be as well-known in mainstream educational structures.

Buffalo Dance: The Journey of York (Expanded Edition)

University Press of Kentucky |

When Frank X Walker’s compelling collection of personal poems was first released in 2004, it told the story of the infamous Lewis and Clark expedition from the point of view of York, who was enslaved to Clark and became the first African American man to traverse the continent. The fictionalized poems in Buffalo Dance form a narrative of York’s inner journey before, during, and after the expedition—a journey from slavery to freedom, from the plantation to the great Northwest, from servant to soul yearning to be free.
In this expanded edition, Walker utilizes extensive historical research, interviews, transcribed oral histories from the Nez Perce Reservation, art, and empathy to breathe new life into an important but overlooked historical figure. Featuring a new historical essay, preface, and sixteen additional poems, this powerful work speaks to such themes as racism, the power of literacy, the inhumanity of slavery, and the crimes against Native Americans, while reawakening and reclaiming the lost “voice” of York.


Ohio University Press Distributed Titles |

A milestone book of poetry at the intersection of Appalachian and African American literature.

In this pathbreaking debut collection, poet Frank X Walker tells the story of growing up young, Black, artistic, and male in one of America’s most misunderstood geographical regions. As a proud Kentucky native, Walker created the word “Affrilachia” to render visible the unique intersectional experience of African Americans living in the rural and Appalachian South.

Since its publication in 2000, Affrilachia has seen wide classroom use, and is recognized as one of the foundational works of the Affrilachian Poets, a community of writers offering new ways to think about diversity in the Appalachian region and beyond.

Masked Man, Black

Accents Publishing |

“We all wear masks. There are people with whom we can take our masks off and speak from the heart. Professor Walker is an expert in masks, or personas. And he well knows that sometimes masks let us speak deep truths about the world. He also knows masks sometimes protect us, sometimes keep us from ourselves, and sometimes cause us pain. Paul Dunbar, in “We Wear the Mask,” asks of the world and of poetry, “Why should the world be over-wise, / In counting all our tears and sighs?” Yet, it seems that now, as then, the world pays too little attention to the tears and sighs about which Dunbar sings. We are so grateful that Walker has taken the time to sit with death and pain and heartbreak, to sit and tune his voice to sing these elegies, so that we can gather around him to sing through our tears with head held high. ” -Jeremy Paden

Last Will, Last Testament

Accents Publishing |

In his latest collection, Last Will, Last Testament, Frank X Walker turns the same unflinching gaze he’s committed to historic figures now towards his own lineage. As these poems bear witness in real time to his father’s last breaths even as his new son takes his first, Walker serves again as the linchpin between generations. Ever a master distiller of the heart, Walker presents us with, arguably, his most complex elixir to date, best imbibed with no chaser. — Bianca Lynne Spriggs

About Flight

Accents Publishing |

“Up until this point in American history, no poet has written an honest and believable lament about the crippling effects from the tornado swirl of a crack pipe, how a little rock being melted between thin mesh screen creates pallid smoke: a monster, a slave to the white lady that is cocaine. In About Flight, Frank X Walker gives us the beautiful ugly narrative of a brother who is wrestling with chemical dependency, and losing. The high, in all of its beautiful contradictions takes on the metaphor of flight, and so we soar through the terrible highs and lows of a protagonist who carries his family with him into the den of iniquity.” –Randall Horton

Coming Soon!

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Frank’s CV

Honors, Awards & Recognition

Kentucky Poet Laureate

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