Synopses & Reviews
A sequel to the award-winning Buffalo Dance, Frank X Walkers When Winter Come: The Ascension of York is a dramatic reimagining of Lewis and Clarks legendary exploration of the American West. By focusing on the humanity and struggles of York, Clarks slave, When Winter Come challenges conventional views of the journeys heroes and exposes the deeds, both great and ghastly, of the men behind the myth.
Grounded in the history of the famous trip, Walkers vibrant account allows Yorklittle more than a forgotten footnote in traditional narrativesto embody the full range of human ability, knowledge, emotion, and experience. He is a skillful hunter who kills his prey with both grace and reverence, and he thinks deeply about the proper place of humans in the natural world. York knows the seasons “like a book,” and he “can read moss, sunsets, the moon, and a mares foaling time with a touch.” The Native peoples understand and honor Yorks innate bond with the earth. Though his expertise is integral to the journeys success, Yorks masters do not reward him; they know only the way of the lash.
The alternately heartbreaking and uplifting poems in When Winter Come are told from multiple perspectives and rendered in vivid detail. On the journey, York forges a spiritual connection and shares sensual delights with a Nez Perce woman, and he aches when he is forced to leave her and their unborn son. Walkers poems capture the profound feelings of love and loss on each side of this ill-fated meeting of souls. When the trek ends and York is sent back to his former home, his wife and stepmother air their joys and grievances. As the perspectives of Lewis, Clark, Sacagawea, and others in the party emerge, Walker also gives voice to Yorks knife, his hunting shirt, and the river waters that have borne the labors and travels of thousands before and after the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Despite fleeting hints that escape is possible, slavery continues to bind York and quell the joyful noise in his spirit until his death. Walkers poems, however, give York his voice after centuries of silence. When Winter Come exalts the historical persona of a slave and lifts the soul of a man. York ascends out of his chains, out of oblivion, and into flight.
"Beginning with Buffalo Dance and continuing with the groundbreaking When Winter Come, Frank X. Walkers lyrical and stunning resurrection of York is an unparalleled creative discourse. The poet, in stanzas probing and revelatory, opens the slaves life wide, not examining York as much as inhabiting him, laying bare the complications, frailties and triumphs that history dims and denies. There is much here that we do not know, and we are blessed that it is Walker who has taken on this chronicle of Yorks other life--with the same unflinching passion, the same deft characterization and the same undeniable courage."-Patricia Smith, author of Teahouse of the Almighty, winner of the National Poetry Series
(Patricia Smith, Nov 28 2007 )
By making the erased visible, and the silenced audible, When Winter Come leads us to reconsider not only the history of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, but also how the story of geography and exploration as racialised practices can be told.
"This collection is a sequel to Walker's award-winning "Buffalo Dance," and like its predecessor is a masterful blending of history, folk narrative, myth and explorations into the mysterious nature of man and his relationship to his environment, his human pilgrimage, and even the Divine. The Lewis and Clark expedition becomes only one facet (less important at the end than at the beginning) of the journey each man and woman-and the natural worlds through which they traverse-must undergo in order to reach conclusions that lead to important ultimate truths of the heart."
(James Darrell, Bowling Green Daily News)
"When Winter Come is an astonishing collection of poems that ushers Frank X Walker into the company of other memorable poets like Roethke, Hugo, Clifton, and Dove but he also recollects the powerful narrative voice of Michael Ondaatje's Coming Through Slaughter or Alice Walker's The Color Purple. Frank X Walker magically captures York, not the flat historical figure represented in LewisandClark's journals-Walker has tapped into the true voice of York and conjured him on the page. This is not just a book of poems-this is a book of spirits and shimmering apparitions."--Debra Magpie Earling, author of Perma Red
With characteristically fierce, driven energy, prize-winning poet Frank Walker seems to channel the powerful voice of York, a slave owned by William Clark, as well as the compelling voices of York's Nez Perce wife, York's brother, and Clark himself. Walker becomes a contemporary bard - thrilling us, moving us, filling us with discoveries as his remarkable poems follow the Lewis and Clark expedition from its underside. When Winter Come: The Ascension of York is Walker's finest achievement so far.--Molly Peacock, author of Cornucopia
"Frank X Walker has re-imagined the story of the Lewis and Clark expedition in a way no one else has. This powerful and insightful book is more than an admirable sequel to Buffalo Dance. It is a careful re-examination of historical records, re-imagined and conjured into a concert of voices whose aim is truth. One can read When Winter Come through from beginning to end like a good novel, and then go back and savor it one poem at time. Walker has given all of us who care about American literature a lasting gift."-Greg Pape, Montana Poet Laureate (2007-2009) and author of Sunflower Facing the Sun and Border Crossings
This is a beautiful collection of poetry and is highly recommended.
About the Author
Frank X Walker is the author of Black Box, Buffalo Dance: The Journey of York, and Affrilachia. The recipient of a 2005 Lannan Literary Fellowship, the Lillian Smith Book Award, and the Thomas D. Clark Award for Literary Excellence, Walker is Writer-in-Residence at Northern Kentucky University.