Chris Blei | Coop News

30 08 2014

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Norbert Blei

Norbert Blei

The Coop has flown

by Warren Bluhm

More than a year after Norbert Blei’s death — and just in the nick of time — the chicken coop where he did the coyote’s share of his work has been moved to its new home.

Contractor John Fitzgerald volunteered time and a crew to pack the structure onto a trailer and move it Tuesday to the Write On, Door County complex at 4177 Juddville Road in the town of Gibraltar. Blei’s property in Ellison Bay was sold in March, and the new owners asked that the coop be removed by Tuesday. “At the time we said, ‘Sept. 1? Sure, no problem,’” Jude Genereaux, Blei’s longtime partner, said Friday. “But then we had that long winter, and one thing led to another. … But it’s done now.” After a season of delays, the move itself went “surprisingly fast,” said Jerod Santek, executive director of Write On, Door County, a retreat for writers that opened last year on 40 acres of woods, meadows and orchards between Fish Creek and Egg Harbor.

“Because Norb wrote so much about the land and advocated for preservation of natural beauty — he did so much writing about nature and the value of place — I can’t imagine a more appropriate location for the coop,” Santek said. “I think it’s going to inspire new generations of writers to write about the land in which they live.” A native of Chicago, Blei moved to Door County in 1969 and became probably the most well-known writer about the Peninsula, chronicling its character and its characters in a trilogy of early 1980s essays, “Door Ways,” “Door Steps” and “Door to Door,” and numerous articles and other works. Often photographed amid the clutter of the chicken coop where he wrote, Blei pointedly criticized efforts to develop Door County and defended its natural splendor. In the early 1990s, he added “publisher” to his credits, founding Cross+Roads Press to publish chapbooks of new and established authors.

The Coop, the studio of the late award-winning writer Norbert Blei has found a new home behind the Write On building, 4177 Juddville Road in Juddville. It was moved to its new location Tuesday.(Photo: Tina M. Gohr/Door County Advocate)

The Coop, the studio of the late award-winning writer Norbert Blei has found a new home behind the Write On building, 4177 Juddville Road in Juddville. It was moved to its new location Tuesday.(Photo: Tina M. Gohr/Door County Advocate)

A teacher and reporter early in his career, Blei continued to teach classes and workshops, most notably at The Clearing Folk School near his home, for 40 years. He died April 23, 2013, at age 77. After The Clearing’s board of directors declined an offer to donate the coop to that facility, Anne Emerson spoke up for the Write On, Door County center she was working on, Genereaux said. “Norb believed in good literature and good writing and teaching, and he had spent time with Anne developing the idea,” she said. “He was adamant that the coop be used as a working space. He didn’t want it to become a museum piece.” That tied in perfectly with Emerson’s ideas. Once it is secured to its new foundation behind the center’s main building and some restoration work is completed, the coop will be available for writers and readers to sit, reflect and work, Santek said.

“We see it as a place for individuals to sit and be inspired,” Santek said. The donation of the coop includes Blei’s “beautiful writing table” and other furniture and mementos that he kept there.

“Norb would love that,” Genereaux said. “It’s a treasure to them; it’s not something that’s just going to sit there empty.”

Write On, Door County has grown exponentially since it opened a year ago, Santek said. Writers from the Twin Cities, Madison and even Boston have stayed at the Juddville center in residency, but the goal has always been for the center to serve as a hub with activities, classes and events across the county, he said. The nonprofit co-hosted a reading by mystery author Erin Hart Monday with Friends of the Door County Library and the Peninsula Bookman. A creative prose writers group has been meeting in Egg Harbor — its next gathering will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Berschinger Center — and a new mixed genre writing group meets for the first time from 1 to 3 p.m. Thursday at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Ephraim.

For more information and a schedule of events and activities, visit writeondoorcounty.org or “like” the organization’s Facebook page. Santek said the organization currently has an active grant under which an anonymous donor will match any contributions. For more information, contact (920) 868-1457 or info@writeondoorcounty.org, or send donations to Write On, Door County, P.O. Box 457, Fish Creek, WI 54212-0457. — by Warren Bluhm, greenbaypressgazette

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Blei’s Coop Has New Home

by Pulse

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The Blei Coop moving crew included Michael Bergwin, Jeff Weborg, Kevin Strege, Daryl Bittorf, John Fitzgerald, Bill Guenzel, Steven Beno, Victor Soriano and Tom Allyn were the moving crew. photo by Anne Emerson. August 29, 2014

Door County writer Norbert Blei’s writing temple, a chicken coop in Ellison Bay, was moved on Aug. 26 to its new permanent home on the grounds of Write On, Door County in Juddville, with a fitting view of the steeple and cross of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in the background.

Michael Brecke was pastor at St. Paul’s before going to Kansas City last fall. Michael was a journalist before becoming a minister and has a great love of writing and the telling of stories. It was a conversation with him a few years ago that led to the dream of building a writing center. He is a founding board member of Write On, Door County and continues to feel very connected to it. He was a close friend of Norb Blei’s and feels Write On will provide the setting to continue the work Norb devoted his life to, writing and encouraging others to write.

Blei died on April 23, 2013.





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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Norbert Blei | A Father’s Dilemma, Where Can My Son Grow Up Happy?

14 06 2014
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Norbert Blei with son Christopher Blei and daughter Bridget Buff

A Father’s Dilemma, Where Can My Son Grow Up Happy?

