The HyperTexts

Norman Kraeft

We're currently awaiting a bio for Norman Kraeft, a poet whose work has appeared in journals which include The Lyric, Pivot and Edge City Review, and who recently won the annual chapbook contest of the Georgia Poetry Society.

In the meantime I'd like to relate the tale of how Norman Kraeft's poem "Lines of Gold" found its roundabout way to The HyperTexts.  It's a tale of Lincolnesque honesty and diligence  in the face of what can at best be described as moral laxity on the part of a poetry contest and/or its director.  If you read the contest details by clicking this hyperlink, you'll enthuse with our protagonists—a talented but somewhat unlucky poetry contestant (Mr. Kraeft) and a plucky contest judge (Rhina Espaillat)—while the director's actions will shock, dismay and surprise you.  However, the good guys win out in the end.  The moral of our story is this:  if you want to run a less-than-scrupulous poetry contest, don't pick a straight-arrow judge like Rhina Espaillat, or you'll end up the target of her highly accurate moral outrage.  I'd also like to mention two things I find particularly interesting about this incident:  (1) The odds of Rhina tracking down the winning poem were surely amazingly slim, but she did it. (2) I was pleasantly surprised when, almost immediately upon my noticing and mentioning an analogy between Rhina's efforts on behalf of a shortchanged poet and Abe Lincoln's efforts on behalf of a shortchanged customer, I received a submission from Norman Kraeft which included a poem, "Ode for a Well-Known Stranger," with a reference to Abe Lincoln.  Curious and curiouser! — MRB

What people in the know are saying about Norman Kraeft and his poetry . . .

"Norman Kraeft has a craftsman's hand, a perfect ear, an observant and ironic eye."— J.D. McClatchy

"Memorable lines moved me each time I read this chapbook [9/11 and STILL COUNTING]." — Donna Akiba Sullivan Harper

"In the best of these poems [9/11 and STILL COUNTING] — difficult both in theme and in form — Mr. Kraeft rises ably to a grim occasion." — Richard Wilbur

" . . . these poems [9/11 and STILL COUNTING] have a classical harmony about them that keeps emotion under control and yet is extremely poignant." — Gail White

Lines of Gold

Poets of old bequeathed us lines of gold.
Once read, they dig their soft claws in and stay:
phrases to savor, cherish, have and hold.

How many quotes in Bartlett's book, all told?
And most unfold from classics still in play.
Poets of old bequeathed us lines of gold:

They warm us when we come in from the cold.
It's comforting to know they'll never stray:
phrases to savor, cherish, have and hold.

Herrick knew not the Playboy centerfold
but wrote, "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may."
Poets of old bequeathed us lines of gold.

Those poets serenaded, barcarroled
their readers, yesterday, right through today,
with phrases that we savor, have and hold.

Too many modern stanzas turn to mould,
become an indigestible soufflé.
The bards of old bequeathed us lines of gold,
phrases to savor, cherish, have and hold.

Day's Blaze; Night's Blight

I will not ever write her epitaph.
I know she's living somewhere in this rubble.
Help me to find him; here's his photograph.

A plane exploding cut my heart in half,
then in a flash I saw the horror double.
I will not ever write her epitaph.

One blink: a nation's pride a pile of chaff.
Love is our life, don't tell me it's a bubble.
Help me to find him; here's his photograph.

I hear the Machiavellian monsters laugh
at how on four flights they redoubled trouble.
I will not ever write her epitaph.

My faith is not aimed at a golden calf,
I know my hope is little but a nubble.
Help me to find him; here's his photograph.

She called me from a meeting of the staff;
He didn't trim his beard. I saw the stubble.
I will not ever write her epitaph.
Help me to find him; here's his photograph.

A World We Never Made

Wear rubber gloves and gas masks when we shop?
Walk on in state of animate suspension?
Be still. Wait for the other shoe to drop.

Before we cross, wait for the traffic cop
to blow his whistle? Can we stand the tension?
Wear rubber gloves and gas masks when we shop?

Inspect ground round, meat loaf, cooked ham, pork chop?
Each package prey to likely intervention?
Be still. Wait for the other shoe to drop.

Careful, don't give your child that lollipop.
It may be sprayed with spores you wouldn't mention.
Wear rubber gloves and gas masks when we shop?

Before you motor anywhere, first stop
and answer queries as to your intention.
Be still. Wait for the other shoe to drop.

Can I enjoy my garden's flower crop?
What is that powder on this blue fringed gentian?
Wear rubber gloves and gas masks when we shop?
Be still. Wait for the other shoe to drop.

Ode for a Well-Known Stranger

Abe Lincoln tall—as lonely, too, as he—
he walked each day to town to get his mail,
perhaps recalling when he split a rail.
This solemn man was our town's mystery.

Few knew his name; and fewer stopped to see
what one kind word could possibly unveil.
They say he was a graduate of Yale.
In healthy woods, behold a hollow tree.

The news, or was it news, came yesterday.
No more will we observe his stolid tread.
Postmaster, hold his mail; the man is dead.

Life calls on brother death and casts away
the wilted flowers in one more bouquet.
No tears or sermons. Everything's been said.

To Mike Burch, Who Understands

Mike, as all poets know, we like to see
at any time a slice of poetry
whose imagery salutes one known as me,

but you, good friend, have gone beyond the pale
with words and lines that resolutely sail,
creating, not a minnow, but a whale.

The only word I know is simply "thanks."
The world's so full of landmines, bombs and tanks:
My river's risen far beyond its banks

and in your stanzas you have caught
the horror of the battles I have fought
and how all that we had has come to nought,

for June is gone.  Obediently, I still
take nourishment, but on the windowsill
there sits the one who had the gall to kill

the one I loved more than I ever knew,
and now, I simply stare ahead and view
again the need for me to bid adieu

to her; our life, not love, now cut in two.
Thanks for the respite from the hullabaloo
propelling me down this sad avenue.

Crescendo Against Heaven, for Norman Kraeft
by Michael R. Burch

As curiously formal as the rose,
the imperious Word grows
until its sheds red-gilded leaves:     
then heaven grieves
love's tiny pool of crimson recrimination
against God, its contention
of the price of salvation.

These industrious trees,
endlessly losing and re-losing their leaves,
finally unleashing
themselves from earth, lashing
themselves to bits, washing
themselves free
of all but the final ignominy
of death, become
at last: fast planks of our coffins, dumb.                     

Together now, rude coffins, crosses,
death-cursed but bright vermillion roses,
bodies, stumps, tears, words: conspire
together with a nearby spire
to raise their Accusation Dire ...
to scream, complain, to point out these
and other Dark Anomalies.

God always silent, ever afar,
distant as hope's dismembered star,
we point out now, in fierce recrimination:
you asked too much of man's beleaguered nation,
gave too much strength to the Enemy,
as though to prove your Self greater than he,
at our expense, and so men die
(whose accusations vex the sky)
yet hope, somehow, that You are good:
but, like all great poets, misunderstood.

The HyperTexts