Friday, May 24, 2013
Chris Cooper – 1772 Words
Facebook @ CHRISTAL ANN RICE COOPER
BEND AND NOT BREAK
“Bamboo is flexible, bending with the wind but never breaking, capable of adapting to any circumstance. It suggests resilience, meaning that we have the ability to bounce back from even the most difficult times.”
Excerpted from Bend and Not Break: A Life In Two Worlds
Pages 10 – 11.
On December 31, 2012 Portfolio of Penguin Press published Ping Fu’s business memoir Bend and Not Break: A Life In Two Worlds, in which she tells of her life during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, which include being gang raped at the age of 10 as well as years in a dormitory, forced to live apart from her family. She also writes of her rise to become co-founder (with Herbert Edelsbrunner) and CEO of Geomagic, a software development company. Since its publication a group of netizens has gone repeatedly to Amazon and other book review pages giving her book one star and scathing reviews. Some of the reviews have been accusatory, hateful, and ugly.
“These people who attack me have gone from smear to hate – most who have never even read the book. They don’t understand and don’t care I wrote a business memoir with a cross section of my life. This is not a history of the Cultural Revolution or biography of my entire life. They really don't care about the truth; they simply want to discredit me and to damage my reputation and my private life. It’s cyber bullying. I saw that there would be some disagreement and I never thought I would be subject to this kind of attack. It brings back unnecessary emotional trauma to my life.”
Despite false accusations of her being a communist and a liar, she refuses to respond in kind; and instead chooses to respond the way she was taught as a child: with love, compassion, and hard work.
“I see the pain in people’s voices when they attack me. In some ways I empathize with those people because they are probably angry in life. I don’t want to be in a place of hatred but only a place of love. That’s what made me survive my childhood and I’m not going to change that.”
This love, compassion and hard work is how she was reared by her aunt and uncle who treated her as their own – in the three-floor home on a road that was curtained by trees in Shanghai which was also known as the “Paris of the East.”
Ping Fu was born in May 30, 1958 in Nanjing. As a newborn she was sent to live with her uncle and aunt.
She described her family life as peaceful, her parents never fought, being surrounded by books which she read voraciously as a child, and given the nicknames Little Apple and Pearl In The Hand because of how delicate and precious she was to her family.
But in 1966, at the age of eight, that all changed when she was taken from her family and became ward of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution and sent to live in a dormitory in Nanjing, with her four-year-old sister Hong as her roommate.
“After Mao’s death in 1976, reformers led by Deng Xiaoping gained prominence. Most of the Maoist reforms associated with the Cultural Revolution were abandoned by 1978. The Cultural Revolution has been treated officially as a negative phenomenon ever since.”
Fu was freed from the dormitory and passed the national exam in 1978, which allowed her to attend Suzhou University (then called Jiangsu Teacher’s College) where she studied Chinese language and literature. For her senior year thesis she travelled to the countryside to research the effects of China’s newly implemented one-child policy.
“I eye-witnessed and documented the practice of female infanticide which was widespread.”
When the authorities learned of this they briefly imprisoned her.
“It was the research material that got me into trouble. A teacher gave the material to friends and then to more prominent people. They took my material and never gave it back to me.”
“In 1982, the world was watching the implementation of China’s one-child policy. A Shanghai newspaper called for an end to gender discrimination. Later that year and in the following year, the Chinese Communist Party made strong statements opposing female infanticide. China’s national paper, The People’s Daily, in Beijing, acknowledged that peasants were killing baby girls. The news spread to the International Press, which used this acknowledgment as evidence of China’s violations of human rights. Theodore W Shultz, a Nobel Laureate in Economics and advisor to the United Nations, denounced a proposed UN award to the Chinese Minister of Family Planning, Qian Xinzhong. Schultz said China’s one-child policy had caused a large increase in female infanticide.”
As a result of her research material on the one-child policy and female infanticide, Fu was told to leave the country and to never come back. On January 14, 1984, after a long struggle to obtain a passport and visa, she departed to the United States, a place that was totally foreign to her including the language: she knew how to speak three English words: hello, thank you, and help.
During her early days in America she worked as a waitress and a-live-in-nanny.
Her superiors were English-speaking Americans, and this helped her learn the English language in six months.
Once she mastered the English language, she enrolled as a matriculated student at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where she majored in English as a second language and in computer science.
