When Norbert Krapf moved from Indiana to metropolitan New York in 1970, he began to trace his family history, study German, and write poems. "Ever since then," he has written, "my passion for origins has been inseparable from my compulsion to write poems.” In 2004, he retired from teaching and moved to Indianapolis to write full time. Since then, Krapf has published seven collections of poetry, two prose memoirs, a poetry and jazz CD, and served for two years as Indiana Poet Laureate. In 2017, ACTA Publications will release Krapf’s Whitman volume in its Literary Portals to Prayer series and in 2018, under its In Extenso Press imprint, Cheerios in Tuscany, a collection of poems about his grandson, with photos by German photographer Andreas Riedel. Krapf is currently completing a prose volume, Homecomings: Selected Autobiographical Essays, and several poetry collections.
Norbert Krapf was born in 1943 in Jasper, Indiana, a German community. He graduated from Jasper High School and received a B.A. in English from St. Joseph's College, Rensselaer, IN. He received his M.A. in English from the University of Notre Dame and also his Ph.D. in English and American Literature, with a concentration in American Poetry. He taught at the C. W. Post Campus of Long Island University 1970-2004, where he is now emeritus Professor of English, was Poet Laureate 2003-2007, and directed the C. W. Post Poetry Center. He twice served in Germany as a Senior Fulbright Professor of American Poetry, at the Universities of Freiburg and Erlangen-Nuremberg. He was also a U.S. Exchange Teacher at West Oxon Technical College, England.
In June of 2008, he was appointed to a two-year term as Indiana Poet Laureate, in which capacity he continued his efforts to reunite poetry and music, brought Indiana poetry to TV and radio, give readings and talks in libraries and other venues, and visited schools to share with students his enthusiasm for reading and writing poetry and prose memoir. He also emphasized collaborations between poets and artists. For a photo gallery view of the many different kinds of presentations he gave and the types of audiences he reached as IPL, click here.
Norbert Krapf has received the Lucille Medwick Memorial Prize (1999) from the Poetry Society of America for his poem “Fire and Ice" and an honorary doctorate from his Alma Mater, St. Joseph’s College (Indiana), the David Newton Award for Excellence in Teaching from Long Island University, and also two Trustees Awards for Scholarly Achievement, one for an individual work, another for lifetime achievement. His poem “Back Home” is included in a stained-glass panel at the Indianapolis International Airport. Two of his poems were included in IndyGo Buses and Garrison Keillor has read his poems on The Writer’s Almanac.
Krapf has received a Glick Indiana Author Award (2014) for his entire work, including the then new Catholic Boy Blues: A Poet’s Journal of Healing, for which he also received an Alpha & Omega Religious Arts Award. Shrinking the Monster: Healing the Wounds of Our Abuse (2015), won an Illumination Book Award. Krapf received a 2011-12 Creative Renewal Fellowship to combine poetry and music, with an emphasis on the blues, from the Arts Council of Indianapolis. During this period he twice went on the Mississippi Blues Trail and also took a third trip to Memphis. He has often said that the poetry of Walt Whitman and the songs of Mississippi Delta bluesman Robert Johnson inspired him to start writing poetry in 1971.
A strong sense of place and a passion for family history and German roots, both positive and negative aspects of this heritage, including poems about the Holocaust, are central to Krapf’s work. You will see this if you follow the links on the homepage of this site to pages about his most important books and reviews of and interviews about them. On the homepage, you can also find links to pages about his collaborations with musicians, artists, and photographers evident in many of his books. As of 2017, Krapf is the author or editor of twenty-seven books. In his work since 2014, he has also confronted the topic of child abuse, as a survivor, in both the poetry collection Catholic Boy Blues, which he is adapting into a play, and his prose memoir Shrinking the Monster.
His German roots work includes several books. He is the editor/translator of Beneath the Cherry Sapling: Legends from Franconia (1988), a collection of folktales set in his ancestral region, and Shadows on the Sundial: Selected Early Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke (1990). The revised, expanded edition of Finding the Grain: Pioneer German Journals and Letters from Dubois County, Indiana (1996) includes the letters of Joseph Kundek, the Croatian missionary who colonized Dubois County with German Catholics. Krapf is also the editor of a book of writings about the first important American nature poet, Under Open Sky: Poets on William Cullen Bryant (1986).
From 2006-2009, Norbert Krapf served as a board member of Etheridge Knight, Inc., which promoted the arts for youth and adults underserved by the arts community. EK Inc. paid tribute to the legacy of the late African American Indianapolis poet Etheridge Knight. Guests at the annual Etheridge Knight Festival, begun in 1992 by the poet's late sister Eunice Knight-Bowen, included Mari Evans, Gwendolyn Brooks, Amiri Baraka, Haki Madhubuti, Sonia Sanchez, Toi Derricotte, Kevin Young, Allison Joseph, Martín Espada, and Joseph Bruchac. Norbert Krapf’s essay “’The Same Old Black Boy with the Same Old Blues’: The Poetry of Etheridge Knight” appeared in the Summer, 2017 issue of Traces, the popular history magazine of The Indiana Historical Society.
In fall, 2017 ACTA Publications will release Krapf’s Whitman volume in its Literary Portals to Prayers series and in 2018 In Extenso Press, an imprint of ACTA, will publish his poetry collection Cheerios in Tuscany: Poems of a New Grandfather in His Seventies.
If you are considering buying your first Krapf poetry collection, Bloodroot: Indiana Poems (2008) is a good choice because it includes selections from five previous collections and forty new poems, 175 poems in all. Please consider supporting independent booksellers when you buy Krapf books. Click here and you can find a list of indie booksellers in your area. In Indianapolis, the Indiana History Center carries a broad selection of Krapf’s books in the Basile History Market. Indy Reads Books on Massachusetts Avenue, where Krapf has read a number of times, also carries his books. In Jasper, IN., the Dubois County Museum has a generous selection of his titles. Barnsandnoble.com carries his books as do Amazon.com.
Norbert Krapf's papers 1971-2002, including his literary correspondence and manuscripts, are housed mainly in the Rush Rhees Library, Univ. of Rochester (see a 27-page index), his Finding the Grain papers are in the special collections at IUPUI, and others are at the Univ. of California San Diego, Stanford Univ., and the Univ. of New Hampshire. The Indiana Historical Society has a collection of audio- and videocassettes of his radio and TV and other readings and interviews that are being converted to CD, and the Dubois County Museum holds his collection of family history materials and documents, including memorabilia from grade school, Boy Scouts, high school, and college.
For a complete list of Norbert Krapf’s books, click here.