Chris Blei | Norbert’s Coop

26 08 2014

The foundation is down for Norb Blei's coop! It seems appropriate that the view includes the cross and steeple of St. Paul's Church.

The foundation is down for Norb Blei’s coop! It seems appropriate that the view includes the cross and steeple of St. Paul’s Church.

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My Father’s well known Chicken Coop / Writer’s study is now raised off the ground on the property in Ellison Bay, WI….ready to be moved in the days ahead to the “Write On , Door County.” This move is being funded by donors to preserve the coop for generations of writers to come in honor of my Dad. I’m sure I’ll have more when the Coop is put on the truck for the 22 mile journey to the “Write On” campus outside Fish Creek, WI in an area called Juddville. This should be happening later this week. More information and images will be added soon! — Chris Blei

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Jude Genereaux | He is here…

22 08 2014

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Norbert Blei ca. 1965

He is here …

Last night, Thursday August 21, a first effort BLUES ON THE BAY event was held in the heart of our beloved village Ellison Bay. One of the sponsors, Jennifer Lee, mentioned Norb had noted in the not too distant past, that the only thing Ellison Bay needed was “a little blues…”. Well, he sure gave us that.

Opening for Chicago’s Billy Flynn was our local Pete Thelan, one of the best of Norb’s loyal band of coyotes; Pete belted out “Sweet Home Door County” for Norb and sent it skyward with the assurance “We MISS you!” … and his wish that he was here.

He is here. He’s all around us, always in this little town … just over my shoulder, just out of view, but he’s here in every sunrise, sunset, poppy bursting orange and birch tree glowing white. Every drive north on 42 there comes a glimpse of a little beige Honda and for a moment, I see his beaming face behind the wheel. For a moment, turning on Europe Bay Road, I am just going home. He’s in our booth at the Viking for “early bird breakfast”, at the counter in the Pioneer picking up a movie for after dinner, in the post office each time I open Box #33, and turning into The Clearing path on my walks up Garrett Bay Road. And he was here with us on the bay as Pete belted out the blues last night.

Life will never be as good, as vibrant or joyful without his rumbling voice in my ear, without his words on Poetry Dispatch for all of us to savor, but one can always find him … because he is Here. In Ellison Bay. On this August 23rd, 79th Birthday, and always. — Jude Genereaux





Albert DeGenova on Norbert Blei via WGN Radio

12 08 2014

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August, 31 between 10 and 10:30 am via WGN Radio by clicking here please…





Norbert Blei’s works are accepted into the University Of Wisconsin Library

27 07 2014

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Last Tuesday, July 22, 2014, Rob Zoschke and David Pichaske met in Ellison bay with two librarians from the University of Wisconsin Library—Susan Barribeau and Robin Rider—to inventory Norbert Blei’s papers in storage there.

As a result of that meeting, twenty-six boxes of manuscripts, letters, files, books and other published Blei stories are now tucked safely in the special collections section of the library in Madison, there to become the Norbert Blei Collection. Norb Blei is now a part of the University of Wisconsin! The 26 boxes of material—most of which had been inventoried by Pichaske last summer—will be assessed, re-inventoried, and refoldered. The process will take some time, but eventually the archives will be open to the general public and the library will provide a “finding tool” for what it considers “a very special acquisition.” Some materials may be available on-line.

Meanwhile, Pichaske is hard at work inventorying the electronic files stored on Blei’s computer, which will also become part of the Madison collection. While some items seem incomplete or gone missing, Pichaske has found digital files containing substantial portions of some book-length projects on which Blei had been working back in the 1990s and early twenty-first century.
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Vesecky’s Keeps the Bohemian Bakery Alive in Berwyn by Mike Gebert

14 07 2014

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Photo by Mike Gebert

Vesecky’s Keeps the Bohemian Bakery Alive in Berwyn by Mike Gebert Apr 2, 2014

On the wall of Vesecky’s Bakery in Berwyn there’s a framed Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine piece from 1971, by the writer and poet Norbert Blei, who grew up in this area (and died last year in Door County):

Book cover showing Vesecky’s

There are almost as many bakeries along Cermak Road in Cicero and Berwyn as savings and loans… Nobody knows what it is between Bohemians and their bakery. They just never seem to get enough of it… No matter how many housky, or kolacky, or coffeecakes are on the table Saturday morning, someone in the family will usually be told, “Stop at Vesecky’s (or Fingerhut’s or Vales’ or Stetina’s or Minarik’s) for some Bohemian rye… maybe a poppyseed Babovka, too.”