She then moved to San Diego, and attended the University of California San Diego computer science program. It was here that she got her foot in the door of the career field of computer science and started working for Lane Sharman, founder and CEO of Resource Systems Group. She eventually earned her BA in Computer Science and a minor in Economics and continued to excel in her job at Resource Systems Group.
She then moved to Illinois where she worked at Bell Labs, and attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she received her MS degree in May of 1990. It was here that she met her husband former Geomagic-co-founder Herbert Edelsbrunner, (the couple are now divorced), and gave birth to their daughter.
In 1997 Fu co-founded (with Edelsbrunner) Geomagic, a software development company focused on 3D software and technology for design and manufacturing. Geomagic’s 3D imaging software affords precise replication of complex shapes from custom cranial plate (benefiting ABC’s Bob Woodruff), to heat tiles for the space shuttle, and Invisalign braces, making the exact match to an individual’s tooth in every stage of the movement, and to prosthetic limbs with fashionable faring and human shape.
“The design starts with you, the person. We wanted to combine thousands of years of handcraftsmanship with the Internet. We are a technology company that focuses on the human aspect of things.”
Geomagic is now located in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina where Fu resides with her daughter and her mother.
For a few years, Fu spent time researching her own story by coming up with 300 pages worth of material – though she never though of actually publishing a book but rather writing a legacy for her daughter.
“Friends and people who heard about my story and know me wanted me to write a book. I majored in literature in China and I wrote in a journal that was burned so I was writing the book as a way to confront my own fear and continue the process of healing.”
She finally decided to make it official and in 2012, started writing the book with co-author MeiMei Fox. The book took nine months to write.
“I didn’t want to write a self-help book. I wanted to write a business memoir. I have quite unconventional attitudes on leadership – that’s shown through in the book and I wrote this book – in a small way – to illustrate a better way to conduct business, a better way of who you are and what you are and how I came to be who I am today.”
Many successes have come and continue to come for Geomagic. In 2003, Geomagic opened Geomagic GmbH, its first wholly owned subsidiary based in Germany, and completed its first acquisition of Cadmus Consulting in Hungary.
In 2005, Ping Fu was selected Entrepreneur of the Year by Inc. Magazine.
In 2008, for President Barack Obama’s first Inaugural Speech as President, she was invited by First Lady Michelle Obama to attend the speech in her own special box – making Fu one of 15 guests.
In 2010, she served on President Barack Obama’s National Advisory Council for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. She also sits on the board of the Long Now Foundation. Along with her great success, Fu sometimes finds herself in great isolation.
“I’m one of few female entrepreneurs in the country in the high technological field and it is sometimes lonely.”
Presently Geomagic consists of 100 employees and due to a merger with 3D Systems the employee count exceeds 1200 employees. Fu will become the Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer of the 3D Systems, a leading public company in 3D printing.
The majority of Fu’s time is not in her office or on any board but on airplanes traveling the globe.
“I am not in the office enough – my job as CEO is to understand what are the big issues in the outside world and bring those problems inside the company for solutions. On the road – I go talk to customers and analysts and we want to democratize that in the community – kind of bridge the real world problems and issues and come back to help and reform those problems.”
Despite being known as the cream-of-the-crop CEO, the one question that people ask her is how she endured the atrocities she endured and still became such a success not only in business but also in her well-being.
“We know from psychology that half of how we feel is inborn. I was born to have a healthy mental attitude. The mental metaphor of the glass half full and never half empty helps me to think through things. The other half is a healthy mental metaphor. I like to think life is a mountain range – at different peaks, the views are different. However, you can’t reach another peak without going down. In American education we like to use going up as a metaphor “glass ceiling” and corporate ladders are about going up, which is really hard. I like to think of going forward, traveling up and down on the mountain range. There are much more opportunities if we continue progressing forward.”
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Chris Cooper – 2,931 Words
Facebook @ CHRISTAL ANN RICE COOPER
“The Strongest Weapon:
“the ability to create”
February 12, 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of when over 140 Prisoners of War were released from the Hoa Lo Prison, more famously known as the Hanoi Hilton Hotel in North Vietnam. One of those POWs was John Borling, at the time a Captain and fighter pilot in the United States Air Force. To commemorate the 40th anniversary, Master Wings Publishing has published Borling’s book of poetry Taps on the Walls: Poems From the Hanoi Hilton by John Borling, Major General, USAF, Retired, with the foreword by Senator John McCain.
