When Kit de Waal was growing up in 1970s Birmingham, no one like her – poor, black and Irish – wrote books. Forty years on, the author asks, what has changed?

Source: Kit de Waal: ‘Make room for working class writers’ | Books | The Guardian

Frank X. Walker (Poet)

October 4, 2011

The other day, roam reading my way through Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry, I found myself reading a delightfully powerfully poem by Frank X. Walker. I liked the poem, titled Homeopathic, so much that I googled him to see what I could find out.

Homeopathic – Frank X Walker

The unripe cherry tomatoes, miniature red chili peppers
and small burst of sweet basil and sage in the urban garden
just outside the window on our third floor fire escape
might not yield more than seasoning for a single meal

or two, but it works wonders as a natural analgesic
and a way past the monotony of bricks and concrete,
the hum of a neighbor’s TV, back to the secret garden
we planted on railroad property, when I was just a boy.

I peer into the window, searching for that look on mamma’s face,
when she kicked off her shoes, dug her toes into dirt
teeming with corn, greens, potatoes, onions, cabbage, and beets;
bit into the flesh of a ripe tomato, then passed it down the row.

Enjoying our own fruit, we let the juice run down our chins,
leaving a trail of tiny seed to harvest on hungry days like these.

Here is his artist’s statement:

“I have accepted the responsibility of challenging the notion of a homogeneous all-white literary landscape in this region.

As a co-founder of the Affrilachian Poets and the creator of the word Affrilachia, I believe it is my responsibility to say as loudly and often as possible that people and artists of color are part of the past and present of the multi-state Appalachian region extending from northern Mississippi to southern New York.

As a writer/observer/truth teller, I choose to focus on social justice issues as well as multiple themes of family, identity and place.

I also accept the dual responsibility of existing as a teaching artist and making a commitment to the identification and development of the next generation of young writers and artists.”

Looking around his website further, I discovered that he wrote two books from the perspective of York, an enslaved African brought along on Lewis & Clark’s expedition. Being very interested in connecting history to poetry (and vice versa) both as a reader and author, I immediately became excited and ordered three of his books (listed below).

Isaac Murphy: I Dedicate this Ride:

In this new collection of poems, Frank X Walker immerses himself in the story of legendary African American jockey Isaac Burns Murphy (1861-1896). The son of a slave, Murphy rose to the top of thoroughbred racing to become the most successful Jockey in America.

Buffalo Dance: The Journey of York:

This collection of persona poems tells the story of the infamous Lewis & Clark expedition from the point of view of Clark’s personal slave, York. The poems form a narrative of York’s inner and outer 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.

When Winter Come: The Ascension of York:

A sequel to the award-winning Buffalo Dance, Frank X Walker’s When Winter Come: The Ascension of York is a dramatic reimagining of Lewis and Clark’s legendary exploration of the American West. Grounded in the history of the famous trip, Walker’s vibrant account allows York — little more than a forgotten footnote in traditional narratives — to embody the full range of human ability, knowledge, emotion, and experience. Knowledge of the seasons unfolds to York “like a book,” and he “can read moss, sunsets, the moon, and a mare’s foaling time with a touch.”

For more information about this poet and his books, visit the author’s website.


today, while roaming through netflix, disgrace with john malkovich caught my eye. i’ve seen the movie and later learned it was a book by j.m. coetzee. Even though the book descriptions describe the interlude the main character, a white south african (boer?) professor had with a female student as “seduction”; in the film, she is unambiguously raped. I saw unambiguously because she clearly does not participate and/or enjoy the encounters. such a dynamic would make disgrace a very interesting book to read and review.

whenever i think of books to movies topping the list is always the godfather it’s long been a tendency of mine to read the books of movies i’ve seen. so of course, i’ve read the godfather by mario puzo. i think that was one of the first book-movie combos where the movie was better then the book. one of the most profound differences is that, in the book, Kay didn’t leave Michael. For his soul’s sake or some such reasoning, she decided to stay.

i thought the switch between the book having her stay and the movie having her divorce michael was due to awareness of the feminist movement on the filmmakers part.

an interesting note re: the godfather. initially, coppola didn’t want to direct the movie. once he decided to take the job, the studio fought him on casting (they didn’t want al pacino), directing decisions, etc.

I would discuss beloved – the movie but well, that was just a disaster.

And a Happy New Year!

December 31, 2010

Well. Another year’s over and another one’s about to begin (or so they say). I’ve laid out my goals and objectives for 2011. This is not the place for the discussion of them but it is a place for discussion of my literary goals – or more precisely what will be on my reading list for 2011; considering my developing interest in reviewing books. So here it is – my haphazard, in no particular order reading list for 2011:

Omeros by Derek Walcott
The Odyssey by Homer
Ulysses in Black by Patrice Rankine

The three books listed above are a kind of trifecta of research into epics and the way in which epics can be utilized by writers in a more modern configuration.

Wild Seed by Octavia Butler – I read it years ago. Reread it again very recently. And will be reading it again since I’m going to be reviewing it.

The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent – Almost a year ago, I wrote an initial review of this book where I basically panned it. However, I said I would go back and actually finish it. That’s why it’s on this list.

The Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James – I’ve had this book in my possession for almost two decades now but have yet to finish it – even though history is one of my major loves. I vow to finish it this year!

The Autobiography of Leroi Jones by Amiri Baraka – I got this book a few years ago and it’s been transported from the bedroom to the bathroom to the front room until finally taking up residence on an upper book shelf. It’s time to take it down, dust it off and finish it.

So much of what I read seems to be by well-established writers so I’m happy about the following three books:

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – I’ve been seeing her name everywhere and then someone on facebook posted the video of her talking about the dangers of a single story. Couple that with knowing next to nothing about Biafra and the book becomes a logical choice for someone who, sometimes, approaches history through literature first.

White Teeth by Zadie Smith – I had won this after answering a difficult quiz question over at Color Online. I started it and the humor of it reminded me of John Irving whose books I’ve found hysterical in the past.

Graceland by Chris Abani – This book has been sitting quietly on my shelf for quite a few years now. So it’s long overdue.

Aké by Wole Soyinka – I had started reading this shortly after I bought it earlier this year but notions of the Wild Christian sent me off into the deep end of laughter and I haven’t returned yet.

2011 looks to be quite a reading year.

Contraband Marriage

March 17, 2010

We make it work by inches.

Our hands extended above our heads

pushing at the concrete

understanding that

even if it’s turned into a wall

that wall will one day crack and then break

under the pressure of our hands

and we will breathe free

Contraband Marriage book cover

In prison, a place where emotions based on affection are just about non-existent, love becomes the rarest of commodities; and as such is both highly prized and legislated.

By falling in love with a man who was incarcerated, I was participating in an activity considered contrary to the status quo on a variety of levels. Black people aren’t supposed to love one another. Black women aren’t supposed to love Black men. And no one is supposed to love the prisoners. But it happens and such love becomes contraband; something to be smuggled in and experienced on the sly.

Contraband Marriage covers those oppressive times and travels along the hemline of loving after incarceration, digging deep into its affects on that love, my walk into motherhood and how simple the decision to disentangle became when a child was involved. In multi-color, it paints the pains of the personal being political, the bumpy terrain of healing and the beautiful difficulty that can be forgiveness. It is a love story written in lyric and free form, set in reality with a different ever after.

ISBN:  978-0-9789355-5-9

For previews and ordering info, please visit my storefront.