2020 Poetry Shortlist
Kevin McKelvey is a place-based poet, writer, designer, and social practice artist. He teaches at University of Indianapolis and directs the M.A. in Social Practice Art and oversees the undergraduate major in Environmental Sustainability. At University of Indianapolis, he founded Etchings Press, a student-run publisher, helped start a community garden and microfarm, and has contributed to numerous interdisciplinary efforts for students and the community.
His poems have appeared widely in journals, books, and as pieces of public art. Dream Wilderness Poems is a poetic trail guide for the Deam Wilderness Area near Bloomington that represents years of exploration in the Hoosier National Forest that started with a summer job in college looking for invasive plants. The book was influenced by multiple hikes and camping trips, leading student hikes in the Deam, and numerous trips to local libraries and the Lilly Library at Indiana University.
Other poems are collected in Indiana Nocturnes, a collaboration with another native Hoosier, Curtis L. Crisler. The book explores the rural and urban divide in Indiana, focusing on local places like Lebanon and Marion and Gary, and our long history around race, class, and culture. McKelvey regularly creates poems to be viewed publicly, many times for Brick Street Poetry, covering a wide range of subjects such as beehive kiln brick factories, freshwater mussels, nature preserves, and other places.
With inspiration from his students and teaching, McKelvey has drafted a novel and numerous essays about the till plain region where he grew up in rural Boone County. His essays also capture his work in social practice art and creative placemaking, such as “Eight Gardens: On Gardening as Social Practice.” McKelvey has been a long-time collaborator on Big Car projects, and his social practice and placemaking continue to explore the intersections of art, writing, ecology, gardening, food, and farming.
McKelvey has been a writer-in-residence in the Long-Term Ecological Reflections program at the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest in Oregon and at Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior. This inspired him to bring this model to Indiana, working with local land trusts to create annual, centuries-long creative and scientific reflections on natural areas. NICHES Land Trust runs an annual canoe trip on Wildcat Creek, and ACRES Land Trust started a two-hundred-year project at Wing Haven Preserve.
Additional awards include multiple grants from the Indiana Arts Commission and a creative renewal fellowship from the Arts Council of Indianapolis. McKelvey currently serves on the board of Central Indiana Land Trust and regularly consults on grants, placemaking, professional writing, and creative writing. McKelvey attended DePauw University in Greencastle and completed his M.F.A. in poetry and creative writing at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.