Blues and Poetry

Poet Laureate Krapf,
blues singer Bonham team up

The two will perform, read at Village Lights

By Lela Jane Bradshaw
Contributing Writer

(November 2012) – For Indianapolis Bluesman Gordon Bonham, his collaboration with former Indiana Poet Laureate Norbert Krapf is a natural outgrowth of his own art.
“I write several of my own songs. They’re basically poems I put music to,” Bonham says.

Gordon Bonham and Norbert Krapf

Photo provided

Gordon Bonham (left) and Norbert
Krapf will perform together Nov. 3
at Village Lights Bookstore
in Madison, Ind.

The two artists first came together in collaboration as part of the the famed Hoosier Dylan series of shows that took place from 2008-2010. These concerts brought together a variety of Indiana artists to celebrate the music and poetry of Bob Dylan.
While many people are familiar with the idea of lyrics as poetry, Bonham and Krapf fuse their works together in a different way that allows each to draw inspiration from the other.
Bonham explains that when working with the poet, “I’ll often tell him to read a little bit. I’ll get the rhythm of the words and kind out pick it out as we go.” Sometimes a song will grow out of a poem and sometimes a poem will lead into a song.
Bonham explains that when they began performing together “it felt really good, it was fun.” He reflects that while there is a long tradition of jazz performers playing alongside poets, “to do blues, it was something a little different.”
Bonham reflects on the success of their work saying, “I think that the biggest thing is we both love Blues so much. We’re both big lovers of Bob Dylan.” Krapf has also been taking guitar lessons with Bonham, who sees the language of blues creeping into the poet’s work. “I predict in the future he’s going to be a Blues writer,” Bonham said, laughing.

Gordon Bonham

Gordon Bonham

On Saturday, Nov. 3, the Village Lights Bookstore, 110 E. Main St. in Madison, Ind., will play host to a special double feature event presenting Krapf and Bonham. From 1-3 p.m. Krapf will be on hand for a poetry reading and book signing. In August, the poet released his ninth book of poetry, “Songs in Sepia and Black and White,” a collection of 101 poems and illustrated by Richard Fields photos.
During the November event, work by Fields will be available for viewing in the store’s Twain Room Gallery. Then at 7:30 p.m., Krapf and Bonham will join for an evening of poetry and music with “Poetry and Song in the Key of Blue.” Bonham will provide backing for Krapf’s poetry recitations with a variety of instruments including an acoustic Martin, 1930 National Steel Guitar, mandolin, and harmonica and will also perform his own original songs from his latest CD. Bonham is one of Indiana’s most noted blues players and has worked with Bo Diddley as band leader and opened for B.B. King.
Village Lights co-owner Nathan Montoya describes Bonham’s style as “gritty, real blues.” Reservations are recommended for the evening event, and there is $15 suggested donation. Refreshments will be provided by Paradise Cove Catering.
“Songs in the Key of Blue” will be the fifth installment in the store’s Salon Concert Series and is sponsored by the Cultural Continuum of Madison and Riverrun Theatre Co.
“We consider ourselves more than just a bookstore,” Montoya said. “My wife and I both come out of the performing arts.”
The couple spent several years as professional dancers in Europe and New York and have strong personal and family ties to music. So it is only natural that the Village Lights has gained a reputation not only for bringing in nationally acclaimed writers of fiction and poetry for author events but also for setting the work of these writers alongside music and art.

Norbert Krapf

Norbert Krapf

Krapf served as Indiana Poet Laureate from 2008-2010 and has a strong passion for exploring connections between poetry and music. His most recent collection includes a section of 26 poems called “Practically with the Band,” which pay tribute to Dylan and John Lennon as well as Madison musicians Greg Ziesemer and Kriss Luckett. His work continues to be influenced by music, particularly blues, not only in the fact that he writes about musicians, but also collaborates with them and performs alongside them onstage.
For 2011-2012, Krapf received a Creative Renewal Fellowship from the Arts Council of Indianapolis for his work combining poetry and music. With this fellowship, he has traveled the Mississippi Blues Trail and visited Memphis, Tenn., to work and perform with blues players. Krapf’s work is also heavily influenced by his childhood in Indiana and time living, studying, and teaching in New York, Germany and England.
Bonham encourages blues and poetry fans to check out the event, but also invites anyone “who might be curious about what we’re doing” to attend. Montoya agrees and also believes that people who want to see Madison continue to grow as a venue for major performers should make a special effort to come out and welcome these artists. “How our community can develop as an arts community.”
Montoya says it is especially important for people to “take advantage of the opportunity to hear artists performing in person stressing that the best way to appreciate art is to “experience it directly.”

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