These are for YOU NorbertO’, with all our love.

23 08 2019

As Norb’s birthday rolls into view, I am compelled wanting to say something to him / about him (like: you should be here … ) to share on his Poetry Dispatch post. He would be 84 this August 23rd.

It occurs to me that I and the family are not the only ones who love him, miss him … I asked a few of his closest friends and members of “the Blei tribe” if they’d like to make a comment? A sentence or two … an experience, a thought of him, a lingering memory?

These are for YOU NorbertO’, with all our love. ~ Jude


“In an old journal recently found, I talked of how I loved Norb and my early days at the Clearing. I remember his sort of talking me into playing my guitar on a Friday night, and I was paralyzed and not only splatted all the chords but couldn’t sing a note. Fortunately, his big voice boomed out “Those Were the Days, My Friend,” and they really were.” ~Jackie Langetieg


“Ah – there he is – teacher, mentor, inspiration, friend! Our birthdays were just 5 months apart (1935 was a good year.) Without his encouragement I wouldn’t have figured out I could write poetry; I wouldn’t have a single book. I’ll be eternally grateful!” ~ Alice D’Alessio


“The way to do is to be – Lao Tzu. The way to write is to write – Norber Blei


This is the quote and mindset that began and shaped Norb’s annual class at The Clearing Folk School, the class he led for over 40 years. I first attended that class in 1996, in 2001 Norb published my first book under his Cross+Roads Press, and this year, 6 years after Norb’s passing, I have the privilege and honor to still be teaching Norb’s Writing Workshop at The Clearing. Yes, I miss his presence and wisdom, but through his writing, I can regularly share a visit with him and his no-nonsense ways, “If you are not quietly writing who you are, where you are, at the time you are, you are not writing the fictional truth, but living the transparent lie” (The Winter Book). Each year as I prepare my Clearing writing class, I am visited by Norb’s influence -and maybe it’s his spirit or energy or dare I say ghost? that points me toward just the right passage, whether from his own writing or someone else’s. After seven summer workshops, the class has taken on my own personal touch, but I do my best to maintain Norb’s approach and teaching style. And every year I find more of his words to share with my students. Words to live and write by: “Don’t live second-handedly! The poetry of other people is good for only a beginning. But it’s nothing compared to the poems you hold inside yourself.” (Adventures in An American’s Literature) Happy 84th Birthday, Norb, you’re still with us! ~Al DeGenova


“Norb: a writer, a philosopher, a mentor, a friend, a baker, a lover of Door County, a drinker of good scotch, and a defender of the Bridge.” ~ Rev Michael Brecke


“Having come from similar backgrounds, I felt I had good insights into Norb’s reactions to life here and now, that is to beautiful Door County in the late 20th Century. And I was absolutely delighted when he began asking me to illustrate his wonderful writings.” ~Chick Peterson


“Without Norb, I would not have become anything more than scribbler of words. I learned that poetry can be seriously pursued. Miss ya, man.” ~Michael Koehler


“Norb was a very gifted teacher and I thank Phyllis Ingwersen for dragging me out of the weaving class at the Clearing In Winter one day saying “you belong in this writing class! Norb’s first words to the class were, “write something, any thing, about the color red.” It was my introduction to writing and a fine teacher. “ ~Sue Peterson


“I miss Norb… I REALLY miss Norb! I first found Norb in the Reminder… that followed up with my very first NorbTOON that Lonnie printed in his paper THREE times… I know that rubbed Norb the wrong way. Then, I met him for the first time outside a bookstore (imagine that) on Thrid in Sturgeon Bay. He knew of me and said he “LOVED that toon! Lonnie didn’t need to print it in the same paper THREE times though…” followed by a guffaw! Made me smile out loud : ). We became best buds. I really miss his serendipitous phone calls/ dropping in always unannounced and ALWAYS welcome/ his huge guffaws! His stories/ his ideas/ his manila envelopes with rubber stamped icons and stickers and hand typed (old fashioned typewriter) address. … inside, newspaper clippings he thought were of importance/ interest to me; I missed him ALWAYS asking about the kids, and Dede. I miss the coffee houses / trip to Bayfield with Jude and Dede / concerts / dinners / lunches; I miss just stopping by his house followed by that warm smile wider than his mustache! The very last time I went to see Norb, at Scandia, just days prior to him leaving us all … I could see he was trying to conceal horrendous pain -Norb says “How’re the kids, what are they up to? How’s Dede, How’s her shop doing?” Whew… choker : / .
Love you Norb. Happy Birthday! ~Mike McCartney


