OCTC to host KY Poet Laureate Crystal Wilkinson

October 17, 2021 | 12:06 am

Updated October 17, 2021 | 7:11 pm

Crystal Wilkinson

Crystal Wilkinson, Kentucky’s Poet Laureate for 2021-22 and the first Black woman to be selected for the honor, will give a public reading of her book The Birds of Opulence at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday at Owensboro Community and Technical College.

The Birds of Opulence is OCTC’s Common Reading selection for the Fall 2021 semester. All OCTC Common Reading events are free and open to the public; the event will also be streamed.

Wilkinson is from Casey County, Kentucky, and is a founding member of the Affrilachian Poet movement. She is a 2020 US Artists Fellow and teaches at the University of Kentucky. Her work involves the stories of Black women and communities in the Appalachian and rural Southern literary canon.

The Birds of Opulence focuses on generations of women in a rustic southern black township as they live with, and sometimes surrender to, mental illness. The Goode-Brown family, led by matriarch Minnie Mae, is plagued by secrets and embarrassment. Single mother Francine Clark is haunted by her dead husband and forced to fight against the moral judgment of the community and her rebellious daughter.

The residents of Opulence struggle with puzzling relationships to the land, to one another, and to their own sexuality. As the members of the youngest generation watch their mothers and grandmothers pass away, they live with the fear of going mad themselves.

The Birds of Opulence is the winner of the 2016 Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence and the Weatherford Award for Fiction; it was nominated for both the Orange Prize and the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award.

Wilkinson has received recognition from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, the Kentucky Arts Council, the Mary Anderson Center for the Arts, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and is a recipient of the Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writing.

Her most recent book, a collection of poetry titled Perfect Black, was released in August. Both Birds of Opulence and Perfect Black will be available at the OCTC bookstore and may be purchased at the event Tuesday.

October 17, 2021 | 12:06 am

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