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Masked Man, Black: Pandemic & Protest Poems by Frank X Walker

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Of course, as Frank X Walker was conceiving of this collection, he thought of the poem by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, whose parents were enslaved in Kentucky, entitled, “We Wear the Mask.”  Walker dedicated his title poem to Dunbar. He ends that poem with the emphatic and stirring words, “Peal off mask       no grins      no lies.”  Of course, Walker does not mean to peal off the mask protecting us from the pandemic, but the mask that Dunbar refers to, the mask that privileges survival, leading to actions that submit to racist stereotypes. Walker is the master of the last line, like when his poem, “To the Ten Year Old Kid on the Ventilator,” ends with “I can’t help but feel like we failed you somehow.” After all the poems that unflinchingly explore the realities of this last year, Walker ends this collection with “Corona Love,” a celebration of how his previously busy family going off in all directions was able, thanks to Corona, to relax and enjoy being home together. “Walker’s daily offerings calm us, inflame us, inspire us, and offer up a clarifying lens through which to examine the world anew. Now polished and collected into this volume, they continue to sustain us as we move forward into an uncertain world.” -- Kris Yohe.  “Our Professor X reads our minds and speaks to our hearts. Catharsis and metamorphosis are experienced simultaneously for the reader.” Willard C. Watson, III. A former Kentucky Poet Laureate, Frank X Walker, a professor at the University of Kentucky, is a mesmerizing spoken poet, a transformational written poet, and an award-winning author of ten poetry books. He coined the term “Affrilachian” and gathered together poets who took that name at the University of Kentucky, establishing that henceforth Appalachia was no longer “Mountain Whites” as the Library of Congress had categorized us in their catalogs.

Lexington, Accents Publishing, 2020. 75 pages with an Introduction by Shauna M. Morgan. Trade paperback.