NORBERT KRAPF grew up in southern Indiana, came to C. W. Post in 1970, and has directed the C. W. Post Poetry Center since 1985. He has published 16 books since 1976, 10 of them collections of his own poetry. His most recent poetry volumes are Somewhere in Southern Indiana and Blue-Eyed Grass: Poems of Germany, the last part of which is about World War II and the Holocaust. The Indianapolis Star has said, 'In half a lifetime of writing history and poetry about the Catholic communities of the Jasper, [Indiana] area and their antecedents, Krapf has shown a sense of place and ethnic identity that radiates out to universal brotherhood.'
Tracing his family's history led to Finding the Grain, an expanded edition of German immigrant letters and journals that he worked on for over 20 years. He is the editor/translator of Beneath the Cherry Sapling, 52 legends set in his ancestral region, and Shadows on the Sundial, early poems by Rainer Maria Rilke. He is also the editor of Under Open Sky, a reappraisal of the American nature poet and journalist William Cullen Bryant.
Bittersweet Along the Expressway: Poems of Long Island will appear later this year. He is completing a novel for young adults about a girl and her immigrant grandfather, a collection of essays about his search for origins, a childhood memoir, and another volume of poems set in Indiana.
In accepting the award, Krapf thanked various members of the LIU community, his immediate family, and his late mentor, Jack London Leas, the high school teacher who inspired him to become an English major, teacher, and writer. He then made the following remarks:
I'd like to accept this award in honor of my parents, Dorothy and Clarence Krapf, who did not have a chance to attend college. After I came to CWP in 1970, I learned that both sides of my family came to this country in 1840 and 1846. I was the first on either side to graduate from college. My mother did graduate from high school, one year early; but her father died when she was 6 and the oldest of the 6 children on the Indiana farm was 12. My father, born in 1904, never made it to high school. Many times he told the story, which I have repeated in a poem and a memoir, that he dearly wanted to go to high school, but there were 10 children in the family, the nearest high school was too far to walk to, they could not afford to buy a horse, and he wept when my grandfather told him the bad news. You can bet, however, that my two brothers and sister and I got to college; we four share two M.A.'s and one Ph.D.
Because of this background, I have felt an obligation to speak to and for those who could not make it through the system. That is why I, an English teacher and poet, spent 25 years doing the job a historian should have done, editing and annotating German immigrant journals and letters, even though I haven't had a course in American history since high school. That is why I translated a book of legends from my ancestral region and a collection of German poems, even though German was not taught in my German-Catholic hometown 1917-1972 and I did not really learn the language until after I finished my Ph.D. and began my education. And that is why I write the kind of poem that is accessible to a wide audience even though not many people read poetry in this huge country.
I'd like to end with a request: please allow me to prove that this award for Lifetime Achievement is premature. Thank you.
1. with Chancellor Mullarkey, President Steinberg, Dean Sherwin;
2. with Katherine and Daniel;
3. with Red Owl, LIU Vice President for Planning.