What makes this book of poetry different from others is that Borling mentally composed all of the poems and communicated these poems to his fellow prisoners of war via a special, but forbidden, tap code. Unable to use a pen, pencil, or paper to write anything down at all, he committed thousands of words to memory, only to record them upon his release almost seven years later. . . .
Borling became a serious poet when he met his high school sweetheart and wife of almost 50 years Myrna. He’d always been a great lover of poetry – and a fan of the Elizabethan sonnet:
“I’m a lover of the Elizabethan sonnet because of the structure, the meter, the rhyme of that approach. In the book I’ve used the Elizabethan sonnet a lot. The first eight lines establish a theme, the next four counter the theme and the rhyming couplet at the end resolves matters and all done in iambic pentameter and the rhyming scheme that goes with it.” Borling comments that the rigor of construction made for good use of time.
Borling attended the United States Air Force Academy where he received his engineering degree but with a major in Humanities and a minor in management in 1963.
In his book he describes how as a F-4 pilot he was shot down while he was performing his 97th fighter mission based out of Ubon Air Base, in Thailand on June 1, 1966.
“So, on that bright moonlit June night, it was low and fast over the mountains northeast of Hanoi in an F-4 Phantom. Reaching the target area, heavy ground fire ripped into the jet. Out of control. No controls. Upside down. The jet was dead. I had to get out. Eject. Ejected and hit the ground; it was that close.”
“I hit on a long, steep, furrowed hill and went bouncing downhill like some kind of crazy jumping bean and ended up in a beat-up heap at the bottom. That hill probably saved my life. I was alive, but with disabling pain in my back, ribs, and ankles. There was blood everywhere. I couldn’t walk. I was broken. The locals were all around me, shooting into the bushes and jungle to flush me out. I had to get away. I crawled into a log and passed out.”
When he regained consciousness, he crawled fifty yards to a traffic road with the plan of hijacking a vehicle with his service revolver as his weapon and a tree branch as a crutch. Unfortunately, the vehicle that stopped was a truck full of North Vietnamese regular troops and, in less than 24 hours, he was dragged into the Hoa Lo Prison aka the Hanoi Hilton, where he would be a POW for six years and eight months.
The name Hoa Loa refers to a potter’s kin, but loosely translates to “hell’s hole” or “fiery furnace.” It also is sometimes translated as “stove” since the name originated from an actual street name, which consisted of numerous stores that sold wood stoves and coal-fire stoves along the street from the pre-colonial times. The prison buildings itself was built by the French between 1886 and 1898 when Vietnam was still part of French Indochina, and its intended prisoners were Vietnamese political prisoners. And in the 1960s it became a prisoner of war camp for American soldiers.
By the time Borling was dragged in, the prison consisted of numerous buildings that would later be given nicknames by the POWs: Heartbreak Hotel, New Guy Village, and Little Vegas. The walls were made of brick and plaster, 20 foot long, 2 to 3 ½ feet thick, and topped with barbed wire and broken glass. The entire compound was infested, bricked up, with no ventilation.
The room Borling was confined in was 6-feet-by-7-feet with no windows, no ventilation, an often-overflowing bucket for a toilet, and a mat for a bed. He, like others, was also subjected to very harsh treatment and lived in these conditions, in isolation or semi-isolation for years. He found hope through a Being higher than himself.
“God responds to desperation and either becomes very close or very distant. I believe that faith provided a strong rope to hang on to - not just for me but also for the whole group of us. There were multiple miracles that happened to me where divine providence had to be involved--at least to my mind. I think that everyone who survived that experience knew there was a great supporting factor that religion gave us. People will follow a faith that is in common and in many respects different than others but in the end responds to individual need. The practice of religion was not encouraged, even punished, by our captors. They did not understand it and knew that there was a power there impossible to reign in. Faith for me, and I can only speak for me, was an important component for battling those years and months.”
Borling also found comfort in the tap code that was developed by Colonel Carlyle Smith “Smitty” Harris, who was shot down in 1965.
