Publication date: Labor Day 2000
Length: 144 pages
Online Ordering from Archer Books.
Newsday Natural World article 4/12/03:
"Sycamore's Bark is Like Poetry" with Audio: Sycamore on Main Street
Waterline Books of Hardwick, Massachusetts announces publication of Norbert Krapf's Bittersweet Along the Expressway: Poems of Long Island, 81 poems written 1974-1999. With Somewhere in Southern Indiana: Poems of Midwestern Origins (1993) and Blue-Eyed Grass: Poems of Germany (1997), the new collection completes a trilogy about places that have moved Krapf to write poetry. A winner of the Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, Krapf has directed the C.W. Post Poetry Center since 1985. For his poetry, his translations of German folktales and poems, and his edition of German immigrant documents, he recently received a trustees award for lifetime achievement in scholarship (TASA) from LIU.
"My native southern Indiana, my ancestral southern Germany, and Long Island, where I have lived since 1970, are my spiritual centers," says Krapf, a professor of English at the C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University. "These three places are the deepest wells out of which I have drawn poems. Ever since I moved to Long Island, I have returned to this trinity of places for my inspiration. Often I write about a specific scene or situation, an experience, or a memory connected with a particular place. So you could say that place is my best muse."
A native of a German-Catholic community in southern Indiana, Krapf began to write poetry not long after he finished his Ph.D. in English from the University of Notre Dame, moved to Long Island in 1970 with his wife, a Louisiana Cajun, and began to teach at the C.W. Post Campus of LIU. While an undergraduate at St. Joseph's College in Indiana, he told a classmate he thought he could write poetry if he moved East. "I thought I would have something 'sophisticated' to write about. I was right, but for the wrong reasons." For the first three years that he wrote poetry, he explored his rural Indiana German origins from a Long Island vantage.
After a year as an exchange teacher in England (1973-74), however, Krapf returned to Long Island with "a new set of eyes," moved to Roslyn, and eventually bought a historic home on Main Street. "I made my essential connection with the Long Island landscape, and the breakthrough was a poem I wrote based on the beautiful Indian places names that are so plentiful here." That poem, "Arriving on Paumanok," one of Krapf's most anthologized poems, leads off Bittersweet Along the Expressway. "It's a sound poem which I taped immediately, something I'd never done, so I could hear the gorgeous music of those Native sounds. The sounds and spirits of the Island past helped me feel at home here." The poem concludes, "He begins to hear voices from the interior."
"Arriving on Paumanok" began a cycle of poems, including "Bittersweet Along the Expressway," "Long Island Crow," "Harbor Hill in Snowstorm," "Gatsby Country," "Sycamore on Main Street," "The Roslyn Forge,"and "Old House Near Orient Point," that makes up the first section of the collection. Many of the poems in the book are set in and around the historic house that Krapf and his wife owned on Main Street, Roslyn for thirteen years and the 1925 Dutch Colonial house in Roslyn Heights they moved into with their children in 1990 (sample poem texts). A love of gardening and the Island's natural history is woven throughout the book, but the poems also return to the southern Indiana landscape of the author's youth.
Bittersweet, which is divided into four sections, has an overall narrative design. The 81 poems tell the story of the author's move to Long Island from a German community in the Midwest; settling with his Cajun wife in Roslyn, where poet William Cullen Bryant lived at his Cedarmere estate; the coming of their two Colombian infants in the early 80s; and participating in their growth and development. Walt Whitman and William Cullen Bryant, about whose work the author edited a collection of writings, Under Open Sky, figure prominently in the collection. Several contemporary American poets, including Richard Wilbur, and the late William Stafford, James Wright, and David Ignatow, who lived in East Hampton, are also the subjects of tributes. On the Acknowledgments page, Krapf also pays tribute to the Long Island poems of William Heyen as an important influence.
The cover of Bittersweet is a 1932 woodcut of downtown Roslyn Village by artist Henry R. Diamond, a friend of writer Christopher Morley. Krapf hopes the cover will revive interest in the work of Diamond, "a superb artist whose work was well known in the 1930s and 40s." Krapf will read from the new book of poems at a reception and signing at the Bryant Library, Roslyn on October 22, 2000 at 2:30 p.m. in coordination with an exhibit of Henry R. Diamond's woodcuts. The Friends of the Bryant Library will host the reception. Additional readings and signings on the Island are scheduled for the fall and winter and will be posted on the Readings page of this site.
"It feels good to have these three related collections of poems, on which I was working simultaneously since the early 1970s, complete and in print" says Krapf, who has written or edited seventeen books, eleven of them volumes of his poems. He is also the editor of Finding the Grain, a 1996 collection of German immigrant journals and letters from his native community.
Anyone interested in arranging readings and/or radio or TV interviews with the author or in securing a review copy of the book should contact Rita Langdon, Director of Public Relations, C. W. Post Campus, Long Island University, at (516) 299-2333, fax 299-2622; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. To order directly from the author, contact him at email@example.com. Further information about his work, including sample poems, essays, interviews, reviews, audio files of him reading poems, immigrant journal and letter excerpts, and translations of German legends and poems, as well as a complete list of his books, is available elsewhere on this site.
Sample Poem Texts
Arriving on Paumanok|
Bittersweet Along the Expressway
Sun also Shines