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OCTC to host Kentucky’s Poet Laureate Crystal Wilkinson

In Education, Local, News by OC Monitor Staff

OWENSBORO, Ky. — The Owensboro Community and Technical College Common Reading selection for the Fall 2021 semester is The Birds of Opulence by Crystal Wilkinson, and the author’s visit is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. Additional details and related events will be shared on campus and on the Common Reading Facebook page at

All OCTC Common Reading events are free and open to the public, the event will also be streamed. Wilkinson is Kentucky’s Poet Laureate for 2021-22, the first Black woman to be selected for this honor.

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. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and her short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including most recently in the Oxford American and Southern Cultures. Her next book, a collection of poetry, 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 on October 19.

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. Wilkinson creates the town of Opulence and its people in poetic detail, a world of magic and spells, but also one of harsh realities.

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