Mongrel Empire Press of Norman, Oklahoma announces the March 2013 publication of Norbert Krapf’s 25th book, American Dreams: Reveries and Revisitations. In some ways the new book is a sequel to, but also different from, The Ripest Moments: A Southern Indiana Childhood (2008).
In a form that is a hybrid of flash autobiography and prose poetry, the former Indiana Poet Laureate revisits the past and reflects on its relationship with the present. American Dreams contains seven cycles, all but one of which has ten sections, each introduced with a photograph. The author meditates on family history, scenes from his ancestral past, and childhood memories. Featuring quirky perspectives and spoken in various voices, some ironic, Krapf’s reveries lift the thin veil between dream and nightmare set in Europe and America. In the last section, the voice of Minnesota minstrel Bob Dylan sometimes merges with that of the poet, and the fellow Midwesterners, who found their voices in New York, cross boundaries to explore and celebrate the common origin of poetry and song.
The first section gathers fifteen individual prose poem reflections. The opening title poem, set on Long Island, revisits the story of the author’s German ancestors’ arrival from Bavaria in the southern Indiana wilderness and asks whether that history may have been a dream. Others revisit historic Long Island scenes and idyllic southern Indiana childhood scenes set in nature followed by ironic reflections on the conflicting memories of childhood sexual abuse by a parish priest.
The remaining six sections contain ten prose poems each, some with a narrative thread, such as the memoirs of the life and death of Krapf’s mother, father, and an uncle who died in Germany near the end of World War II. The last three sections are less realistic. “Behind the Kafka Curtain,” a surrealistic narrative set in Communist Czechoslovakia about the theft of Krapf family passports, addresses German-Jewish author Franz Kafka of Prague as the patron saint of nightmare. “Old Language, New World,” set in the author’s German-Catholic hometown, is in the voices of immigrants and their descendants who pray for a good life in their adopted home and question why the author moved to New York to write about his small-town Indiana origins. In the last section, the voice of Midwestern singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, the subject of 15 poems in Krapf’s previous collection, sometimes gives way to the author’s voice as a fellow Midwestern poet.