Indiana Nocturnes

Curtis L. Crisler

THE BOOK: Indiana Nocturnes: Our Rural and Urban Patchwork

PUBLISHED IN: February 2020.

THE AUTHORS: Kevin McKelvey and Curtis L. Crisler.

Kevin McKelvey

THE EDITOR: Detrick (deh-trik) Hughes was our editor. Detrick is a poet, artist, entrepreneur, and adjunct professor. He received an undergraduate degree from the University of Houston and a graduate degree from Ashland University. He has seven collections of poetry and two spoken word CDs.

THE PUBLISHER: The publisher is Nebo Media Group. NEBO endeavors to empower, educate, and inspire through the written word. Our driving force is to impact communities by making opportunities available to actively engage our readers in learning enrichment. As part of our process, we also encourage new authors by assisting them to establish careers and provide a media outlet to publish their books and other written works.

· To serve people through the written word

· To inspire, encourage and educate people through books, magazines, and journals

· To encourage authors to express through the written word, to journal, write and publish their stories

· To encourage, advise and publish unknown writers and help them begin a career in writing

SUMMARY: Curtis L. Crisler and Kevin McKelvey’s intent in this collection is to explore working class roots in urban cities, small towns, and rural townships in Indiana. Crisler was born and raised in Gary, Indiana, and after graduating high school, moved to Fort Wayne to work in factories. McKelvey was born and raised near Lebanon, Indiana, and spent his childhood and young adulthood working in gardening, farming, and carpentry. Now, Crisler teaches at Purdue University Fort Wayne (PFW), and McKelvey teaches writing at the University of Indianapolis (UIndy).

In the odd sections, they alternate poems, and in the second section, Crisler takes a solo with ten poems, and McKelvey offers ten of his on poems in the fourth section. The book’s general arc traces from childhood to teenage years into early adulthood and maturity. The differing voices and styles spark interplay between the poems, and more importantly, a dialogue about race, class, relationships, and urban and rural issues in Indiana and the greater Midwest.

Indiana Nocturnes is a poetry book about looking at the country mouse and the city mouse come together to chronicle how both are similar and different Hoosiers, while using our voices to establish a universality.

THE BACK STORY: Indiana Nocturnes originated around 2004 or 2005 when McKelvey and Crisler read work at the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature Symposium (SSML) conference in East Lansing, Michigan. Whatever the theme for the panel was, they used that to create work. McKelvey presented a poem, and then Crisler went up after McKelvey, because Crisler’s poem piggybacked off McKelvey’s, so it felt intrinsic. They did this back and forth for about ten poems, altogether. It was a working section for what would be one of the odd sections for their working draft.

It took them about fifteen to sixteen years before Indiana Nocturnes got published, although they did have one place interested in publishing it, but that fell through. Up until it was published, they fine-tuned the contents due to switching/considering updated poems or the formatting of certain poems and how they fit with the books format.

The process for writing Indiana Nocturnes was organic. With the book, they wanted it to be a total Indiana representation. After McKelvey saw the artwork by the Indiana artist, Genna Pianki, in Indianapolis, he let Crisler know about her work. They contacted her to see if she’d be interested in doing the covers for them. She was. She showed them many prints. They chose Pianki’s painting, “Feeder Canal in Fort Wayne,” which is the front and back cover of Indiana Nocturnes. It’s also where Crisler resides. It was another sign about the cohesiveness of the book. They tried getting the book published by an Indiana publisher, unfortunately, it didn’t happen. Nebo Media Group, out of Buffalo, NY became their publisher, as stated above. WHY THIS TITLE?: Wikipedia exhibits how “nocturne” is married with “Indiana” and “patchwork” for a more comprehensible definition of our final title—

Nocturnes are generally thought of as being tranquil, often expressive and lyrical, and sometimes rather gloomy, but in practice pieces with the name nocturne have conveyed a variety of moods: the second of Debussy’s orchestral Nocturnes, “Fêtes”, for example, is very lively, as are parts of Karol Szymanowski’s Nocturne and Tarantella (1915) and Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji’s Symphonic Nocturne for Piano Alone (1977–78).

