Skip to main content

Book Reviews

Indiana Nocturnes

When I first read Curtis Crisler and Kevin McKelvey’s remarkable collection of poetry, Indiana Nocturnes, I was a bit confused. We are informed at the back of the collection that the poets alternate poems in the odd sections of the book and feature solos in the even sections. Yet, the poems are not individually identified so it is difficult at first to discern who wrote which poem. Then I realized that this is probably a point the authors are making. A point that blurs and questions voice and identity, race and economics, and geography, thus establishing a third, multifaceted voice that narrates this fascinating Indiana road trip. We witness through their startling images the tenderness and brutality of factories and farms, cities and small towns, and a history that examines Native Americans, African Americans, white settlers, lynchings, and people as diverse as Otis Archey and Abraham Lincoln. It is a satisfyingly exhausting trip full of pleasures, unexpected shocks, and insights that lead, finally, to wisdom.

Both Crisler and McKelvey are well accomplished poets in their own rights. Together they combine to make a many banded radio station broadcasting out into our Midwestern night.

Here are two endings of two different poems by each poet:

“And if I don’t recognize the person, I wave my two fingers
From the steering wheel as welcome, to witness.”

____“…the placenta of
___every kernel of knowledge
__I need, and you you you
_click click

Please enjoy this important book in our current, fractured times.

During his 35 years in southern Indiana, Matthew Graham has been a respected and recognized writer, teacher, and advocate for poetry and the arts. Having recently retired from the University of Southern Indiana (USI), he has taught all levels of creative writing, contemporary literature, and worked with multicultural and international students in freshman composition. Among other community service Graham has worked with diverse writing groups such as high school students and community writing groups.

Matthew Graham is the author of four books of poetry, most recently The Geography of Home (Galileo Press, 2018). His work has earned numerous national, regional and local honors and awards, including a Pushcart Prize, an Academy of American Poets Award, two grants from the Indiana Arts Commission, and the Artist of the Year Award from the Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana.

While at USI, Matthew co-founded and co-directed (with Thomas Wilhelmus) The Ropewalk Writers’ Retreat, a summer program that brought national and international writers to New Harmony, Indiana for 22 years, and the Ropewalk Visiting Writers Series, which brought prominent fiction and non-fiction writers and poets to the USI campus for free public readings. The list of participating writers includes the present U.S. Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo.

Monthly reviews of books written by Indiana authors are made possible by the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Awards and Indiana Humanities. Opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the reviewer, not any affiliated entity.