Monday, April 09, 2012

Affrilachia

Another excellent student post from Wendel Manula:

Walker, F. X. (2000). Affrilachia. Lexington, KY: Old Cove Press.

This blog entry will explore Affrilachia by Frank X. Walker. It will consider the power of poetry to capture various kinds relationships in contemporary Black American experience – here in Kentucky – in an unrestrained fashion. This resultant panoply lies at the heart of Walker’s poetry.


The poems in Affrilachia are lyrics that express Walker the poet’s emotional response to relationships between people, experiences and things. For instance “Death by Basketball” presents the dream of a small boy to be a basketball star who plays ‘air basketball’ when he gets off the school bus and under the street lights in the evening during the latter which he is killed by a stray bullet in a drug pushers’ shootout. The poem gets its cadence from random alternation of 3,4, 5 and 6 syllable lines that when read give the sensation of a person dribbling a basketball.
“Fireproof” recounts the faithfulness of a black congregation as it rebuilds their torched church. The using the same 3,4,5 and 6 syllabic line configuration of “Death by Basketball.” But "Fireproof" has a smoothness and a forward driving pulse that replicates the persistence of the congregation’s faith. In the last stanza, Walker uses 3,3,2,4,2 syllable lines

church people
are fireproof
and Faith
won’t just go up
in smoke

to iterate a turning of the product of fire – smoke – and paradoxically figurate faith’s indestructibility.
These poems show Walker’s mastery of simple diction to convey how people feel and believe and the consequences. They are not abstract. Consistent with this, the third poem chosen for this blog, “Breakfast in Hazard,” is an homage to Carl Sandburg’s poem “Fog.” But instead of a cat metaphor Walker plays with a food image of gravy over biscuits and spider spun webs to convey the pervasiveness and blanketing quality of this weather phenomenon. Comprised of an eleven and a ten stanza – two in all – , the cadence is light and airy and Walker leverages his Kentucky images to have some fun as well as localize Frost’s poem.


I enjoyed Walker's poems because they tap into the potentials of contemporary black experience. I have at various points in my life been involved with Blacks here in the U.S. Most recently, I have been assisting in the building of a mission in Zambia. In both cases, I find it wonderful that Walker has so accurately captured what to me is the beauty and complexity of the Black persona and consciousness.

Big Question: How and why does the title Affralachia connect the poetry therein to the region where it was spawned as well as to other parts of the U.S. and the world?

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