Borling describes the code in the introduction of Taps On The Walls. “The easy-to-learn code uses a 5 x 5 square numbered from 1 to 5 horizontally along the top and then again vertically down the left side, with the letters of the alphabet running in order across each row of boxes. Each letter is tapped with two numbers. The first tap signifies which horizontal row is being used, and the second signifies which vertical column for each letter. By example, to send the letter “O”, tap three times, quick pause, then tap four times on the cell wall. Roger, or “Got it,” was two taps (normally after every word). “Don’t understand” or “Repeat” was a rapid series of taps. “Call up” was “shave and a haircut.” The letter “C” is used for “K”, or tapped as a 2, 6. For example “pilot” is tapped 3,5 2,4 3,1 3,4 4,4. Nightly sign-off was “GBU” 2,2 1,2 4,5: God Bless You.”
Communicating through the walls, though forbidden and those committing the forbidden act would be severely punished, was the primary factor in keeping Borling and his fellow POWs from giving in completely to the despair, kept their minds sharp, helped them overcome the isolation and loneliness, and was a major tool in how to pass the long days and the long nights. The first thing Borling tapped was his name.
“I wanted people to know that I was alive. No one thought I was alive anyway due to the certain circumstances in the crash. My wife said she could feel me. Three years later – at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night – she was feeling particularly down and there was a knock at the door and there were a couple of guys in uniform, which is not a good sign. They told her that I was alive. She had to labor without any contact with me for many years more. And I labored without any contact.”
Borling epitomized the saying “art saves lives” during those almost seven years of captivity by mentally creating poems and tapping them to his fellow prisoners of war. Borling described the poems as very private and a piece of his soul. His intention was to keep them private and as a legacy for his wife Myrna and daughter Lauren, who was three months old when he was shot down and 7 1/2 when he returned.
“The need was to keep faith with your fellows so you did this through the walls with your chain of command, make sure people knew you were alive, what demands were upon you, and keep your mind working to fill the long hard days. Every morning you face that interminable 24-hour period where you had to fight the way through it. To make time your ally – and one of those ways was to pass poetry through the mind and through the walls.”
After many years of harsh treatment, Borling and his fellow POWs found conditions improving to an extent. The POWs were placed in larger groups. Even still, the POWs did experience some punishment.
“While the Geneva Conventions were never fully respected, conditions approximated a more POW like experience but the captors never relented that we were war criminals and deserving to be punished and killed."
On February 23, 1973 Borling was officially no longer a prisoner of war, and part of the 140 POWs, the first group, to be set free. Those men to be released first were those who had been shot down first, still injured or wounded.
Borling, along with the other POWs, were flown to Clark Air Base in the Philippines where all were greeted with a celebratory reception, then placed on busses and driven to the Clark Field Hospital. The first meal was a buffet with rice and vegetable as well as good old American food. Borling along with his fellow soldiers wanted the all American meal – breakfast.
“When you are really hungry you think of the meal you want to have – steak and eggs and bacon and potatoes and toast and coffee like a bunch of lumberjacks coming in from the field. They thought we were going to be basket cases but were just a bunch of fighter pilots wanting to get back to serious living.”
The first person he spoke to on the phone was Myrna, which he described as a very odd conversation.
“We dealt with my absence much like I went out to the store for groceries.”
It was agreed by the couple that Borling hopefully would be competitive enough to rejoin the force and go back to the fighters. If not, then they would join the civilian world. Fortunately, he was competitive enough and would remain in the Air Force until August 1, 1996 when he retired as Major General after 37 years.
At the hospital he was pleased that he and Darrell Pyle were in the same room. He and Pyle had shared the same small cell for 3 ½ years at the Hanoi Hilton and then were separated. They didn’t see each other until just before their release.
“Darrell Pyle – and I were extremely close – and we got together at the end. We moved in together again.”
The two men also snuck out of the hospital to go to the Base Exchange to get a tape recorder so Borling could download his poems into the device and hopefully preserve the poems. Borling told the clerk that he wanted a tape recorder.
“The man came back with a shoe box thing and I told him I wanted a tape recorder and not a radio.”
Borling and Pyle had experienced a small bit of culture shock – he was expecting the only tape recorder he knew of before he became prisoner of war – the kind with the reels.
“An hour after hitting Clark Air Field Base in the Philippines I owned a cassette tape recorder. That was how we conserved the poems initially.”
He continued to experience culture shock but only mildly, and with the help of the Reader’s Digest special issue geared toward the POW While You Were Away, Borling was able to overcome it and adapt.
