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Crisosto Apache 2023 Betty Berzon Emerging Writer

Ghostword is a Finalist in the Colorado Author's League

hooded man holding power cords in one hand and sticks in another
"Unusual Spector" (2017 (c) )
You can read “Kúghą/Home” in the September 2022 edition of Poetry magazine.

Most journeys begin without knowledge of ever beginning. “Ghostword” is inspired by Ryunosuke Akutagawa’s, A Fool’s Life (1987, Eridanos Press), written on June 20, 1927.

Akutagawa’s writing influenced the Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa who developed two films based on Ryunosuke’s stories, The Grove (1950) and Rashomon (1950). Akutagawa’s, A Fool’s Life, is a collection of fifty-one short “poetic vignettes” after which the composition “Ghostword” is inspired and mimics slightly, but in three parts.

This collection is heartbreaking and fiercely introspective, while challenging the reader to confront their own beliefs.

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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.

Written in the days leading up to his suicide, A Fool’s Life reflects Akutagawa Ryunosuke’s intense engagement and difficulty with the world. Ghostword, the poetic dialog in which Crisosto Apache engages Akutagawa’s final work is no less of an engagement with life and its difficulty. At times meditation, lament, and quiet celebration, Apache says it best: “this work is a sort of autobiography, a poetic truth.” Here is a record of the self-reflected across a life, a family, a history, through a collapsing of time and place, of mother, son, father, forefathers, of living and death. Not a burying, but a mending, this collapsing of players, each afflicted in their opening, the wounding of our desire for community, for belonging, for simple and authentic being.

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.

Crisosto Apache’s Ghostword is a haunting collection about love, the pain of childhood brutality—and the stark, and gentle, beauty of the Mescalero reservation. Lines like “Not only history…but murder,” remind us of the way in which the past is never really the past. There is so much insight, beauty and awareness of what time can do in these lines, and words like “all they remember is me sitting at the edge of my bed/with the war still in my hands,” will stay long in my mind.

Crisosto Apache’s Ghostword reminds us to observe through a lens of discernment and wonder. Through cutting memories and reflections, examinations of language, and the images they tether themselves to. Apache invites us into his world—scenes and loved ones, language, and imagery so astounding it’s hard to feel reality’s footing, nor should we care to. These poems ground and grant entry into other worlds where one can meet their shadow self and where death and loss, unbinding love, and heartbreak remind us of our own humanity and complex natures. This is life on every pulse on every page.

Ghostword is poetry for people who aren’t afraid of their own shadows. History is inescapable, but how we allow history to contextualize our present is totally up to us. Crisosto will continue to exist and resist until he has passed on to what follows this life. But until then, his work will rise, and I am proud to call him a friend.

This poetry collection is a solid leap in the maturity of voice and creative purpose from Crisosto’s debut collection GENESIS (Lost Alphabet) which is saying volumes because Crisosto’s first book is masterful, Ghostword is an excellent follow. What a privilege to have gotten to read Ghostword before the general public.

Crisosto Apache's new book Ghostword weaves the immediate senses, memory, lineage, history, literary study, and the experience of being and becoming. At times these feel like separate moments, even as we realize the inherent connection of everything touched and experienced. Ghostword is a mirror, as much as the work a study of Ryunosuke Akutagawa's A Fool’s Life. The study provides a vastness within the practice of a constraint and ends in a decided clarity on identity and its juxtaposition against the world.

Meet the Author

Crisosto Apache is originally from Mescalero, New Mexico (US), on the Mescalero Apache Reservation, currently lives in the Denver metro area in Colorado, with their spouse. They are Mescalero Apache, Chiricahua Apache, and Diné (Navajo) of the ‘Áshįįhí (Salt Clan) born for the Kinyaa’áanii (Towering House Clan) and are Assistant Professor of English. They hold an MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. They are also the Associate Poetry Editor for The Offing Magazine. 

Crisosto’s debut collection is GENESIS (Lost Alphabet, 2018). Some of the poems in Ghostword have appeared in The Rumpus, Loch Raven Review, the Poetry Foundation’s POETRY Magazine, ANMLY Magazine, Digging Through The Fat, McGraw Hill Publishing, Earth Song Anthology, and most recently When the Light of the World was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through (WW Norton), edited by Joy Harjo, et. al. 

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