Hardly a word of it remains the case 40 years later. Berwyn and Cicero are increasingly Mexican, all those other bakeries are gone, and the association between savings and loans and Bohemians (aka Czechs and Hungarians) is incomprehensible today. (Bohemians, despite their association with careless Parisian artists thanks to a certain opera, were notoriously the tightest bank customers in Chicago, impossible to sell credit cards or installment loans to; as an officer at the late Talman Federal Savings and Loan once told me, the Bohemian version of buying on time was “If you want a refrigerator, you save for ten years until you have the money to buy it.”)

And yet Vesecky’s Bakery survives. Old Man Vesecky, James Sr., 62 when Blei wrote about him, passed away in 2005 at 97, and the frantic overnight baking scene Blei describes had surely calmed down long before. Today it’s a quiet place, a couple of young female sales assistants serving the customers. But someone who knows the place’s heritage must still be in the back, cranking out both Czech apple srudl with its flat crust:

Surprisingly, it was the simplest thing, houska, that I think proved the most satisfying in the end. It’s basically raisin bread, but with brandy-soaked raisins, I think, and a dough made with milk and egg (close to challah or a less rich brioche). Simple, as befits a people who watched a buck like it was Dillinger planning an escape, yet completely satisfying. As long as you can swing by Vesecky’s for that, Norbert Blei’s world isn’t completely gone.

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Albert DeGenova | The Norbert Blei Writing Workshop…A Tradition Continues

19 06 2014

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Norbert Blei is whispering in my ear.

“Don’t forget to say that it all begins with poetry.”
“Make sure they understand the power of the small moment.”
“We breathe telling tales.”

I am preparing to teach The Norbert Blei Writing Workshop at The Clearing Folk School in Ellison Bay, Wisc. This is the second year that I will lead the class without Norb. Of course, I have a partner in teaching the class (just as Norb always had his “assistant” which over the years became “co-teacher”) and I couldn’t do it without her. We are both long-time Norbert Blei students and truly co-teachers. Last June, when many of us were still hurting from the loss of Norbert in April, I tried to incorporate as much of Norb into my teaching as I could. His presence was so strong within the class and at The Clearing. Of course, I cannot be Norb. There is only one Norbert Blei. I will teach the class as Albert DeGenova. Norb would have insisted on that.

Yet, Norbert continues to whisper in my ear…and he keeps “sending” me things to read, quotes from Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Basho, Kerouac.

“Write what is true.”
“Write what you know.”
“Your way is the only way”

As with any teacher and student, I know I have absorbed much of Norb’s direction and style. Both of us who teach the class cannot deny his influence. But just as any great maestro brings the wisdom of his own life and learning to his student, the student becomes their own artist. We have become the writers we are, and the teachers we are, because of Norbert’s influence on the people that we are. This is the way.

And in this way we keep the legacy of Norbert Blei alive. Here in the Poetry Dispatch, at The Clearing, as Norbert’s books continue to sell, but most importantly in our own writing. His voice keeps whispering in all of our ears. Norb recognized the power of the internet and embraced it. Simply search Norbert Blei’s name and you will find his legacy. Or join us at The Clearing for the annual workshop, all writers are welcome.

To some this may be old news now, but it bears repeating. Nearly two years prior to his death in 2013, Norbert invited some of his long-time students (all accomplished writers themselves) to contribute essays to a book he intended to write about his years as a teacher at The Clearing. The book would be his personal perspective on teaching, students and the importance of place, specifically The Clearing.

Layout 1The Professor’s Quarters is a collection of those student essays. It is a book about Love: the love of a teacher, a place and the writing life.

The book is published by After Hours Press through the financial support of enthusiastic sponsors and will be donated to The Clearing for sale in the bookstore, beginning June 22, 2014. All profits from the sale of the book are dedicated for use as a scholarship fund for the continuing Norbert Blei Writing Workshop week at The Clearing.

For those readers of Norbert Blei’s books, articles and blogs, The Professor’s Quarters offers insights to the man and his teaching style, but also the place he found so important in his own life. Order at: http://goo.gl/v2UTje








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