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Confronting the Darkness
Poet's writing helped him deal with abuse
Monday, June 02, 2014 11:00 AM
“I always have felt, since I started writing poetry years ago, that poetry that is really worthwhile must confront the darkness. But when it confronts the darkness, it also has to show a glimmer of light or a way toward the light. And I think that happens in the book.”
Indiana poet laureate emeritus Norbert Krapf traded off four different hats as he read excerpts from his book Saturday at the Jefferson County Public Library in Madison.
Each hat represented a voice - the boy, the man, Mr. Blues and the priest - that described the lasting effects of sexual abuse on children.
In his latest verse journal, Catholic Boy Blues: A Poet's Journal of Healing, Krapf, now 70, writes about being sexually abused in the 1950s by a Catholic priest in his hometown of Jasper, Ind.
Krapf read eight poems - from a collection of 130 - to a small audience and discussion panel that included representatives from Hanover College, Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, local faith leaders and Pathways Youth Shelter & Family Services. The event was sponsored by Village Lights Bookstore.
The poems confront the abuse but also show the journey of healing.
"I always have felt, since I started writing poetry years ago, that poetry that is really worthwhile must confront the darkness. But when it confronts the darkness, it also has to show a glimmer of light or a way toward the light. And I think that happens in the book," he told the group.
Krapf did not begin writing the poems until 50 years after the abuse. The book was released in April, which also is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
"I had no idea these voices would come. I didn't plan one of these poems," he said.
Wearing a red baseball cap, Krapf read a poem from the perspective of the boy, who recalls the horror of the priest's predatory acts against him and other boys. He paused during the piece to remark about how well he remembered the events, even though they had happened more than five decades ago.
"I was absolutely amazed and stunned by the almost total recall I had," he said. "It was just there waiting."
The readings covered a wide array of perspectives and at times channeled the boy and man's anger at the priest.
Krapf said the anger was necessary for healing but said, "If you stay trapped in the anger, it corrodes you from within."
Carol Pool, prevention program coordinator for Prevent Child Abuse Indiana, said the average age for sexual abuse - which includes all ages - is 9 years old and victims often know their abuser.
Victims of child abuse often turn to drugs and alcohol, and statistics show a higher risk of teen pregnancy for girls who are sexually abused, Pool said. Instead of looking at those as issues as standing alone, Pool said the public needs to consider the cause.
"They don't stop to think what proceeded that behavior," she said.
Village Light Bookstore owner Nathan Montoya called Krapf "courageous," adding that Krapf published the works "risking religious ire and the ire of his hometown."
Krapf taught at C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University from 1970-2004 before returning to Indiana. He now lives in Indianapolis. He served as Indiana's poet laureate from 2008-2010.
Book chronicles journey of an abused boy
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