Poet hopes new work helps other abuse victims heal, Seth Grundhoefer, The Madison Courier

 — Indiana Poet Laureate emeritus and Pulitzer Prize nominee Norbert Krapf has made his life’s work out of capturing Hoosier heritage through the state’s defining people, places, sights and sounds.

But his most recent collection covers a different, deeply personal issue that he hopes resonates with those who have endured similar experiences.

In his latest verse journal, “Catholic Boy Blues: A Poet’s Journal of Healing,” Krapf gives a firsthand account of the grim reality of sexual abuse on children. Krapf, now 70, reveals that he was sexually abused by a priest as a young boy in his hometown of Jasper during the 1950s.

The book confronts the abuse and then chronicles the long journey of Krapf’s healing process.

Krapf will hold a special reading and discussion at the Jefferson County Public Library Madison Branch on Saturday at 2 p.m. Local faith, social services and community leaders plan to attend the event, and a portion of book proceeds will go to Pathways Youth Shelter & Family Services and Prevent Child Abuse Indiana.

Krapf served as the Indiana Poet Laureate from 2008-2010.

The book — Krapf’s 26th — is published through Greystone Publishing and available for purchase at Village Lights Bookstore, which is sponsoring Saturday’s reading and discussion.

The collection includes 130 poems and is written in four different voices: The boy, the man, the priest and Mr. Blues.

Krapf told The Madison Courier he bottled up the abuse for about 50 years until he began speaking about it during a spiritual direction session in 2006. Not only had the abuse been on his mind more and more, but he said he felt comfortable speaking about his experiences with the session leader.

It didn’t take long for him to decide to document his experiences through his natural craft: poetry. And he not only made the decision to write the poems but share and publish them.

“… I saw right then that if I wrote the poems, I would have to publish them, to help others heal,” he wrote in an email.

The poems began to flow a few weeks later, growing to more than 320 in just one year. He put the work aside for about three years, in part because it was around the time he was serving as the Indiana Poet Laureate.

He later whittled the poems from more than 325 to 130 with help from his literary friends.

The direction of the book through the use of four different voices came “easier than you might think,” Krapf wrote. “It happened that way, with no forethought. My subconscious apparently made the decision.”

In the book, Mr. Blues is an agent of healing and serves as kind of an adviser, mentor and counselor. Krapf said the multifaceted character expresses the many phases of healing he’s endured over the years.

“This was 50 years after the abuse ended and some 35 years after I started writing and publishing poems,” he wrote. “So I had a lot of living and writing experience to draw on. I could not have done it before I did it. I needed it all.”

Since “Catholic Boy Blues” was released, Krapf has held readings and public discussions about child abuse prevention. At the events, he’s regularly greeted by fellow survivors thanking him for his book.

“People seem to appreciate that I have committed myself to going public, no easy thing to do, in order to help them and others,” he wrote.

“One person wrote and thanked me for giving her the language to talk about her survival.”

Information from: The Madison Courier, http://www.madisoncourier.com

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