Poet Laureates Published In New Work
West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman of Wheeling is in fine company with Kentucky Poet Laureate Frank X. Walker and other regional writers in a new literary work.
Two poems by Harshman are included in the sixth volume of the “Anthology of Appalachian Writers,” produced by Shepherd University and the West Virginia Center for the Book.
This year, the publication focuses on “Affilachian writers.” Walker, an African-American poet from Danville, Ky., coined the word “Affrilachia” to signify the importance of the African-American presence in Appalachia. Walker, 53, has explained that he thought this new word “spoke to the union of Appalachian identity and the region’s African-American culture and history.”
Harshman remarked that it is “unusual but a source of pride, as well” to have his work included in this anthology. “Frank X. Walker, especially, is an important poet and I’m glad to be sharing pages with him here,” he commented.
One of Harshman’s pieces in the Appalachian anthology is titled “Wheeling Suspension Bridge.” His other entry borrows its title, “Beech Glen,” from the old name of his Wheeling neighborhood. “However, the poem itself is actually set on Sally’s Backbone, our old home in Marshall County,” the poet said.
The book features photographic art, poetry, fiction, essays and memoirs. Officials for the project stated, “The Frank X. Walker volume of the book not only has some of the best poets and storytellers in the region, including West Virginia Poet Laureate Marc Harshman, but also some of the best African-American writers in America, including Kentucky Poet Laureate Walker, Shauna Morgan Kirlew, Randall Horton, Makalani Bandele, storyteller Omope Carter Daboiku and others.”
In addition, project spokesmen said the book brings into print heritage writer Elizabeth Keckley, an ex-slave who was first lady Mary Todd Lincoln’s dressmaker, “in one of the most fascinating slave narratives of the 19th century.”
The book includes one of Walker’s rare fiction pieces, “Grown folks.” Officials explained that the West Virginia Humanities Council arranged funding for the Appalachian Heritage Writers Award and the Frank X. Walker writer-in-residence program, which brought Walker to the project and to West Virginia.
In a biographical statement on Walker’s website, he wrote, “As a co-founder of the Affrilachian Poets and the creator of the word Affrilachia, I believe it is my responsibility to say as loudly and often as possible that people and artists of color are part of the past and present of the multi-state Appalachian region extending from northern Mississippi to southern New York.”
Currently, Walker serves as an associate professor of English at the University of Kentucky. He is the editor of numerous volumes and teaches in writing programs around the country on a regular basis.
Meanwhile, Harshman’s 2013 state sesquicentennial poem, “A Song for West Virginia,” has been reprinted in a new edition by Quarrier Press of Charleston. The volume is illustrated with beautiful photographs by Steve Shaluta of Mountain State scenes.
Antiques and collectibles appraisers Tim Luke and Greg Strahm are popular visitors to Wheeling for their annual series of Appraisal Guys fundraising events for the Museums of Oglebay Institute.
Fans of the pair caught a glimpse of Luke last week on West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s airing of “Antiques Roadshow.” A vintage episode of the roadshow, from a visit to Columbus several years ago, was shown. In that episode, Luke was filmed as he appraised a Marx Toys playset.
Linda Comins can be reached via email at: lcomins@theintelligencer. net