CRISOSTO APACHE – Poet – Educator – Editor
Crisosto Apache is originally from Mescalero, New Mexico, on the Mescalero Apache reservation, and currently lives in the Denver area with their spouse. They are Mescalero Apache, Chiricahua Apache, and Diné (Navajo) of the Salt Clan, born for the Towering House Clan. They hold an MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and are an Assistant Professor of English. Crisosto’s debut collection is GENESIS (Lost Alphabet). Their second collection is Ghostword (Gnashing Teeth Publications). They are also the Associate Editor of The Offing Magazine, and their profile can be seen on the website at crisostoapache.com.
Ghostword is my second poetry book from Gnashing Teeth Publications, released in November 2022. Ghostword was inspired by the modernist Japanese writer Akutagawa Ryunosuke’s book, A Fool’s Life (Eridonos Publishers). A Fool’s Life was the last book Ryunosuke wrote before he committed suicide. The publication contains fifty-three entries, with which my book loosely conversates. Though Ryunosuke’s book emphasizes a kind of erasure, my book seeks the opposite, a search for belonging & validation.
Crisosto Apache draws powerfully on his Mescalero Apache language and culture and, guided along the way by touchstone sparks from the Japanese writer Akutagawa Ryunosuke, creates a singular journey out of “emotional burial and systemic abuse.” Where Akutagawa encounters erasure, “Gazing up at them everything was forgotten,” in Crisosto Apache’s hands, everything is remembered and confronted, and, though filled with ash, these poems are testament to struggle, survival, and, x, the mysterious light of existence. — Arthur Sze, author of The Glass Constellation
A powerful personal journey of reflection and response. In lyric vignettes inspired by Akutagawa Ryunosuke’s A Fool’s Life, Crisosto Apache creates an original portrait of a mythic and myth-making protagonist confronting the memories, language, and figures that haunt and inhabit his Ghostword – a stunning collection. – Chip Livingston, author of Crow-Blue, Crow-Black, and Museum of False Starts
Do you write in more than one genre? Poetry is the genre where I have more publications. Though I have written a few reviews and personal entries from my blog, that is not to say I will experiment with other forms. Right now, I am testing my narrative skills and slowly adding content for a memoir. The memoir will focus on my challenges as a gay Native American individual overcoming a binary colonial existence, as well as my perseverance. This approach in a narrative topic is one where I emphasize soul searching through past written journals and voice recordings. I also use sketches from old notebooks to spark a larger conversation about the memory of my life’s journey. Vaguely expressing some of these concepts through my poetry, where I want to explore moments more specifically and with reverence. Much of the writing I do always have something to do with my identity as a Native American or Indigenous person, a person impacted by colonialism, intergenerational transmission of historical trauma, binary implications and marginalization, assimilation & acculturation, prejudice as part of the 2S-LGBTQI+ identity, and so much more. My work seeks to place perspective and self-determination upon many intersectional aspects of my identity. Exploration of many of these concepts will always be an ongoing challenge. One I hope to resolve within my spirit as a creative person.
Tell us about your writing process: Writing starts at a moment of discovery and connection to what ideas come my way. I am always jotting down ideas or concepts for my writing. I keep those ramblings in an organized folder system on my computer, where each folder is categorized with the theme or concept in mind. Periodically I go through these folders in no order and begin to expand on the various concept and themes. I will also try to find reading material that will help me expand my thought process and conceptual content for each of the folders.
What are you currently working on? Having a writing project lined up is a good thing. Perspective projects give me something to look forward to. I am finishing up my third manuscript, called isness. The concept behind this manuscript is poems that represent the “meaningfulness” of the poem in a state of presence or moments. What the poem is “about” in a state of existence as it “exists” without retribution or containment. The work in isness at times feels complicated because of how poetry or art is defined by “others.” What I choose to exemplify in this manuscript is a concept where the poem is a poem that is about what the poem is about in a state of “meaningfulness,” presence, or moment.
