Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Reading, Susquehanna County
Poet and translator Craig Czury lives in Reading.
Awards: First Book Award from the Montana Arts Council
Born in Kingston, Pennsylvania, in 1951, Craig Czury is a contemporary poet and translator who grew up during the economic decline of the northeastern Pennsylvania coal mining region. Much of the inspiration for his poetry came from this depression-stricken area. Czury has written over 20 poetry collections, including Janus Peeking (1980),God's Shiny Glass Eye (1987), and Fifteen Stories (2017). He has taught poetry in schools, prisons, homeless shelters, and community centers. At the time of this writing, Craig Czury splits his time between Springville, Pennsylvania, and Soncino, Italy.
Craig Czury was born on March 10, 1951, in Kingston, Pennsylvania, to Betty Kawalkiewicz. He was adopted shortly thereafter by John and Nelda Churry. As a young man, Czury grew up in the northeastern Pennsylvania coal mining region near Shamokin, Pennsylvania. Czury identifieswith the coal region he grew up in. When Czury was just seven-years-old, the Susquehanna River flooded the Knox Anthracite Coal Mine in Luzerne County, which killed 12 miners and left thousands of others out of work. The disaster crippled the economic foundation of the area. The grief and abandonment Czury felt in this region became major themes in his poetry.
After he graduated from Dallas High School in Dallas, Pennsylvania, Czury drifted between several colleges and various temporary jobs across the United States. He spent 15 years hitchhiking across the country, working temporarily in carnivals, warehouses, and kitchens. He attended Hiram Scott College and Nebraska Western Junior College, both in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Czury then moved to the University of Montana in Missoula, before attending Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
Czury published his first book of poetry entitled Janus Peeking in 1980. The book received the 1980 First Book Award from the Montana Arts Council. From there, Czury went on to publish 15 more collections of poetry. Czury's work illustrates the pain and emptiness of the depression-stricken Pennsylvania coal-mining region. The following is an excerpt from his poem entitled, "Coalscape:"
all this black dust
black cinder and glass ground up
in the spine of a torn-out trainbed
smoke rising out of birch on the culm bank
when it begins to rain
One of his most notable collections is God's Shiny Glass Eye, published in 1987. This collection revolved around Czury's vision of the coal country where he grew up. Critic Michael Basinski is quoted on the FootHills Publishing site as saying, "The poet's imagination and the anthracite world intimately merge to produce a poetry that is poignantly barren and stripped of any artificial embellishment. It is an angry poetry, but its passion is restrained and boils beneath the structure of the book."
Many of Czury's poetry books have been translated into many different languages, including Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, and Italian. Czury has been a featured poet at the International Poetry Festivals in Argentina, Ireland, Croatia, Colombia, Lithuania, and Macedonia.
Czury currently lives in Reading, Pennsylvania. He now works as a travelling poet in schools, homeless shelters, prisons, mental hospitals, and community centers around the world. He is the co-editor of the Red Pagoda Press Poetry Pamphlet Series. Czury is also currently conducting the Berks Poetry Project, which creates multi-voice poetry from African-American, Hispanic, Asian, and Anglo communities.
Janus Peeking. Santa Rosa, CA: Calleopea Press, 1980.
Against the Black Wind. Kendrick, ID: Two Magpie Press, 1981.
God's Shiny Glass Eye. Rexville, NY: Great Elm Press, 1987.