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Photo credit: Patrick J. Mitchell
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 his most recent, Masked Man, Black: Pandemic & Protest Poems, and 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. 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. 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. https://www.frankxwalker.com/
makalani bandele was raised in Louisville, KY, but currently resides in Lexington, KY. He is an Affrilachian Poet and Cave Canem fellow. He has also received fellowships from the Kentucky Arts Council, Millay Colony, and Vermont Studio Center. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame with a BA in the Program of Liberal Studies, as well as a graduate of Shaw University with a Master of Divinity in Biblical Studies. He currently attends the University of Kentucky in pursuit of an MFA in Creative Writing. His work has been published in several anthologies, and widely in print and online journals, African-American Review, Killens Review of Arts and Letters, and Sou’wester to name a few. Most recently work from his collection, under the aegis of a winged mind, which won the 2019 Autumn House Press Poetry Prize, appears in Prairie Schooner, Foundry, 32poems, and North American Review. His collection of poems hellfightin’, was published by Aquarius Press in 2011. https://makbandele.com/
Photo credit: Andre Howard
Britton Shurley is author of the chapbook Spinning the Vast Fantastic (Bull City Press, 2021), and his poetry has appeared in such journals as Southern Humanities Review, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, and Southern Indiana Review. He is the recipient of Emerging Artist Awards from the Kentucky Arts Council in both 2011 and 2016. He is an Associate Professor of English at West Kentucky Community & Technical College where he edits Exit 7: A Journal of Literature & Art with his wife, the poet, Amelia Martens. They live in Paducah, Kentucky with their daughters and curate the Rivertown Reading Series. https://brittonshurley.com/