Monday, May 5, 2014

Catholic Boy Blues: Indiana Poet Laureate Norbert Krapf Deals with Legacy of Childhood Sexual Abuse by a Catholic Priest

I was a victim-survivor of childhood sexual abuse by a priest, in a German-Catholic community in southern Indiana. That for twenty years after the abuse took place, I could rarely enter a church because of painful associations does not mean that I did not have an active spiritual life during that period. In many ways, the poems I wrote the past 43 years have been a search to find an alternative spiritual life and a new language in which to express my longing for spiritual sustenance (see links below to samples).  . . . 

No religion can ignore and violate the moral and spiritual values it claims to uphold and survive as a living force. Any religion that functions this way runs the risk of losing vitality and relevance. 

Indiana poet laureate (2008-2010) Norbert Krapf speaking to Alpha Omega Arts last year as he received the A&O Prize shortly before his book Catholic Boy Blues: A Poet's Journal of Healing was published . . . . The book came out last month.

Krapf's website summarizes the book's theme as follows:

Catholic Boy Blues is a brutally honest narrative filled with words of biting truth, painting explicit images of the effects of abuse. These words detail Norbert’s lifelong journey and show how abuse affected the various stages of his growth. This verse journal is both timely and newsworthy. It is a compassionate anthem directed to those struggling with their own abuse. It provides clarity to those who have never had to experience the indignity of abuse and affirms that healing and success can be achieved despite adversity. The book will appeal to survivors of abuse and their families and friends; the church and its members, clergy, and hierarchy who have an ongoing interest in the emotional, spiritual, and religious effects of child abuse and its prevention; and caregivers and others interested in knowing how to detect early signs of abuse. 
The priest took the cover photograph of Norbert as a boy in the 1950s, during the abuse period, and gave it to his parents. There are four poems in the book, at various stages of the recovery process, in which the author reflects on the priest’s possible motivation(s) in saving and presenting this photo and ponders what implications a viewer may find hidden and/or revealed in it. In "Photo Postscript from the Priest," the abuser says: "It is as if / I am trapped / inside the image / I made of you."

I haven't yet read Catholic Boy Blues, but I intend to do so very soon. It's available from Amazon and also through its publisher Greystone Publishing Company

I'm grateful to Ruth Krall for reminding readers of Bilgrimage of this important new book in a comment here yesterday. After I first began reading notices of it online, I started reading some of Krapf's poetry (which was new to me), and find it wonderful. The Alpha and Omega Arts link above has links to various of his poems. Here he is reading his post-9/11 poem "Prayer to Walt Whitman at Ground Zero" in an audio for Indiana University Press.

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