‘Affrilachia’ poet among authors to be featured during 16th annual Spring Literary Festival

Frank X Walker

Western Carolina University’s annual Spring Literary Festival has a 15-year history of hosting local and national writers and showcasing established and emerging literary talent, all part of an open-to-the public community celebration.

The 16th annual festival, to be held Monday, April 2, through Thursday, April 5, will provide opportunities for audience members to interact with a variety of local, regional and nationally acclaimed authors, said Pamela Duncan, associate professor in WCU’s Department of English and event director. “We are especially excited about campus collaborations that made it possible to bring such talent and diversity to campus,” she said. “We’ll have Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle, a Cherokee fiction writer and journalist, which ties in with this year’s interdisciplinary learning theme – ‘Cherokee: Community. Culture. Connections.’ There also will be Lorraine Lopez of Nashville, Tennessee, an author of six novels, as part of the WCU Latina/o Speaker Series. She is a winner of the Independent Publisher Book Award for multicultural fiction, finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Prize in fiction and an advocate for women in literature.”

This year’s festival features Tony Kushner, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for drama and the Tony Award for best play for “Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes.” He also was nominated for an Academy Award for his screenplay for “Lincoln,” a 2012 movie directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Sally Field.

Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle

Other wordsmiths appearing are Glenn Taylor, the West Virginia author of “A Hanging at Cinder Bottom” and “The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart,” and poet and essayist Michael McFee, an Asheville native known for incorporating the mountains and a sense of family into his works. Also scheduled is poet, editor and multidisciplinary artist Frank X Walker, an associate professor at the University of Kentucky and former poet laureate of Kentucky whose “Affrilachia” is considered a classic of Appalachian and African-American literature.

“‘Affrilachia,’ a collection of poems once deemed the most stolen book in Kentucky prison libraries, has been in print for 18 years and it’s still the personal favorite out of my nine published collections,” said Walker. “It is also still one of my bestsellers. I want to believe it’s because of the ease with which people connect with the poems that focus on family, identity, place and social justice. And, I also know that universities and Appalachian Studies departments in the region have done a better job acknowledging, teaching and discussing the true diversity of the region.”

Walker has taken his self-invented term “Affrilachia,” referring to blacks living in the Appalachian Mountains, and expanded its application beyond a book title to other ethnocentric and regional arts and cultural items, including a journal of poetry, prose and visual art published twice a year and a collective of writers, the “Affrilachian Poets,” who have done readings throughout the region and nationally. “But, the largest, warmest most appreciative audience are always at colleges and universities in the mountains,” Walker said.

Presentations are free and take place in the theater of A.K. Hinds University Center, with the exception of the Kushner appearance, which will be held in the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center’s performance hall with admission charged for the general public. A schedule of festival events:

Monday, April 2

Noon – Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poets Series featuring Pat Riviere-Seel and student poets Donna Glee Williams, Karen Jackson, Victoria Tran and Morgan Guynn.

4 p.m. – Fiction writer Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle.

7:30 p.m. – Fiction writer Glenn Taylor.

Tuesday, April 3

4 p.m. – Fiction and nonfiction writers Dana Wildsmith and Jim Minick.

7:30 p.m. – Fiction writer Crystal Wilkinson and poets Frank X Walker and Ricardo Nazario-Colon.

Wednesday, April 4

4 p.m. – Nonfiction and fiction writers Jessie van Eerden and Jesse Donaldson.

7:30 p.m. – Fiction writer Lorraine Lopez.

Thursday, April 5

2 p.m. – Poet Rose McLarney and poet and nonfiction writer Michael McFee.

7:30 p.m. – An evening with playwright Tony Kushner.

WCU sponsors include the Campus Learning Theme Committee, College of Arts and Sciences, Division of Student Affairs, Department of English, Hunter Library, Office of Communications and Public Relations, Office of Research Administration, Office of the Chancellor, Office of the Provost, Office of Residential Living and the Visiting Writers Series. Community sponsors are City Lights Bookstore, Fontana Regional Library and the N.C. Poetry Society. The festival also receives support from the N.C. Arts Council, a division of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources.

For more information, visit litfestival.org or contact WCU’s English Department at 828-227-7264.