Kentucky’s Poetic Pride – Frank X Walker

Frank X WalkerSo, I’m working this morning like a mad woman. I had laundry going (with a family of 5, who am I kidding – I always have laundry going), I was simultaneously writing two blog posts and answering e-mail all at once. Then I decided I needed a little relaxation break, maybe 5 -10 minutes. I grabbed my cup of coffee and pulled a new book of poetry off of the shelf. Nothing in the world is quite as relaxing as sitting near a window so you can hear the birds in the trees as you get lost in great poetry.

This particular book was a collection of poems by Kentuckian Frank X Walker, so I knew they’d be better than great. He is, quiet honestly, one of the most brilliantly talented poets to ever put pen to paper. The man’s scary good. I thought I’d just sit there for about 10 minutes and enjoy a few poems.

Ah, the best laid plans. Basically, I read the entire book – front to back. The way I see it, e-mails and blog posts can wait – but I never keep poetry waiting.

This particular book is called “Buffalo Dance: the Journey of York.” This collection of beautiful poems tells the story of the Lewis & Clark expedition from the viewpoint of Clark’s personal slave, York.

York was born in Virginia, but spent most of his life in Kentucky. Frank X Walker’s poems give us a glimpse into York’s Buffalo Dance: The Journey of York by Frank X Walkerlife, through words that York, himself, may have used. Throughout the book we see a strong, loyal, faithful, and brave man emerge. I found myself SO wanting to meet this man who, even I (a history buff) never knew existed.

This is such a beautiful and amazing collection of poems, I can’t even begin to tell you.

Buffalo Dance’s credits include winning the 35th annual Lillian Smith Book Award.  It was also recognized as a BookSense 76 Spring 2004 Top 10 Poetry Book!

It is simply the sort of book you don’t just read – you fall in love with it. I’ve been waving it in front of each of my daughter’s faces, “Read this… you have to read this…”  My youngest daughter, Stephany, is also a huge history buff so she will probably have it read by the time I finish this post.

Below is one of my favorites, to give you an idea of why you should grab a copy for yourself:


by Frank X Walker
Many tribes speak they piece
by talking with they hands an faces.
When we sit in the circle to talk
with Sacagawea’s brother, the chief
she take his words in Shoshoni
an measure them out in Hidatsa
Charbono hands it to Lebiche in French
Lebiche gives it to the Captains in English
then they talks between themselves
an sends it back down the line
and so forth an so on.

The words seem to be on they own expedition
but it hard to believe the truth
can be traded on that many tongues
and still taste like itself.

“The words seem to be on they own expedition..”  gets me every time.

Frank X Walker is a native of Danville, Kentucky and currently resides in Kentucky.  He is a graduate of the University of Kentucky, and completed an MFA in Writing at Spalding University in May 2003.    He honestly has too many credits to his name for me to list right now (after all, the laundry’s still waiting !), but you can read them for yourself on his Official website’s About Page.  Read more about this talented poet’s other books while on the site.  Heck, do a brilliant thing and order one of each.

Poetry isn’t a purchase, poetry’s an investment.  In a more peaceful and happy state of mind.  Now zen.

While on his site, I flipped what’s left of my lid when I saw that he has  written a sequel to Buffalo Dance!  It’s called When Winter Come: the Ascension of York and I want it as desperately as I want my next sip of coffee.

The photo of Frank X Walker is by Tracy A. Hawkins.

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