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Social Justice & the Historical Poem:

Medgar Evers in Frank X Walker's Turn Me Loose

"You can fill all the libraries with your version of facts, call it history, and still not own the truth," writes Frank X Walker in his 2013 volume of poetry, Turn Me Loose, about the 1963 assassination of Medgar Evers. In his fourth volume of historical poetry-a genre, Walker describes as "misbehaving" through its activism-Walker turns his attention to the unsung heroes of the Civil Rights movement and to the culture of white supremacy against which Evers fought. Because of the focus on the crucial moment of Evers' fatal injury and death, Evers does not speak himself beyond the volume's title, which quotes his final words from his hospital bed, but he is spoken about-by voices all readers can empathize with, those of his wife and his brother, and by voices readers abhor, those of his assassin and the assassin's two wives. This uncomfortable counterpoint, with its formidable use of form, unflinchingly brings both sides to the table in its efforts toward reconciliation, and the poetry successfully creates an emotional current in verse and authenticity through multiple points of view.

Join us for this talk and then for Walker's reading with fellow Affrilachian writers Crystal Wilkinson and Ricardo Nazario-Colon at WCU's Literary Festival.

Annette Debo teaches African American literature, modernism, and literary theory at Western Carolina University. Author of three books, her articles have appeared in such journals as African American Review, Callaloo, Modernism/modernity, and CLA Journal. She is currently at work on the book Reclaiming the Past: The Historical Poem in Contemporary African American Poetry.

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