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GHOSTWORD by Crisosto Apache
Review/Interview by MariJo Moore

I did not read this book with the stipulations of an academic.
I did not read this book searching for answers or a path to redemption.
I read this book of haunting and often mesmerizing poetry
with the singed soul of a true poetess.
One who has suffered and created and survived
and then suffered and survived and created again…
And I understood the behind stories of
painful inspiration blended with raw memory inducement of each poem.
And I wept with rejoicing and I rejoiced with weeping.
– MariJo Moore

Poetry – really good poetry == inspires others to create. As evident from
the poem above, Ghostword (gnashing teeth publishing) by Crisosto
Apache (Mescalero Apache, Chiricahua Apache, and Diné) definitely
inspired my creativity to emerge. For me, writing or reading and rereading
poetry has always been a sudden fury, an uncommon madness, a
scattering of multicolored birds. And it is not often I am privileged to read a
book of modern-day poetry that moves me like Ghostword. I applaud the
author for their candidness, steadfastness, and willingness to dip into an
innovative soul and heart and bring these creations into the world.
I asked them two questions as I wanted to get to know

this inspiring writer

MM: “Why did you choose the medium poetry for this book, or did poetry
choose you?
CA: Poetry always chooses me. There are moments when a poem
will come to me, and I must sit down and write. These moments are
unplanned. Sometimes I have to pull off the road when driving to
write down what comes to me. I have several files on my computer
where I categorize the poems and organize them by themes to turn
into working projects for later. In the revision process is when I begin
to work on the language and cadence of the poem. Poetry is so
beautiful and how language can produce concise images and
concepts where a moment can be experienced. Like a glimpse or a
photograph. A moment captured and examined, like a gallery.
For “Ghostword”, poetry was the focus of this book and is a catalyst
to begin the writing. The more I focused on “Ghostword” the more I
realized it was a kind of narrative. Looking at Ryunosuke
Akutagawa’s last manuscript “A Fool’s Life”, it was written in a
narrative form, like vignettes. This is where I took the narrative form
to write “Ghostword”.

MM: I found many of these poems in this collection to be cathartic.Do you
feel like you have released some energy that was indeed time to be
CA: Because there is an autobiographical expression behind many of
these poems, I believe there is a cathartic tone to this collection.
Much of the energy and inspiration does come from Akutagawa’s last
manuscript and how he addressed some of the erasure he was
experiencing; family relationships, professional outlook, his writing,
how he thought his colleagues saw him and his writing, and the
depression and mental instability he was enduring. I took this
opportunity to investigate some of the same connections in my own
experience to write about. Writing during the last moments (three
hours) of Akutagawa’s last manuscript must have been a momentous
undertaking because he was confronting all the negative portions of
his life and writing them in a final “swan song” leaving him more
vulnerable during this moment because the written words are what
will define him and his work without a physical defense. Hence
“Ghostword”, my book title. A continuing conversation or extension of
conversation in the “after-life”.

My mother and I used to have an extensive exchange of stories
when we would talk prior to her death. The stories she would tell me
were of the experiences of family members during her lifetime. Many
of the stories were tragic and violent. Persona sometimes was used
as a technique to try and understand the Point of View and connect
emotionally with the poetic situation. A couple of poems that are
examples are the following: “24. Ts’áł / Cradleboard”, “28. Murderer”,
“44. Death”, “48. Second Death”, “4. Salt Well”, and “12. Carrizo”.
These poems are a residue of these stories from my mother. There is
a history of domestic violence that has existed within my family
resulting in extensive injury and death. My mother’s mother passed
away from complications of a domestic violent situation involving the
man she was seeing at the time. One poem talks about the PTSD
experience of coming back from war and never fully recovering from
the violent experiences and exposure to violence. My mother was
always thinking about these experiences, and I am glad she shared
these moments with me. My book attempts to embrace and comfort
these stories as a way to absolve the spirits behind them.

Some of the other poems in this collection are personal
perspectives and points of view of my own experience as a gay
indigenous person coming from this violent history exhibited by my
stepfather. He was not very kind to my brothers and me. “38.
Vengeance”, “41. Cardiac”, “20. Handcuffs”, “Iłdá jiin ‘nájé’ká /
Dance”, and “43. Another Night” are all examples of familial
dysfunction and conflict in my family experience (i.e., physical
violence, phycological and emotional distress, sexual abuse, poverty,
chemical dependency, discrimination, etc.).

So, in all, these poems are the essence of the reservation
experience and are inspired by the negative history from which they
stem. Writing this collection is an outlet, the beginnings or skeletal
outline for a memoir I am planning to write (which is in progress). It is
very difficult to have written and to write about these events from all
perspectives. Giving each piece a voice where there was none. I
hope this adds context to the backstory of the book.

In my opinion, Ghostword gives credence to my belief that nothing is ever
wasted - nothing. It can all be used in a creative way to help ourselves, as
well as others in the process of healing broken and wounded souls. Each
poem in this collection gives insight into Chrisosto Apache’s world of sorrow
and joy and recognition and acceptance of who they have been, and who
they are becoming. The poem below is indicative of a poet who creates
from a soul which has endured much, yet still continues to thrive;

Conquered That seven or eight years ago
he hadn’t understood color, he realized now.
– R. Akutagawa, 34. Color

–as I permanently expect
I unscrew the caps on each paint tube
I squeeze the first paint tube
Releasing a bit of white titanium color
I then open the next paint tube
And squeeze the second color
I scoop a small bit of scarlet red
That seeps onto the unsettled pallet
I render the two colors together
And in time I add a bit more titanium
While creating an adulterate red
Each time I mix in more white
And it dilutes the red even more
And each time I blend in more white
– I lose a greater part of myself

I highly recommend this book to anyone who might need a stimulus to
express their inner selves. As I stated above, poetry – really good poetry –
inspires others to create.

MariJo Moore of Cherokee/Irish descent is an
artist/author/poetess/anthologist/publisher/spiritual medium. She has edited
various anthologies of Indigenous authors/arts including Genocide of the
Mind, Unraveling the Spreading Cloth of Time, and Power of the Storm.
Her work has appeared in numerous publications in print and online. Her
most recent publication is 11 Conjured Stories. She resides in Asheville,