Affrilachia: Poems by Frank X Walker

ISBN: 0967542405
ISBN 13: 9780967542409
By: Frank X. Walker

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Adult Appalachia Book Discussion Group Default Kentucky Kentucky Author Poetry School Southern Literature To Read

Reader's Thoughts

Chuck Clenney

Illuminating. So so illuminating. Had me reading and then flipping the pages backwards and rereading over and over again. Really enjoyed reading this on the morning train in Japan, reminded me of home.


Reading Frank X Walker’s Affrilachia gave me a new perspective on one of the many people-groups of Appalachia. Walker combines his background, views, and beliefs with his unique style of poetry with imagination and wordplay to present a thought-provoking, powerfully quiet mirage of scenes and stories highlighting blacks in Appalachia.The writing style is striking, not lessened by the lack of punctuation such as periods. Walker makes this work to his advantage, as in some cases a thought, stanza, or line appears to have a double meaning depending on where you, the reader, creates a pause.I feel that different meanings are a large theme of this collection. The meanings of some poems were much more evident than others, at least to me; “Statues of Liberty” had a clear tribute and meaning, whereas poems like “Neopolitan” are much more open to interpretation. One thing I love about this book is the range of circumstances Walker covers. From the roles of women (“Matriarch,” “Statues of Liberty”), to so-called interracial dating (“Cease Fire,” a personal favorite), to religion (“Fireproof,” “Amazin’ Grace”), to an overall view of the birth and nature of violence (“Death by Basketball,” “Violins or Violen…ce”), to the Civil Rights Movement (“Million Man March”), to drugs (“Rock Star”), it is all a healthy dose of truths from someone who obviously ‘knows what they’re talkin’ ‘bout.’“Death by Basketball’s” so starkly and wonderfully shown themes of education, fame, and commercialism are ones that I feel are especially prevalent in today’s culture. It’s important to remember that violence always has a root, and it’s not just found in the ghettos and projects of places like New York City, but it’s in Appalachia as well.The book begins and ends poignantly with a duo of poems, “Clifton I” and “Clifton II,” that particularly struck me. In my mind, “Clifton I” is a vignette of father and son, the latter listening to stories of the family’s past. They soak in, but the son is wondering if they matter. Do they apply to his current situation? His current problems? Perhaps the rest of the poems in the book are meant to represent and show why the stories of happenings matter and how they affect people. “Clifton II,” I imagined, was written from the point-of-view of this same son, now grown, now knowing that all the stories, the backgrounds, the histories of family do matter, and wanting to pass them on. There’s a hint of despair in his tone, as he’s not sure any of the youth of the family will care about them. Yet through it, he is showing the readers that they are certainly things to care about. I related to “Clifton II” in many ways, and was comforted knowing that other people are concerned about preserving family histories as well.From start to finish, Walker’s words are sympathetic, revealing, and challenging. One of my favorite thoughts presented is from the poem “Stop Looking and Listen,” showing we are all the same, we all live here, we are all community; ‘acknowledge your europe, claim your cherokee, embrace your africa, all of them, all at once…’ (My paraphrase.)


This is a collection of poetry from the perspective of an African-American man from the Appalachian region. True, some of the stuff here threw me, but other poems I enjoyed a great deal. Unfortunately, I know my book group, comprised of senior women, will not enjoy these poems, particularly the ones that employ hip-hop slang.


You've heard, of course, of Appalachia. Do you think "poor, white trash" when you hear the term? Or, perhaps in more positive and romantic terms, you think of green, rolling hills and flowered "hollers," but don't tell me you don't think of white faces tucked into the rural cabins. Well, not all folks that identify as Appalachian are rural, and not all of them are white. Frank X. Walker (the X. is self-adopted in tribute to Malcolm) has coined the term "Affrilachia" to describe his experience of growing up Black in the hollers and coal mining towns of Appalachia. His poems reflect a unique time and place, both painful and beautiful, but they speak for many not heard before. Dreams and dashed dreams; great beauty and despair, rolling hills and black-pitch coal shafts enfuse the lines of Walker's Afrilachian identity.


I loved this book. It's my favorite of the author's works.

Linda Blake

Walker captures so many Black voices in these poems. I don't think I will ever forget the message of "Amazin' Grace" about the slave trader who wrote this beloved hymn. I'm not sure why all readers didn't rank the book 5 stars.


My librarian roommate turned me on to Frank Walker's poetry and I've been a fan ever since. However, this was the first of his collections and is definitely my favorite.

Kelci Schmidt

I honestly can't see what people like about this collection, but I have to admit there must be something- everyone in my workshop loved it. For me, every poem seemed to be a reiteration of the same story, and it wasn't even a story that held my attention the first time around. This wasn't only an issue of not being able to identify with the speaker of these poems (although that was definitely a problem for me), but also, and to a much larger extent, that the craft of Walker's poetry feels lacking. While there are a few surprising images and phrases, the language of this collection is tired and, overall, lacks the vividness that makes poetry interesting to me. I finished the collection with a weird sense of having been beat over the head with Walker's story and at the same time having been SHOWN nothing. Especially given the rave reviews from other poets I trust, Affrilachia left a lot to be desired.

Leigh Koonce

A great collection of poems. I can't wait to hear him read in person.

Rebecca Recco

I loved this book, and reading it felt like an intimate conversation with an old friend. Walker's poems lack (in a good way) the self-conscious, esoteric qualities that exist in a lot of popular poetry, but is instead full of lyrical charm, honesty, and laser-sharp insight into the interaction between people and their environment. I want to read more of Walker's poetry!


So far I am enjoying the poems in this book. I will write more when finished


affrilachia - new word, good delivery at black male poetics event, but a little slippy on the page (not sure why), interesting persona poems.


I read this book for a poetry class in college, and I reread it every year before I teach my kids poetry. Frank X. Walker is fantastic.


I remember the first time I saw Frank X. Walker read his poems. He is an amazing person, and a very talented writer. Go to Youtube and look up his poem, Kentucke. See for yourself. I love his work.

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