Through poetry and drama, Frank X Walker, Kentucky writer and poet laureate for 2013-14, illuminates the life of legendary 19th-century African-American jockey Isaac Murphy in “I Dedicate This Ride,” part of KET’s Kentucky Muse series.
Walker discusses the process of researching and writing about Murphy and his own personal admiration for the three-time Kentucky Derby winner. Walker’s book of poetry celebrating Murphy, which was also adapted into a play performed by the Lexington Children’s Theater, explores the jockey’s respect and compassion for humans and horses alike, his strong personal values, and what Walker describes as his “superhero skills” on the racetrack.
Walker’s poetry is written from the perspective of Murphy himself and close friends and family members. For Murphy’s voice, Walker manages to capture the proud and gentle man, known for using only his voice and touch “like a mother’s kiss,” not whips or spurs, to make horses run.