We felt that it was a traditional quilt of our existence being put together, illustrating our Hoosier(ness) and all the tones and reflections of what that encompasses. Indiana Nocturnes: Our Rural and Urban Patchwork is the official name of the book.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? The basic make-up of the book is unique in how we have the odd sections as our duo sections (Crisler’s poem responding to the McKelvey’s poem), and their two even sections (Crisler does section two and McKelvey does section four). They hope they’re addressing how Hoosiers are alike and different in so many ways, no matter race, culture, gender, etc., especially in this time of tribalism and “you’re either with me or against me” fanaticism.



Sunday, April 04, 2021 1:00 am

Poetry in motion

‘Indiana road trip’ co-authored by PFW professor

Reviewed by Matthew Graham

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, Black 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 right. 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.

This review is made possible by the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Awards and Indiana Humanities.

Matthew Graham is the Indiana poet laureate. Graham is the author of four books of poetry, most recently “The Geography of Home.” His work has earned numerous national, regional and local honors and awards.


‘Indiana Nocturnes’ by Curtis L. Crisler and Kevin A. McKelvey / Review by Truth Thomas

INDIANA NOCTURNES, by Curtis L. Crisler & Kevin A. McKelvey (Nebo Publishing, paper, 2020. 85 pages, $15.95.)

Honest conversations about race between Blacks and Whites in America are about as common as hunger running away from a steak. In books of poetry, as well as any other aspect of life in the United States, this is true. Poets Curtis L. Crisler and Kevin A. McKelvey, hoosiers to the core (one Black, one White, respectively), engage in such cultural discussions with courage — and without pretension. Indiana Nocturnes is their deliberate attempt to demonstrate both how separate — and yet similar we all are — through a literary concert that features two distinct poetic songs of ourselves. The implied racial and cultural dialectic that takes place within the pages of this book is notable for its authenticity and resonance of dual realities. Crisler writes of gripping urban farmlands in lines that often place humor on the point of thematic daggers. A glimpse into his “Hollywood B-Side,” makes this plain, as he writes: Rudy Ray Moore’s karate kicked so slow I could make a fried- bologna sandwich before his foot hit the floor. I knew he’d never catch my black ass in one of his flicks. Maybe white actors couldn’t see him—they never hid behind cars or trees at night, trying to make it home. McKelvey’s poetic scene-setting is as expansive as the Indiana flat lands where most of his work comes to life. His imagery is as rich as sweet corn and as multi-layered as shingles on a rooftop. Indeed, although the two authors are framed in wholly different Indiana worldviews, both Crisler and McKelvey “see” each other in this book in ways that are fruitful — far from venomous screams across hate-filled canyons. Theirs is a book of unselfish poetic solos and duets that honor the salient and intertwined beauty of two halves of the heartland whole. McKelvey speaks to that healing geometry in the poem, “On Cliffcrest Dock Near The Dassier Cabin, Isle Royale National Park,” where readers find these words: We see water and life differently when we stand above it.

And from “Standing and Seeing,” he goes on to say: I can look through a window in my house, through windows in the next house, and see an apartment building two doors down.

As a kid I could see evergreens at my elementary school three miles away. Proximity doesn’t matter. People can create their own cure for a place. To declare a poet’s poems inaccessible, is sometimes seen as a literary term of endearment. In the context of Indiana Nocturnes, I will not lead myself into that temptation. Suffice it to say that in the same way that people and cultures are complex, Crisler and McKelvey’s poems reflect a comparable range and complexity. Full disclosure: Readers will find no name tags linking poems with their authors in the book proper — not until its final curtain call. To that extent, identifying who exactly is speaking can be somewhat of a challenge. However, the challenge is well worth the effort. The poems are equal parts literary concert and parable. Two quite culturally different Indiana voices ultimately become one voice, one humanity, one joy — much to the joy of joy itself.

