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Curtis L. Crisler

Years: 2003, 2005, 2006


Curtis L. Crisler was born and raised in Gary, Indiana. He received a BA in English, with a minor in Theatre, from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW), and he received an MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Crisler’s book, THe GReY aLBuM [PoeMS], was picked by Steel Toe Books and published in 2018. Other poetry books are Don’t Moan So Much (Stevie): A Poetry Musiquarium (Kattywompus Press), “This” Ameri-can-ah (Cherry Castle Publishing), Pulling Scabs (nominated for a Pushcart, Aquarius Press), Tough Boy Sonatas (Young Adult, Wordsong: An Imprint of Boyds Mills Press, Inc.), and Dreamist: a mixed-genre novel (Young Adult, Jordan’s Rainbow YA Books: A Division of Aquarius Press). His poetry chapbooks are Black Achilles (Accents Publishing), Wonderkind (nominated for a Pushcart, Aquarius Press), Soundtrack to Latchkey Boy (Finishing Line Press), and Spill (which won a Keyhole Chapbook Award, Keyhole Press).

He is a Cave Canem Fellow (‘03, ‘05, ‘06), the recipient of residencies from the City of Asylum/Pittsburgh (COA/P), the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA), Soul Mountain, a guest resident at Hamline University, and a guest resident at Words on the Go (Indianapolis).

Crisler has received a Library Scholars Grant Award, Indiana Arts Commission Grants, Eric Hoffer Awards, the Sterling Plumpp First Voices Poetry Award, and he was nominated for the Eliot Rosewater Award and the Jessie Redmon Fauset Book Award.

His poetry has been adapted to theatrical productions in New York and Chicago, and he has been published in a variety of magazines, journals, and anthologies. He’s been a Contributing Poetry Editor for Aquarius Press and a Poetry Editor for Human Equity through Art (HEArt), as well as a board member. He’s the creator of the Indiana Chitlin Circuit (ICC), and an Associate Professor of English at Purdue University Fort Wayne (PFW).  


living in the grey matter cento


before us, bodies giving up their last holy word.

i once sat in the same moment too—


there is an incision in the souls on this canvas

and i’m begging god for another two minutes.


we all have been burned to a recognition

that our scars are smoldering palisades—


eyes break-dancing in the sunlight,

ongoing into an aria, spent in the ether


of alphabetic limbo—an o-shaped mouth

yawns in the hurt of morning sun, and


in the smallness, we get to know now.




so many silences ride on this rain—

saturate into the thickness of impenetrable skulls.


the music penetrated, blooming out of his afro.

every day there’s a bomb ready to explode—


circular watermarks from neglected drinks. listen…

we try to hide in our botched prayers,


hungry for each morsel. two bodies swim

within orgasm. the trees have cried


their leaves to the ground

and made us all fly.




the lime stench of the city—

the streets strayless, glistening with


the glass’s shine of black crow beaks—

rankling moans of ghosts lie faint in the distant,


searching night for another new god—

jumping crystals before halogen car lamps.


hot-pins prickle skinhandled by red-

cross and other relief-funded violin players.


our voices scattered, old buck shots—

burdened and marred w/ fragments—


throat surrounded in wool.

inside, the aging us,


smaller than a granule, this

life in the next quadrant of existence.