More than 150 of Door County’s most esteemed writers and poets turned out on a cold Saturday afternoon last week to dedicate the refurbished chicken coop that the late Door County author Norbert Blei used as his writing studio.
The coop had been moved from his Ellison Bay home to the site of Write On, Door County in Juddville last year following Blei’s death in 2013.
“Every day for almost 45 years, energy crackled from a little spot near Europe Lake,” wrote his longtime partner Jude Genereaux for the text at the entrance to the coop. “Now only a small footprint remains where an old cedar-shingle chicken coop once stood. Converted into a tiny writing studio – the humble, creative cove was where Door County’s best-known writer, Norb Blei penned his novels, short stories, essays and poems.”
The three-hour event featured many of Blei’s contemporaries and students reading tributes to the author, as well as musicians honoring his work in song and instrumental music.
“The day and range of speakers really paid good service to Norb,” said Ralph Murre, Door County’s poet laureate and a former student of Blei’s. “We owe him a debt of gratitude for his leadership in writing in this county.”
Blei wrote about Door County in many of his 17 books, as well as advocated for preservation of the county’s natural environment. Write On, Door County, which promotes writing in the county and offers classes and writing space for writers, restored the coop after moving it to its 40-acre site at 4177 Juddville Road. The organization plans to allow writers to work in the studio, which overlooks a meadow behind an existing building on the site.
“It is important to us that the literary and cultural history of Door County not be lost,” said Jerod Santek, executive director of Write On, Door County. “Having the coop here, as a place where writers can work, preserves that history without making it a museum piece.”
The first Norbert Blei Scholarship awards were presented at the event to two Gibraltar High School students: Makenna Ash of Ellison Bay and Evan Board of Egg Harbor.
The event also featured the introduction of a new poetry book, “Soundings: Door County in Poetry,” published by the Door County Poetry Collective. The collective includes several poets who were Blei’s students.
The anthology includes poems by more than 50 poets reflecting their visions of Door County.
“The day was a celebration of writing and the inspiration for writing in Door County,” Santek said.
“Sounds: Door County in Poetry” will be on sale at The Peninsula Bookman in Fish Creek and other bookstores throughout the county this summer. — Karen Ebert Yancey