“Love … is not simply a recollection of a bygone past,
but a living force sustaining us in the present …
love that transcend the limits of time
and offers hope in all moments of our lives.”
~ Henri Nouwen


“You are there; I here; worlds separate us
Death’s angels, the void of space . . .
Yet I say your name and waves of light
Wash to me silently from your Heart.”
~Jalal-ud-Din-Rumi






Jude Genereaux / Leaving in April Breaks the Rules

22 04 2019

Norbert Blei / Portrait by Emmett Johns

Leaving in April Breaks the Rules

As if there are “rules” in life – my sensibilities are outraged when one we love takes that bridge in the spring of a year; it just seems ultimately UNFAIR! Especially those of us who live in the rugged North, through months of gloom and challenging weather, we cling to that time in spring to renew our zest for life. November 1st might be an appropriate date for leaving? Or maybe just after the holidays … but not, no never, in April.

What we thought we had on the horizon, that grim March of 2013, Norb & I “thought” we’d made it through not only the trough of winter, but also naively believed he was finally on the rise and road to wellness. The ugly “C” thing never returned. But we learned the hard way that sometimes the cure takes an exacting toll as well. The continuing challenges of “getting well” itself, became a hill too far … so late in April of 2013, after re-bounding and giving us weeks of hope, he let go, to wait for us in peace on the other side.

So much we wish he was here to share with us — and this 2019 winter brought an especially treasured renewal to his circle. Enter Norbert’s second grandson, fourth grandchild: Connor George Blei. O! how Norb would have treasured seeing his own son Christopher and his beautiful wife Nia cradling this beautiful little boy in their arms, in this rising, renewed spring … blooming and beaming in their love and the bounteous good fortune of new life. What could be more grand? a baby … the miracle of life, returned.

A baby. With Norbert’s broad forehead and brown eyes, carrying the name “George” for both sides of his family; such a precious gift insists that we honor the basic reminders of each day: life goes on. Treasure your days – and time with each other. Don’t waste it fussing or on frivolity: Live it! And mostly remember that: Love never dies.

For those of us who loved Norbert Blei – his family, his circle, myself, this is most true: our love for you will never die.

Remember to say his name out loud this day. Write on, Norbert.

“Even from far away, I still feel you smile
and my body reaches for you without
thinking, singing songs of love it knows that
you can hear.” ~Quiet Songs / Brian Andreas

 





Write On Door County – Writers’ Residency

25 09 2018

This was an interesting video we received using my father’s chicken coop/writer’s studio which was re-located a few years ago to Write On outside of Fish Creek, Wisconsin.

The producer thought we, “would love to see it, to feel Norb’s spirit as it brings new life to others. And to smile, even on this sad day. That’s all we can hope, don’t you think, that what we care about lives on? I’m so thankful the Coop is at Write On and thankful to you for all the help getting it there.”





HAPPY BIRTHDAY Norbert

22 08 2018

HAPPY BIRTHDAY Norbert

This would have been his 83rd – and I am fairly certain he would have been venting alot of angst thereto. Aging was not something he relished, and the 80 marker would have shocked him. We have something that should make him smile though!

At his Memorial service in June 2013, several of our folksinger friends were asked to add their special voices to the day. One of whom, Jeanne Kuhns, enthusiastically accepted, saying: I’ll write a song for him!” Song composition is just short of rocket science in my eyes, so I reserved anticipation, thinking … well, that’s just impossible.