“While You Were Away tried to capture the six or seven years we were gone. There were elements – the mini skirts came and gone, the cars were different, the feminist had reared up, technology had changed, and there were a lot of stuff that was the same, and a lot of stuff that was different. Myrna hung in there and we were still there and we were able to put our life together.”
Borling’s primary goal was to return with honor. He dreamed of walking his little girl to school. His daughter Lauren, who was three months old when he became prisoner of war, was now 7 ½.
“The kids gave her a hard time because she didn’t have a father and she wanted to show me off. The Chicago Tribune had stalked us and got a picture of me walking her to school.”
Neither Borling nor his daughter Lauren was aware of the photo until November 2010 when they attended the exhibition Service Over Self. Someone had found the photo and turned it into a big banner.
“We walked in and saw that picture for the first time and my forty something daughter collapsed in my arms crying. Of course, I’m a big tough guy so I was totally unaffected, right? I collapsed in her arms crying.”
When Borling returned that February of 1973 he told Myrna about his poems he had tapped all those years. It was agreed that the poems would remain private.
“It’s all very private stuff and that is why we kept it buried and just to ourselves for all these years.”
The town fathers of Rockford approached Borling and Myrna about the Service Over Self project and asked if they would consider submitting his poems as an exhibit at the Memorial Hall in Rockford, Illinois. The exhibit was geared toward Borling and his 37-year career in the United States Air Force.
The couple agreed to make the poems public at the exhibit due to numerous reasons – they wanted to help out with the exhibit, pieces of the poems had already been leaked over the years, and close friends and family wanted them to share the poems with the public.
It seemed only fitting that when approached by Master Wings Publishing, the new imprint of the Pritsker Military Library in Chicago, to publish the poems in book form to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the release of the POWs – the answer would be a positive and complete yes.
Taps on the Walls: Poems from the Hanoi Hilton is divided into four sections. The first expresses a passion for the sky and the great missing of the freedom that flying provides. The second section speaks of the dark, hard days, when an awful loneliness and punishment and pain were routine. The third section deals with “the Holidays” and the need to remember, and be grateful but offset the enormity of prolonged and uncertain incarceration. Finally, the fourth, SEA Story (South East Asia Story), is an epic poem that took many years to compose and, as Borling notes, “offers commentary on just about everything.” The book includes a glossary of military, aviation, and historical terms as well as substantial introduction and other supplementary material that gives insight into the total work.
Borling’s friend and colleague Senator John McCain wrote the foreword to the book.
“John did the foreword which was very generous. We lived together for a time in North Vietnam. I support John politically. I think he’s a fine American. Don’t agree with everything he says but who does? I think he has the best approach which is country first.”
There will be a 40th year reunion with all the POWs on May 23 to May 26 in Newport, California at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library. This will be the second time the POWs have come together – the first was at the White House in May of 1973, when President Richard Nixon invited all of the POWS to tour the entire White House, including his own personal and family quarters. Six months after that event 50 children were born, one of which was Borling’s daughter, Megan.
“This is the one where we will have an informal accounting of what we all have done for our community, city, state, and nation. There is a sense of lifelong commitment and the need to give back to country."
Presently, Borling is working on another book titled Comrade and Emperor: Be Your Own Best Friend and Ruler of Your Soul. In the book he takes quotes from Russia’s Vladimir Lenin and France’s Napoleon Bonaparte.
“I take quotes from these two historical figures, adding my own words and philosophical spin around those quotes, with a view to offering themes of renewal and encouragement and some humor too.”
Borling not only writes but he also gives speeches around the country. He speaks on the “Eight Virtues of Leadership”, four principles from the Greeks and an additional four that he added himself. He maintains that here is one principle that stands out and is represented by Taps on the Walls.
“It is the seventh principal that I commend to you because it is the essence of the human condition – and it is the ability to create. And I argue, I would hope, persuasively, that we need to put an emphasis on the study and practice of liberal arts because that is what democracy needs in terms of an informed and an involved electorate. We need to have people who are thoughtful and are comfortable with the thoughts of the millennium. And to project those thoughts into our own experiences in families, communities, cities, countries, and nations.”
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Chris Cooper – 1,503 Words
facebook @ CHRISTAL ANN RICE COOPER
Frank X Walker: The Persona Poet
One of Frank X Walker’s goals as a writer, specifically poet, is to show the world that there are not only white writers from the Appalachian Region, but African American writers as well, and he is one of them.
