Crystal Wilkinson was born in Hamilton, Ohio. She is the author of the poetry collection Perfect Black (University Press of Kentucky, 2021) and three works of fiction: The Birds of Opulence (University Press of Kentucky, 2018); Water Street (The University Press of Kentucky, 2017); and Blackberries, Blackberries (The University Press of Kentucky, 2017); and the culinary memoir, Praise Song for the Kitchen Ghosts (Clarkson Potter/Penguin Random House, 2023).
Wilkinson is the recipient of a 2022 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Poetry, a 2021 O. Henry Prize, a 2020 USA Artists Fellowship in Fiction, and a 2016 Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence. She has received recognition from the Yaddo Foundation, Hedgebrook, The Vermont Studio Center for the Arts, The Hermitage Foundation, and others.
A professor in the MFA in creative writing program at the University of Kentucky and an associate chair of English, she resides in Lexington with her husband, artist and poet Ron Davis. Wilkinson is poet laureate of Kentucky. In 2022, Wilkinson received an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship.
In 2022, Crystal Wilkinson was named an Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow. In collaboration with Louisville Public Radio, Wilkinson will initiate and host the podcast “Words for the People,” which is produced and distributed by Louisville Public Media. It will explore themes of community, socio-political issues, diversity, and healing through conversations and artmaking with intergenerational guests, including established and emerging Kentucky writers. Listeners will be inspired to pursue their own artmaking after hearing compelling testimonials and audience prompts.