Recently I was invited for the second time to participate in the annual Albany State University Poetry Festival, titled Ascensions, referring to Frank X Walker's latest book of poetry, When Winter Come: The Ascension of York.
I joined Frank, Shirlette Ammons, Dr. doris davenport, the creator and maintainer of the festival, and the students who came to our sessions to write and listen. The three day festival was high-energy and high-fun. I enjoyed every minute. As a native of Southwest Georgia (Camilla, in Mitchell County, a mere 25 mile drive from Albany) I take special pride in seeing one of our local institutions bringing the gospel of poetry to the community.
On Friday morning, I began the day's writing workshop by reading some of my poems and inviting the students to "steal" whatever they wanted from my work. They Did!
Students participating in the work shop were the following:
Whenever I praise what she's brought forth,
whether biscuits or chicken stewed all day
with sweet corn and butterbeans, she says, "To God
Be the Glory." But I tell her I don't mess around
with an old man who's so far away he can't hear me.
I'd rather be talking to petunias that bloom on her porch,
or the bathrobe she wears when she's making
the coffee, her toes while she's sleeping in front
of the t.v., her big mouth that's snoring.
To you be the Glory, I say, feeling
so brazen this morning, I dare God
to give me the finger. Go scrub out
your mouth,she scolds, but I see her smiling.
DB Forsythe, Cassandra Starr, Shawn Sessums, and Maggie Emily work on their poems.
She then read one of Frank X Walker's new poems in the persona of Myrlie Evers, the widow of Medgar Evers, slain during the civil rights struggle in Mississippi. (Mr. Walker has also written poems in voice of Evers' assassin and his wife. )
.....and reminded them of the open-mic reading that evening, at which they would be reading the poems composed during this morning session, and urged them to come to Frank X Walker's lecture/presentation early in the afternoon and his Master Class workshop following.
In the afternoon, Frank, after a long, long drive from Kentucky to SW Georgia, gave us a masterful introduction to his work centered around York, who accomanpanied his master William Clark on the Lewis & Clark expedition. Walker's first book, Buffalo Dance, gives us the voice of York as he travels across the continent with the expedition. His new book, When Winter Come, gathers the voices of various characters, both human and not, involved in York's story.