Praise for Catholic Boy Blues

A reading of Catholic Boy Blues permits one to glimpse the incredible pain of victims of sexual abuse. The fact that such abuse occurred during the victim’s childhood and was inflicted by a priest, a person whom a child would instinctively trust, makes the pain even more hideous. Yet the spirit of Norbert Krapf emerges from this terrible crucible to offer a testimony to the power of God to bring light out of darkness and, finally, life from death—Archbishop Joseph Tobin, in The Criterion, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis


William Carlos Williams says “it is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there.” Today there are men and women all around the globe who are part of the “news” of child abuse. Catholic Boy Blues, a deep journey into the dark night of the abused soul, can prevent further death and lift some of the misery of the horrible experience of childhood abuse. It will rank, along with the work of John of the Cross, as a truthful telling of what a dark night means as well as what it has to teach us.—Matthew Fox, from the Introduction

Here, the test of the poet and his craft demands that the words chosen to reveal the vicious memories do not elevate, do not get in the way of the unveiling, do not disrupt by creating false realities or unnecessary excursions. In this book the words are simple tools to build a confession. The language functions as an obedient work animal pulling writer and reader through the unpleasant but necessary fields of shame – the twin burden of exposing hypocrisy while attempting to heal. —Ken Hada, Cybersoleil

Catholic Boy Blues blew me away at its depth and mature presentation. The book is a first-person account of abuse of a young boy at the hands of his priest, and when three-fourths through Catholic Boy Blues, I thought, “I’m getting a little tired of this subject.” Immediately I thought, “That boy was tired of it too.” I took a break, then read on, glad for the way the author gentled us, the readers, into the subject that was not gentle. I found the book content readable, and didn’t know if I would be able to get through it, but, oh yes, Norbert Krapf is a gifted writer and is not only in tune with Mr. Blues, but us, his readers. --Amazon Review

Murder of the Soul

Who hears may be incredulous.
Who witnesses, believes.
Emily Dickinson

This epigraph appears before the beginning of Norbert Krapf’s book Catholic Boy Blues. We who only hear about have a luxury not granted those who witnessed, and those who experienced, the unspeakable--unrelenting sexual child abuse. We can choose to cast aside the rants and ravings, the “embellishments” of the one who directly experienced abuse, thereby dismissing the truth teller as one who is insane or given to tell tall tales. This is not only the convenient and easy response; worse still, it is an indicator of our inability to acknowledge, to really see, the darkest parts of human nature.

Childhood sexual abuse, particularly coming from a priest, is a soul murder to be sure, and the poems in Catholic Boy Blues so artfully capture Krapf’s tragedy and that of others. I found myself realizing that an evil of this magnitude sadly infects not only the victim, but many others as well such as the author’s wonderful mother. The book is a thorough testament that points the reader to the real source of the insanity that thrives on secrecy and unchecked power.

I was so moved by this book in countless ways. First and foremost, this is a book that took courage, stamina, and perseverance to write. There is no doubt in my mind that a book like this needs to be required reading for all those contemplating becoming a priest and those who are already priests. The time is now to go beyond a mere vacuuming of all the filth that has been swept under many a rug.

Krapf is doing far more than writing poetry here although it goes without saying that the poems are both heart wrenching and insightful, to say nothing of very well crafted. The book as a whole is also an invitation for changed behavior in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. In its own way, it is a call to action that will hopefully bear good fruit for those in power, resulting in changed behavior for the better. That said, when I think of good fruit, those who deserve it most are the victims of the abuse themselves. Those who read this book and have suffered from this hideous abuse will hopefully feel not only less alone in the world, but more empowered to have what they deserve most--a good life.

Among my favorite poems is "Keeping Clean." I liked the bat/ball imagery and hitting the ball hard as it reminded me of the similar feeling I had for a physical education teacher when I was in elementary school when I pretended her head was the ball!

The poem "Symptoms," written in both powerful and simple language, will hopefully reach a lot of people who are hard on themselves, people who are so driven to help others that they wind up overwhelmed and drained. The poem is one long question, a difficult, but important, question addressed to the reader, of course, but more significantly, to “you,” that you being the multitude of adults understandably still scarred from their former abuse as children. Krapf ends the poem/question with “you should be kinder/and more respectful to/the person you are/and appreciate the good/you have done [.]” I must admit, although I was never a victim of childhood sexual abuse, the ways that I have been abused help me to have a clearer understanding of not only the importance of the question itself, but the ways in which we choose to answer it.

The next poem "Success Story" exudes the power of a mini-short story, or even a novel, in that it captures in only 15 words a strange, but nonetheless effective, irony--a truth come about horribly--that being that if one can credit the priest with anything even approaching success, that success would be “making a boy/ache for a girl.”

This is a poetry book in which the writer himself is so thoroughly revealed to the reader that one, myself included, feels as though she has known the author for several years. Catholic Boy Blues will always be a book near and dear to my heart in large part because it confirms what I have always suspected: Enormous strength can emerge from enormous vulnerability.

I am so glad that a book of such spiritual depth has finally seen the light of day. Once you have read the book from cover to cover, three words are likely to never again be a part of your vocabulary:
"Get over it." You will likely see those words for what they are worth, nothing more than a terribly ill-founded indictment of someone who had no power over what happened to him. My fervent hope is that a book like this one will live a long life and that its spirit and conviction have already reached others and will continue to do so. Lives will be changed for the better—lives that may have previously been considered “ruined.”

-Marjorie Skelley, author of The Unpublished Poet

Watch a performance by the author HERE

A Reader's Guide to Catholic Boy Blues