True to her word and talents, Jeanne came forth on stage with a lovely, soulful ballad written for and about Norbert George Blei, our Coyote, our hero, our man. Any reservations I had quickly fell away as she charmed us all, leaving this lovely song to float in our hearts.

When I’m in Door and have the pleasure of crossing Jeanne’s path at various gigs, she most often plays this for me. I recently asked her if she would share the lyrics so they could be posted on Poetry Dispatch for him. She –again enthusiastically! replied she would not only do that – but “I’ll record it for him!”. Now all of us can hear again this lovely song, written for Norbert by the incomparable Jeanne Kuhns, lyrics and link to her recording, below. Bless you Jeanne. And bless you, Coyote.
Miss you every day. ~ Jude Gx

YOU WROTE IT WELL

For Norbert, by Jeanne Kuhns

Inspirational man
He was the old Coyote
Howling at the moon of discontent
Using just the right words
About the way life came and went
And how some things, have been lost along the way …

He used his impatience
to fortify a good vision
breathing life into the chapters of his art
He’d write a story of life ~
and the words made life worth living
He spoke his mind about the loss of a simpler time …

What remains to tell of one man’s place in time?
Throw your head back to the moon, shake up the darkened night
Just know you wrote it well, Coyote, you wrote it well
Know you wrote it well …

I saw him in Al Johnsons
With the morning folks around
Always looking for stories wherever he went
He came here for the quiet
He came here to write

Now he’s a star in the dark
Door county night.





There are all kinds of Anniversaries … by Jude Genereaux

19 04 2018
Norbert Blei et Sandburg's Birthplace

Norbert Blei et Sandburg’s Birthplace

There are all kinds of Anniversaries …

Some are dark. Some hover over us, follow us about, rest on our shoulder like puffy clouds of longing and memory. April 23rd is a major accompaniment in my life.

I heard a program recently on “Radio Lab”/ NPR on the topic of death and the afterlife. And what it means in our culture. How we deal with it. How we honor it.

What I took away with me was a work of David Eagleton’s, commenting on the beliefs of another culture that death comes to us three times. The first is when the spirit leaves the body and we witness the change that instantaneously comes … the stillness, the peace, the release of “what was”. If we’ve been blessed to be with the one we love when they fly free, that moment will never be forgotten, but treasured in the very depth of our soul.

The second death comes when the body that is left behind is taken from us in the act of burial, and the remains cared for in whatever manner our beliefs lead us to. We then have nothing left but tombstones, our destinations for grief, and our memories. The final commemorations of honor and love.

But then comes a third death – this reported final death is marked by “that moment sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.” This notion comes from Eagleman’s essay on the afterlife, “Metamorphosis”, which goes into detail describing the waiting time between first and last deaths, and his imagining of meaning.

For as notable a writer as Norbert Blei – I envision he will be in this waiting zone for a long time to come. His written work, his teaching and the impact he made on his communities, both in Chicago and Door County, will live for years yet to come. He left behind a loving family and legions of readers, students and friends who love him. His writing studio – the very Coop itself – will bring others to know and honor our Norbert. He may even become weary of “waiting” … anxious to move on to the next mystery.

Norbert left us on April 23, 2013, but remains alive in ways of the heart and soul where we hold our Beloveds, forever. I will remember to say his name out loud every breathing day left of my own life. — Jude Genereaux

“The love between two people when confronting death
is a force of nature nothing can take away from them.”
~Dr. Ira Block WPR





Write On, Door County’s coop inspires authors

23 08 2017


posted Aug. 15, 2017 7:56 a.m. (CDT) by / Benjamin Wideman, Regional Editor | ben.wideman@ecpc.com

PHOTO BY BENJAMIN WIDEMAN Jerod Santek, executive director of Write On, Door County, stood outside the coop, a converted chicken coop located on the nonprofit organization’s 39 acres of property.