He is the editor of Pluck! The Journal of Affrication Arts & Culture, and he is the author of five collections of poetry:
Affrilachia Old Cove Press, 2000
Buffalo Dance: The Journey of York University Press of Kentucky, 2004
Black Box: Poems Old Cove Press, 2006
When Winter Comes: The Ascension of York University Press Of Kentucky, 2008
Isaac Murphy: I Dedicate This Ride Old Cove Press, 2010
Walker has taught at the University of Kentucky in the English Department since January 2010, and is Kentucky Poet Laureate for 2013 to 2014 term, the first African American to be given the title.
On April 13, 2013 Walker came to the Auburn University of Montgomery to give a reading from his most recent book of poems and sixth collection Turn Me Loose The Unghosting of Medgar Evers, 2013, published by The University of Georgia Press.
As people gathered in the Goodwyn Auditorium to hear the poet speak, it was surprising to see him sitting down, his eyes closed, and his hands clasped together as if in prayer. One could interpret this as him being nervous; but a more correct theory could be that Walker takes his poetry and his responsibility as a poet seriously.
Walker, despite his prolific and award winning career as a poet, was humble to his audience and stated that he would “not extend a kidnapping any longer than necessary” and began reading his poems, offering an explanation before each read poem – not about the poet, but about the poem and the experience of writing that specific poem and his conviction of getting each poem just right – not only poetically but historically as well.
“This is the longest book I’ve written time wise. 4 ½ years when it normally takes an average of two years per book. I wanted to get it right and I was afraid to get it wrong.”
Walker talked about the importance of National Poetry Month throughout the month of April and how he as well as other poet friends of his made a commitment to write a poem every single day for the month of April.
“We don’t focus on critiquing or editing the poem – just getting the thing written.”
Walker also revealed his favorite part of doing poet readings – not in reading the poems themselves or even being the center of attention, but rather the questions and answers that the audience and he participate in.
What makes Turn Me Loose The Unghosting of Medgar Evers different from Walker’s other works is that he felt two convictions.
His first conviction started when he read Lucille Clifton’s poem “The Son Of Medgar” from Clifton’s poetry collection The Terrible Stories, published by BOA Editions Ltd in 1996. Walker couldn’t forget the poem and he couldn’t forget Evers.
He started his intense research in every aspect of Ever’s life,
including his assassin Byron De La Beckwith. Walker stated that if it were not for him reading Clifton’s poem Turn Me Loose The Unghosting of Medgar Evers would never have come into being.
His second conviction was his conviction as an educator when he learned that 90% of the students surveyed could name the assassinations of the 1960s – President Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Junior, and Robert Kennedy – but that they could not name Evers or Ever’s assassin Beckwith.
His mission was not to entertain, but to retell the true story of Evers and his assassination, filling in those missing pieces of history that seemed to be unknown to so many people; and in doing Walker hoped his book would “offer a blueprint for racial reconciliation.”
He likened writing the book to that of writing one’s family tree. “The story of building the family tree is half empty and as a teacher I try to fill in those gaps.”
On June 12, 1963, after attending a civil rights workers meeting at a nearby church, Evers was shot in his own driveway, in front of his wife and children, then placed on a mattress by his neighbors
onto a station wagon, and driven to the hospital, where on the hospital bed, he said “Turn me loose”, and dropped dead.
Evers a World War Two Veteran was buried at Arlington Cemetery with full honors.
Beckwith was tried three times for the murder of Evers- the first two trials resulting in hung juries; the third trial resulting in a first-degree murder conviction in 1994, when Beckwith was 73.
The book Turn Me Loose The Unghosting of Medgar Evers is a collection of persona poems via the voices of Myrlie Evers (Ever’s wife), Byron De La Beckwith (Ever’s assassin), Charles Evers (Ever’s brother), Willie De La Beckwith (Beckwith’s first wife), and Thelma De La Beckwith (Beckwith’s second wife).
Walker described a persona poem as being a poem where the poet does not speak, but rather the poet imagines what the person would say in a specific poem.
Hate was a dark place that Walker had to inhabit and to research in order to write some of these persona poems, especially the ones in the voice of Ever’s assassin Beckwith, specifically “Rotten Fruit”: “It’s hard to appreciate Beckwith as an adult until you first appreciate Beckwith as a kid with his grandfather – mistranslating life’s lessons darker than what they were intended.”
