This is the second part of my National Poetry Month interview series with Norbert Krapf. In this installment, Norbert talks about what he is doing to celebrate National Poetry Month.
First, I put the finishing touches on a new book of poems, Songs in Sepia and Black and White, which I sent along to IU Press at the beginning of the month (Read an excerpt here). It is to appear next spring, in time for the next National Poetry Month. This is 99 poems, with 50 photos by Richard Fields, a superb photographer who worked for 23 years for the Indiana DNR. There is a section of 26 music poems, “Practically with the Band,” and another section of tributes to writers, as well as opening and closing sections that have to do with family history and Indiana people and landscapes.
Also, with Monika Herzig, who has a new CD and DVD out titled Come with Me, which derives from the title of one of the poems in my forthcoming collection, I am performing poetry and jazz three nights in a row in southern Indiana: in Boundless Grounds in little Ferdinand, near my hometown of Jasper on the 15th, in the beautiful Village Lights Bookshop in the historic river town of Madison on the 16th, and at a sold-out house concert in Evansville on the 17th. I am also reading with my “Airpoets” group at Ivy Tech in Indy on the 26th to celebrate the release of our new anthology, Airmail from the Airpoets, a collection of “postcard poems.”
Two more things: I’m celebrating a Creative Renewal grant I received from the Arts Council of Indianapolis. As I did in my capacity as Indiana Poet Laureate, I will continue to reunite poetry and song, with an emphasis on the Blues, the lyrics of which, especially those by the great Robert Johnson, had a lot to do with my starting to write poetry some forty years ago. The music poems in the forthcoming book were an important part of my grant application and, after I go on the Mississippi Blues trail with my Louisiana wife, more “blues poems” and tributes to the great Blues singers should come.
And I am reading the powerful, honest, and straight-talkin’ autobiography of bluegrass (he prefers to call it “old-time mountain music”) great Ralph Stanley, Man of Constant Sorrow. We poets can learn a lot from a singer and songwriter like him, who writes with a resolute love out of his place and its history and heritage. He’s as true as a good compass and as elemental as the mountain weather. My maternal grandfather, who died some 24 years before I was born, played the mandolin and sang tenor, according to stories my mother told me. Ralph played the banjo until recently, when he decided to concentrate on his singing. Maybe there’s some kind of identification on my part going on there.
Norbert Krapf was Professor of English at Long Island University from 1970 to 2004. He is is author of Invisible Presence, Bloodroot, and the fortchoming poetry collection Songs in Sepia and Black and White. To learn more about Norbert's work, visit his website.