YOU TAKE a kid away from an apartment house on the west-side of Chicago at the age of 5 and plunk him in the middle of 15 acres of woods and fields of Wisconsin and tell yourself, “There, now let nature do it’s work. Let the kid grow green and clean. Give him a boyhood of space and natural wonder that I never had. Save him, 0 Lord, from suburban abundance, a city’s compulsions.”

And in time, you begin to wonder in his wonder. By the age of 8, the kid knows some of the soft green machinery of earth, like the taste and private habitat of wild strawberries and blackberries; the temptation of tea made of wild roses; boiling milkweed ketis for vegetables, an old Menominee Indian secret.

AND HE can tell an English sparrow from a fox sparrow, and identify all manner of birds . . . chickadees, thrashers, towees, rose-breasted grosbeaks, purple finches, nut hatches, hawks, every kind of woodpecker. I could tell a robin from a sparrow, when I was a boy, in Chicago and had heard some talk of a blue jay.

Give him any season, and there’s sure to be something brewing in this earth.

Spring, and the tree swallows come back to nest in the houses on the birch trees out front; the towees take up their secret nesting sights in the bushes in the back. “Do the same birds come back every year? How do they find our house?” I don’t know, I don’t know. They just keep coming back.

SUMMER, and you plant a sunflower seed and see it plow five feet before your eyes, and watch it track the sun. Fall, and you catch black and white and yellow caterpillars on the underside of milkweed leaves, and you put them in a jar, and you watch the caterpillar move to the top, in time, and form a fantastic green house, about himself, and then watch for that house to turn transparent, and watch for the orange wings and old black patterns to glow brighter till the wings are free. And then you open the jar and set a monarch butterly free. Magic.

Winter, you keep the birds alive with sunflower seeds, you see the tracks of deer in a garden now under snow,  you see a red fox move across  a landscape in white  and,  maybe, you never forget a  picture like that. You hold onto that like a painting, ‘Fox in Snow’, the rest of your life.

But In time, you begin to  wonder in the wonder of it all. Is to be a father, to be in doubt? . . . “The  woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to  keep . . .and miles to go  before I sleep. . . .”

The kid can tell a birch from a maple, but does he  know what a corner lot is like, where you set traps and build forts and hold all manner of meetings in secret clubs with all the kids on the block? No. . . The kid knows perch from bass and is a better fisherman than his father ever will be, but does he know the summer games kids play in the dark, after the streetlamps have gone on? No.

DOES HE know how to chant “Ole, Ole, Ocean Free!”? No. Does he know how to lag pennies, play marbles, throw a rubber ball against concrete steps with just himself and a friend and play a whole nine inning ball game? No. Does he know how to win? Does he know how to lose?

And does he know what it means to grow up with a friend, the kid next door or  across the street? To go to school with him, to show with him, to work with him? To know his family as your own? To keep such a friendship [and many of them] alive for over 20 years? No. And very likely he never will. There is just too much distance between friends in the country.He has one or two, about three miles away. And so friendship is not an everyday, ever growing thing in the country.

AND HAS he ever been introduced to alleys? Those cracked concrete [asphalt, brick, or stone] runways that go on and on [north and south usually] and, lead to either more of the same, or great streets of business? No.

Alleys, for playing baseball, football, basketball, ice skating, roller skating, hop scotch, walking, running, chasing, throwing, hiding, junking, climbing trees and telephone poles, climbing fences, climbing garages.

Whatever your fancy, whatever your fantasy… it can be worked out in the alley.

“Do it in the alley!” … a Mother’s last resort.

And so, what for my son? I wonder, I wonder…

I can give him a bike, but I can’t give him a wire basket attached and a newspaper route. I can’t give him ten kids in the alley playing kick-the-can. I can give him a solitary swing tied to a magnificent maple, but I can’t give him a real playground. I can give him an occasional movie [80 miles away, round trip] but I can’t give him a Saturday afternoon matinee at the neighborhood show, fresh popcorn, and a carmel candy bar.

And zoos, museums, concerts, buses, trains, skyscrapers, freight yards, air ports, great bridges, department stores, elevators, escalators, neon lights, uncles, aunts, grandmas, grandpas, hot dog stands, and McDonald burgers are out of the question.

I CAN GIVE him books and music and paints, and everything nature has to offer beyond our kitchen door . . . the geese now flying overhead, the purple asters starred along the roadside, the sugar maples turning radically red by the hour.

I can give him all this, but what will it all add up to for him? And when? I’m afraid he does not know black from white. Is this good? I’m afraid he does not know the machinery of a city, the poetry, and tragedy of streets. Is this bad? He saw poverty once in a camp of migrant cherry pickers and said, “Dad, I don’t like what poor is. Dad, I don’t ever want to be poor.” Is this good?

I can give him a morning so blue and gold he can taste it. I can give him a night with such a moon and so many stars, he can touch them. I can give him all this for the time being, and only hope it will stay with him forever . . . or 20 years from now, when , he may need such luxuries.

I can give him all the time in the world to be alone, in the silence of it all.

But I can’t give him a friend from next door, standing on the sidewalk, calling for him to come out and play. And that is the sound I remember most, and the way it was with me. And I can only wonder how it will be for him.

Chicago Tribune, Sunday, December 10, 1972 BY NORBERT BLEI








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