Crystal Wilkinson, Kentucky Poet Laureate for 2021-22 and 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. on Tuesday at Owensboro Community and Technical College.
The birds of opulence is the OCTC Common Reading selection for the fall semester 2021. All OCTC Common Reading events are free and open to the public; the event will also be broadcast.
Wilkinson hails from Casey County, Ky., 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 focuses on the stories of black women and communities in the literary canon of the Appalachians and rural southern regions.
The birds of opulence focuses on generations of women in a rustic black township in the south as they live with, and at times abandon, mental illness. The Goode-Brown family, led by matriarch Minnie Mae, is rife with secrets and embarrassment. Single mother Francine Clark is haunted by her late husband and forced to fight the moral judgment of the community and her rebellious daughter.
The people of Opulence grapple with confusing relationships with the land, with each other, and with their own sexuality. As the younger generation watch their mothers and grandmothers die, they live in fear of going crazy themselves.
The birds of opulence is the recipient of the 2016 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence and the Weatherford Award for Fiction; he was nominated for 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.
His most recent book, a collection of poetry entitled Perfect black, was released in August. The two Birds of opulence and Perfect black will be available at the OCTC Bookstore and can be purchased at the Tuesday event.