TO order, go to: The Nebo Media Group


Truth Thomas is a singer-songwriter and poet born in Knoxville, Tennessee and raised in Washington, D.C. He studied creative writing at Howard University and earned his MFA in poetry at New England College. His collections include Party of Black, A Day of Presence, Bottle of Life and Speak Water, winner of the 2013 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Poetry. His poems have appeared in over 150 publications, including: Poetry Magazine, Ghost Fishing: An Eco-justice Poetry Anthology, Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South (A Cave Canem Anthology), and The 100 Best African American Poems (edited by Nikki Giovanni). He is the founder of Cherry Castle Publishing, creator of the “Skinny” poetry form, a former writer-in-residence for the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society (HoCoPoLitSo), and the managing editor of The Skinny Poetry Journal.

AUTHOR PROFILE: 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 (and Kevin McKelvey’s) book, Indiana Nocturnes: Our Rural and Urban Patchwork, was recently released (Nebo Publishing). Other poetry books are THe GReY aLBuM [PoeMS], won the Steel Toe Books Open Reading Period Prize; Don’t Moan So Much (Stevie): A Poetry Musiquarium was published by (Kattywompus Press); “This” Ameri-can-ah was published by (Cherry Castle Publishing). His poetry chapbook, Black Achilles, was published by Accents Publishing. His previous books are Pulling Scabs (nominated for a Pushcart), Tough Boy Sonatas (YA), and Dreamist: a mixed-genre novel (YA). Other chapbooks are Wonderkind (nominated for a Pushcart), Soundtrack to Latchkey Boy, Spill (which won a Keyhole Chapbook Award), and Burnt Offering of a City (which won the Kathy Young Chapbook Award). He is the recipient of fellowships and residencies from the City of Asylum/Pittsburgh (COA/P), Cave Canem, 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. He’s been a Contributing Poetry Editor for Aquarius Press and a Poetry Editor for Human Equity through Art (HEArt). He created the Indiana Chitlin Circuit, and he is a Professor of English at Purdue University Fort Wayne (PFW). He can be contacted at Kevin McKelvey is a place-based poet, writer, designer, and social practice artist. He teaches at University of Indianapolis and directs the MA in Social Practice Art. His first book, Dream Wilderness Poems, is a poetic trail guide for the Deam Wilderness Area near Bloomington in the Hoosier National Forest. Other poems are collected in Indiana Nocturnes, a collaboration on Indiana’s urban and rural divide with another native Hoosier, Curtis L. Crisler. 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, including NICHES Land Trust and ACRES Land Trust. His work in novels, essays, social practice, and placemaking continue to explore the intersections of art, writing, ecology, gardening, food, and farming. McKelvey attended DePauw University in Greencastle and completed his MFA in Poetry and Creative Writing at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: We want to bring people together with these poems, if that’s possible, so they see the human condition that we all are a part of, and how it doesn’t ignore anyone from its tractor-beam. We hope Hoosiers and Midwesterners (and all really) will grasp and consider how our past, present, and futures are all connected, and it’s up to us how we consider tradition, new, or future technologies for who and what and how we want to prosper

SAMPLE: We don’t have anything on Amazon, but there is an Indiana Nocturne website and Nebo Media Group page, which are the following:. and

LOCAL OUTLETS: Local outlets in Fort Wayne, Indiana, are Hyde Brother’s Bookstore:, or directly from one of the authors Curtis L. Crisler at or Kevin McKelvey at or Irvington Books and Vinyl –

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: Refer to above, and below. PRICE: Indiana Nocturnes, by Curtis L. Crisler & Kevin A. McKelvey (Nebo Publishing, paper, 2020. 85 pages, $15.95.)

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: I think it’s very important to open the door to writer/reader interaction. You could post your e-mail address, Facebook page, or Twitter handle, or all of the above. Curtis L. Crisler can be contacted at, or at Purdue University Fort Wayne (English Department,, or on Facebook @ Curtis L. Crisler. Look for his connection to Fort Wayne, Indiana. Kevin McKelvey’s email address at or .

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Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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