Walker learned the daily fear that the Evers lived with constantly. To escape from this fear, when Evers would come home from work, he and his wife Myrlie would lie down in the dark and listen to the radio.
“I went online and found out what radio shows they listened to and what the top songs were and purchased them on Itunes and listened to them at night.” The result is Walker’s poem “Listening to Music” through the voice of Myrlie Evers.
“I went online and found out what radio shows they listened to and what the top songs were and purchased them on Itunes and listened to them at night.” The result is Walker’s poem “Listening to Music” through the voice of Myrlie Evers.
In fact, music played a huge role in writing of the book and the music adds a psychological and emotional depth to the people speaking these persona poems. Walker said the song “Dixie” and “Strange Fruit” were the basis of the structure of the book.
Walker wrote the poem “One-Third Of 180 Grams Of Lead” from the voice of the bullet. When asked why he would write a poem from the voice of a bullet he responded that he was a big fan of Spike Lee films.
“I like specifically the slow motion of objects – such as a head turning or a bullet hitting a window, or a human target within the film. The point of view of the bullet is not very realistic but I wanted the challenge of it. The bullet is not invested in either of these guys. It’s just a bullet. I like the objectivity of that voice.”
One of the questions asked was, “Does your poetry keep us separated?” to which Walker immediately responded with an unhesitant “No.”
“You have to confront all your ignorance. To pretend it doesn’t exit – there is nothing to forgive. When you say it out loud you can move past it. It’s liberating.”
Then he added, “The book is not the solution, only a tool to start communicating (and) a vehicle to start a framework of conversation.”
Walker’s advice on how to become a poet is to read voraciously and to read everything. “You need to read so much that you hear the difference in voice. If you are not trying to hear other voices you will never hear your own.”
The second piece of advice to is to seek instruction on how to revise, reedit, and rewrite one’s work.
Presently Walker is writing a coming of age novel that takes place in a fictional town in Kentucky. The hero of the novel is a bi-racial young man who yearns to be a poet but is not doing a good job thus far. He graduates from college, becomes part of the working world, and, in the process accidentally runs into his biological father. The two men reconnect and the young man realizes that though he is educated and his father is not, his father is more of the poet than the he is.
Thus far Walker has produced no autobiographical work. The closest he’s come to producing an autobiographical work is that he mentions his mother’s name Faith in all of his works.
“I use my mother’ s name in every book, but I’m still married to what exists as the facts.”
“I use my mother’ s name in every book, but I’m still married to what exists as the facts.”
Walker is also the editor of the anthology America What’s My Name The “Other” Poets Unfurl the Flag by Wind Publications, 2007.
Contact Walker at www.frankxwalker.com for more information.
Photograph Copyright Information
Photo One - Frank X Wright by Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Photo Two - Pluck - Public Domain
Photo Three - Affilachia - Public Domain
Photo Four - Buffalo Dance: The Journey Of York - Public Domain
Photo Five - Black Box: Poems - Public Domain
Photo Six - When Winter Comes: The Ascension of York - Public Domain
Photo Seven - Isaac Murphy: I Dedicate This Ride - Public Domain
Photo Eight - Frank X Walker by Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Photo Nine - Turn Me Loose The Unghosting of Medgar Evers - Public Domain
Photo Ten - Frank X Walker at AUM by Chris Rice Cooper
Photo Eleven - Frank X Walker at AUM by Chris Rice Cooper
Photo Twelve - Lucille Clifton - Public Domain
Photo Thirteen - The Terrible Stories -Public Domain
Photo Fourteen - Medgar Evers - Fair Use of the United States Copyright Law
Photo Fifteen - Byron De La Beckwith - Fair Use of the United States Copyright Law
Photo Sixteen - Home of Evers When and Where He was Killed - GNU Free Documentation License
Photo Seventeen - Evers Arlington Grave Site - GNU Free Documentation License
Photo Eighteen - Evers Widow & Children At Gravesite - GNU Free Documentation License
Photo Nineteen- Byron De La Beckwith- Fair Use of the United States Copyright Law
Photo Twenty - Frank X Walker by Rachel Eliza Griffiths
Photo Twenty-One - Frank X Walker at AUM by Chris Rice Cooper
Photo Twenty-Two - America What's My Name The "Other" Poets Unfurl the Flag - Public Domain