Bloodroot: Indiana Poems

175 poems by Norbert Krapf
60+ b/w photos by David Pierini

paperback, ca. 304 pp., $24.95
Indiana University Press
Quarry Books Series, Fall, 2008
ISBN-13: 978-0-253-35224-8
To order
Check out a Bloodroot Reader’s Guide, with suggestions for discussion suitable for book clubs





For many years, I resisted the temptation to put together a volume of selected poems. It is best, as I could see from examples to the contrary, not to bring out such a retrospective collection before a substantial body of work has appeared. Furthermore, I was not confident I could create a coherent selection of poems from volumes set in southern Indiana, where I was born and grew up; southern Germany, where my ancestors lived; and Long Island, where I lived much of my adult life. To shape a unified whole of poems set in these geographically distant spiritual centers of my work loomed as an overwhelming task.

When I moved back to Indiana from the East Coast in 2004, however, new poems set in my native region came even more frequently, and in greater numbers, than ever before. In early 2005, I began a collaboration with the superb Indiana photographer Darryl Jones that led to the publication of Invisible Presence (2006). When that book appeared, it became apparent that a selection of Indiana poems, written 1971–2007, was not only justified, but would represent the core of my work as a poet.

Bloodroot: Indiana Poems gathers 175 poems, including forty new ones written after those that appeared in Invisible Presence. Speaking to one another, and as a collective whole, these poems voice my central concerns and articulate my major allegiances. I have been blessed to return, in my sixties, to live in the region that for so long served, at a distance, as my most constant source of inspiration. Bloodroot brings together the essential poems rooted in my native place that engage the details of the natural and human history—the external and internal cosmos—of the landscape that I was given as a birthright.

This book represents the kind of homecoming any poet would welcome and gladly share with readers. To have these poems so luminously illustrated by the photographs of David Pierini, who worked for ten years at The Herald in my hometown, Jasper, deepens the satisfaction of presenting a body of work rooted in the region that has been my familiar yet mysterious universe to explore.

© 2008 Norbert Krapf



Table of Contents


Comments on Norbert Krapf's Indiana Poems




Somewhere in Southern Indiana 

Somewhere in southern Indiana

a boy sits listening to a baseball game

on the radio. It is very quiet

in the house where his mother sits

darning socks and his father flips

through a seed catalogue. The dark

wooded hills surround the house,

which is far removed from the city lights

and baseball games. The only sounds

outside are the barking of a neighbor’s dog

down the road and, occasionally,

the crunching of pick-up tires over rocks.


This boy who listens to the baseball

game never reads poetry, except when

he is required to for his English class.

He would not be interested in what

I write. He thinks poetry must be about

English knights and ladies in castles,

not boys who listen to baseball games,

mothers who darn socks, fathers who

look through seed catalogues.


One day the boy will move away

from southern Indiana to a big city,

where he will go to fine restaurants

and concerts and plays and begin to

read poetry on his own. He will feel

something stir within, and he will go

to the library, browse through magazines

in the periodicals room, pull off volumes

of poems from the stacks, and take them

home to his apartment. He will feel

a thumping in his chest, take out a piece

of paper, and try to make a poem.


Every sentence he begins will pull

him back to a scene in which a boy

sits listening to a baseball game

on the radio, a mother sits darning

socks, a father sits flipping though

a seed catalogue. The longer the young

man listens to the thumping within,

the louder he will hear the barking

of a dog and the crunching

of pick-up tires over rocks.

© Norbert Krapf

David Pierini



Butchering: After a Family Photograph

in memory of my grandmother,

Mary Hoffman Schmitt, 1883–1977


In front of the weathered smokehouse

the scaled hogs hang, hind feet

tied to an ash sapling wedged

between forks in the framing maples.

The squeals of animals dying have

long since frozen into silence.

Snouts have dripped circles of blood

onto a sheet of January snow.

In a field behind the smokehouse

(out of range of the camera eye)

the women empty intestines thin

as onion skin for casings while

other innards boil in iron pots.

Carving at a carcass in the middle

of the picture, the men half turn

and frown as if to say: “We kill

to survive. Starvation lurks just

down the road. We have no time

for your art or your sentimentality.”

The man in overalls and boots who

squints the hardest is my grandfather,

thirty-three. Three years later,

on doctor’s advice, he took a walk.

Zero-degree breezes fanned the flames

of consumption hidden in his chest.

Two weeks later he lay in cold earth.

© Norbert Krapf


David Pierini




The Local News

When the mid-day meal was about over,

we children knew it was time to hush.

She grew taut as a high-intensity wire

ready to spark. The local news was about

to come on WITZ AM, our local station.

Who died and where and when would he

be laid out? Who was admitted to the hospital,

and for what? Who was arrested for drunk

driving? Who got hauled into court for what?

Whose baby was born and how much did

it weigh? The national and international

economies might dip or bounce,

regimes might rise and collapse,

Joseph Stalin might be laid out

in his famous coffin on the front page,

planes may be shot down over Korea,

but the bigger picture, the greater story,

was always and forever the local news,

the news at noon. When the local news

was over, she would relax and say,

“Okay, you kids can talk again now,”

and she moved on with her chores.

© Norbert Krapf


© The Herald



Weeping Willow


Old World refugee

huddling around

lakes and streams


as if brooding

on what you left behind


with spineless limbs

and limp leaves


you crack the

first green whip

of spring.

© Norbert Krapf


© The Herald

See other Bloodroot poems and “The Nest” online



Table of Contents


Comments on Norbert Krapf's Indiana Poems


To order