How long did it take you to write your first book? The composition of my first book GENESIS (Lost Alphabet, 2018), took about one year and a half to complete as a viable manuscript. The rest of the time, until its publication, was focused on revision. The revision of the first book is still happening. Once my contract runs out, I want to find another publisher to relaunch a revised version. There is so much I learned during the process of my first book. This brings me to the publication of my second book Ghostword (Gnashing Teeth Publication, 2022). The concept for this book has had a long journey which I explain in depth in the Preface of the book.
What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? Writing front the perspective of the opposite sex sometimes is a challenge, as well as writing in another persona. There are instances in my writing where I do write in other personas. In my book Ghostword there are several poems where I try to utilize the persona of my mother. Over the years, she and I had many conversations and exchanged stories, so I was able, through these stories, to get a good sense of her perspective. My poem “11. Dawn” is an example where I use my mother’s persona. The story is about a moment when I was a child when she and my father were seeking legal custody of me and my younger brother. I was about ten years old, and my brother was about eight. At the time, I did not know she would sleep in her car across the street where my father was renting a house in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was not an easy time for either of my parents because they both were from different reservations. My father was a member of the Navajo Nation on a small checkerboard section called Tó hajiileehé (trans., where the water comes from), and my mother was from the Mescalero Apache Tribe, both located in New Mexico. Eventually, my father agrees to have my brother, and I live with my mother on the Mescalero Apache Reservation. The day we arrive at my mother’s reservation was so vivid. The look on the mother’s face when she saw the both of us enter the playground where she worked. She was employed with the tribal children’s daycare at the time.
Another poem where I use my mother’s persona is “4. Saltwell”. This is a poem about my mother as a child. She lived with her mother on a remote part of the reservation called Whitetail, which was very far from the main tribal community and main road. Whitetail was the area on the reservation where the Chiricahua Apache settled once they were released as prisoners of war in 1886 from St. Augustine, Florida. Many of the Apache band remained in Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and the remaining member moved to Whitetail on the Mescalero Apache Reservation. As a child, my mother sometimes was left alone at her mother’s house in Whitetail. She would hitch a ride to the main road and head towards an area of the reservation called Salt Well, where her grandparents lived. She often stayed with her grandparents in Salt Well. This poem is about one moment when she traveled from Whitetail to Salt Well as a child. The journey took her all afternoon because the traffic was minimal that day from Whitetail. She eventually got a ride and arrived at her grandparent’s house at dusk. Experimenting with persona allows me to explore different situations and perspectives, adding a specific depth to the poem and or story. It takes me out of my head and voice, which is necessary to tell good stories.
What kind of research do you do? The research I do for my writing depends on the project. In my first book GENESIS (Lost Alphabet), the research investigated specific indigenous historical moments, such as in my poem, “K‘us tádini tsąąbi’ +2: [38 Necks +2]”. The poem is a list poem paying tribute to the 38 Dakota hanged by President Lincoln’s Executive Order on December 26, 1862, in Mankato, Minnesota. This event is still considered the largest mass hanging in American History. In GENESIS, the tread of the book focused on the nine months in utero in 1970-71, where I investigated current events of the time. What I found out was the expansion of space exploration, lunar launches, and nuclear/atomic testing, which became part of the thread of the book, along with what my mother was experiencing while carrying me for those nine months. In Ghostword (Gnashing Teeth Publishing), much of the research the book focused on was the modernist writer Ryayunosuke Akutagawa (1892-1927) and his last manuscript, A Fools Life (Eridonos Press) and a few of his short stories. The last manuscript is integral to Ghostword because of the unfettered conversation I have with each of the fifty-three entries and the few selected stories. I had to do some background investigation about the concepts and references in each entry and try to pair the same concept for my conversation but interject my own experience of “belonging,” whereas Akautagawa’s voice in each entry focused on “erasure.” This manuscript took many years to complete through constant rewriting and revision. Each entry of my versions went through meticulous examinations to figure out how I was going to balance out a kind of likeness, which was more difficult than I anticipated. I am glad and relieved to know I am not struggling now to have this book exist for people to access in the world.
How do our readers contact you?
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (serious inquiries only)
Publisher’s website: https://gnashingteethpublishing.com/books/ghostword/
Instagram: @ crisosto_apache