PHOTO BY BENJAMIN WIDEMAN Jerod Santek, executive director of Write On, Door County, stood outside the coop, a converted chicken coop located on the nonprofit organization’s 39 acres of property.

JUDDVILLE — Typically, writers don’t enjoy being cooped up.

But, then again, not many writers try letting their creativity flow inside a converted chicken coop.

Those who have done so at Write On, Door County emerged invigorated by the experience of working in a coop once utilized by the late Norbert Blei, a well-respected Door County author.

“Walking through the squeaking door into the coop became like passing through a veil, where the world I was creating was more present than all the workaday cares that had been tethering me to literal reality all year,” said Zoe Zolbrod, a novelist and memoirist from Evanston, Ill.

Athena Kildegaard, a poet from Morris, Minn., said it was “a privilege to spend time at Norb Blei’s desk … knowing that those who I admire have sat there, too, all of us blowing as hard as we can into the weird and beautiful world.”

Singer/​songwriters like Tim Johnson of Lake Geneva also have embraced the coop, saying, “The coop was great and inspired more than one new song. I’m going to miss going to work each morning in that cozy space. … Nature and nurture. That’s what it’s all about here.”

They’re among more than 80 writers stretching from California to Massachusetts who completed residencies at Write On, Door County. The organization, which formed in 2013 and received nonprofit status the following year, occupies 39 acres of serene property midway between Egg Harbor and Fish Creek, just a stone’s throw from the shoreline of Green Bay.

Writers are inspired by Write On’s winding walking paths, beautifully renovated main home and its most unique feature, the coop, which overlooks a tranquil meadow.

“The coop offers a feeling of inspiration and accomplishment that other writers respond to. There’s a wonderful energy,” said Jerod Santek, Write On’s executive director. “The view out the window from the writing desk is really inspirational. It’s also the history of the coop that really draws people in.”

Blei worked in the coop for 45 years until his passing in 2013. He wrote novels, essays, short stories and poems — many of them advocating for the preservation of Door County’s natural environment. In 2014, the coop was transported about 20 miles from Blei’s home in Ellison Bay to Juddville. Several of his old typewriters are perched on rocks outside the coop.

Nearly all of the writers who take up residency from May through October use the coop. Most stay for a week, but some remain for several weeks. During the colder months, writers often work in the home (where they sleep in one of the two bedrooms).

“We’ve had fiction writers, poets, children’s authors, songwriters, playwrights, nonfiction writers — it really runs the gamut,” Santek said. “We don’t put any limitations on that.”

Perhaps the most well-known writer to use the coop was New York Times best-selling author Michael Perry, who during a week-long residency produced a stage adaptation for his book “Population: 485.”

Write On offers numerous free programs, both on and off site, to writers of all ages and skill levels. They can range from 5-year-olds to 90-year-olds to someone like Naomi Shihab Nye, an internationally acclaimed poet from Texas, who recently participated in one of Write On’s events. Book clubs also use the coop for small gatherings.

Write On began as the brainchild of Door County residents Michael Brecke and Anne Emerson, who wanted to develop a year-round outlet for anyone interested in writing. Santek, a native of Pittsburgh, connected with them, and not long thereafter an anonymous donor purchased the home and surrounding property for the benefit of Write On.

Santek worked with the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis for 19 years, but he was so enamored with Door County and Write On that he moved to Sturgeon Bay and assumed the role of executive director from day one. The administrative assistant is Jaime Jorns.

“This really is a wonderful place of inspiration, and I’m happy to be part of it,” Santek said.

And the writers who visit feel the same way.

“Nothing inspires a writer more than a change of scenery, a change of pace, a change of lifestyle,” said Todd Boss, a poet from Minneapolis.

Fellow poet Donna Hilbert traveled from Long Beach, Calif., and noted, “This place is paradise for writers — the grounds, the walking trails, the coop, the porch swing and most of all the people.”

If you go

What: Write On, Door County. / Where: 4177 Juddville Road, Juddville.

Information: For details about residencies, visit http://www.writeondoorcounty.org or call 920-868-1457.