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Poets Laureate Frank X. Walker, Maureen Morehead, Visit 2013 Writing Pastors' Workshop

by Ashley Schaffner | Oct 18, 2013

Walker, Morehead share poetry, advice, with writers during visit


Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary’s 2013 Writing Pastors' Workshop was enriched this week by visits from current Kentucky Poet Laureate Frank X. Walker and past Laureate Maureen Morehead. During these special visits, participants listened to Walker and Morehead read poetry, and interacted with them through question-and-answer sessions and story sharing.  The workshop was limited to 12 participants— pastors, chaplains and mission workers who came from as far as Nigeria and Zambia to participate in the weeklong workshop  held on the Seminary’s campus.

After completing her two-year term as poet laureate in 2012, Morehead, a professor of poetry at Spalding University, is in the midst of research on writing as it correlates to health (mental and physical) and spirituality. She shared a reading from Gregory Orr’s book Poetry as Survival. She also talked about the mechanics and mood of her poetry and, while those in the room listened with closed eyes and lowered heads, she shared several readings from her books, The Melancholy Teacher and Late August Blues. In speaking about writing as a form of therapy, Morehead said, “We use our writing to order the difficult things, the complicated things, the confusing things.”

Walker is a founding member of the Affrilachian Poets, a group of ground-breaking writers in the Appalachian region who’ve created, and continue to create, a new variety of engaging, vivid poetry. As this year’s appointed Poet Laureate, he will promote the arts and lead the state in literary endeavors through readings and public presentations at meetings, seminars, conferences and events, including Kentucky Writers’ Day. He writes on the topics of family, social justice, identity and place.

Walker described for the participants how and when he found his ‘voice’ for writing poetry, a process he attributes largely to his mother, who was a Pentecostal minister. “Everything I write about is an extension of one of the lessons my mother taught me,” he said. “When I’m writing, my degrees cannot get in the way,” he said of people understanding his poetry. “My writing has to remain accessible.” He also shared selected readings from his book, Affrilachia.

“Frank and Maureen both are tremendous writers in a region loaded with gifted writers and poets,” said Professor Brad Wigger, who leads the annual workshop. “When Dr. Morehead comes to visit with my classes and workshops, everyone is riveted by her readings.”

Of Walker specifically, Wigger said, “I’ve been a fan for years and have had students at the Seminary reading his work since his book Affrilachia came out in 2000. I’m thrilled to meet him. His new work: Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers, is profound.”

The annual Writing Pastors' Workshop is designed particularly for pastors and church leaders who see writing as a spiritual practice, an expression of the pastoral imagination and a service to the church and the world. In a small group setting, participants have the opportunity to develop their skills, share ideas and drafts of work, explore possibilities for publication, and—most of all—nurture their passion for writing, while residing and working on Louisville Seminary’s campus.

Wigger teaches both writing and education at Louisville Seminary. He has written for general, church, and academic audiences, including numerous articles and essays, books for scholars and children. He was consulting editor for the Jossey-Bass Faith and Families book series and for many years he was the editor of the journal, Family Ministry. Most recently he has been studying creativity and the imagination of children and hopes to write his next book on the subject. See full bio.

Louisville Seminary, in partnership with The Collegeville Institute, offers this workshop for free (including tuition, room and board) to 12 participants each year. Those interested in attending should apply via www.lpts.edu in the spring.

About the Kentucky Poet Laureate
The position of Kentucky Poet Laureate was originally established in 1926 by an act of the Kentucky General Assembly. James T. “Cotton” Noe was selected for the position. Prior to 1990, poets laureate were appointed to lifetime terms by the General Assembly. At times several people held the position simultaneously.

In 1990, new legislation was enacted to provide for the gubernatorial appointment of a state poet laureate for a two-year term. The Kentucky Poet Laureate’s duties include promoting the literary arts and leading the state in literary activities.

The Kentucky Poet Laureate is selected following a public call for nominations coordinated by the Kentucky Arts Council. Nominees for this position must reside in Kentucky, have a long association with the Commonwealth, and have a critically acclaimed published body of work that is informed by living in Kentucky. The word "poet" in the position's title is interpreted in its broadest sense to include writers whose accomplishments are in any literary form. An independent panel reviews the nominations and submits its recommendation to the Governor for appointment.

The new poet laureate is usually inducted on April 24 of odd-numbered years in conjunction with Kentucky Writers’ Day celebrations.

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