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Origins of the Dispatched Poem by Norbert Blei

norb3neu.jpgNorbert Blei | Photo: Maggie Perry

Poetry Dispatch attempts to address some of the passions in my life: to write, to teach, to spread the word—for a moment, a day, a lifetime. One never knows where the words go. Yet the writer persists. He has no other choice. Writers seldom see themselves as teachers. But words of all kinds, patterns, purposes essentially instruct. Light up the darkness within, without. Open new pathways to thought. Change lives. Especially the writer’s. Which is why he spends a lifetime in pursuit of words that will make a difference.

We live to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection,” said Anaїs Nin.

I have lived that life from the moment I first put words on paper to capture something I thought, felt or saw—and sensed the need to tell others. That’s all a writer is or does. There’s the factor of love as well, but writer or reader will have to figure that out himself.

Poetry Dispatch elicits none of my own writing but for occasional commentary on the poet or poem at hand. My role is to disseminate, to call attention to the work of others. Which hopefully might garner enough interest in the poet’s work to read more of it, purchase a book, even write or refine one’s own poems.

Poetry Dispatch was also born of a disenchantment, disappointment in my own frustrated life as a sometimes journalist (a particular love for the column, the feature) and the dwindling role of newspapers of any substance at all, let alone editors with any vision. What would it cost a newspaper to feature one good poem a day? a week? a month? on the editorial page? How much more ‘news’ a poem might provide than was passes for newsworthy on the pages of most papers today. The fact they are increasingly irrelevant does not surprise me.

The online ‘column’ began in August of 2005 at 6:52 in the morning and the poems have kept coming at me (dispatched to you) ever since, whenever time allows. I’m not sure what inspired the first one, except no doubt a poem I had read the night before that worked its way inside me and begged to be passed on to others come daylight.


Norbert Blei, born in Chicago, the author of a trilogy concerning that city and its people, Chi Town, Neighborhood, and The Ghost of Sandburg’s Phizzog has lived in Door County, Wisconsin since l969 and written extensively about Wisconsin as well.

He has taught, lectured, given writing workshops throughout the state and the Midwest, and is the Writer-in-Residence at the Clearing (Ellison Bay) where he has guided beginning and advanced students in the art of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for more than twenty-five years.

He has published in many of the state’s leading periodicals and literary magazines, and is a frequent commentator and guest on the Jean Feraca show (Wisconsin Public Radio) and has appeared on Warren Nelson’s Tent Radio program (Lake Superior Big Top Chautauqua), and the Michael Feldman Show (WPR and NPR). For three years he was a featured commentator on a local literary/ arts program in Door County, “Passages” (WDOR FM 98.7) and had his own hour program of commentary, interviews, readings, blues and jazz, called “The Coyote Hour” on WBDK, FM 96.7.

In l985 the Wisconsin Library Association honored his literary contribution by designating him a Notable Wisconsin Author, and he is included in Jim Stephens’ three-volume literary history of Wisconsin, The Journey Home. In l997 he received the Gordon MacQuarrie Award from the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters for his outstanding work in nature and environmental writing. He is one of 64 writers whose work was architecturally incorporated in a new convention center, the Midwest Express Center, in downtown Milwaukee. In l999 he received the Harry Bradley Major Achievement Award from the Council of Wisconsin Writers for significant literary achievement. He is also a Pushcart Press award winner for fiction.

Blei is the author of seventeen books: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry and has received state, regional, and national awards. In December of l994 he started his own small press, CROSS+ROADS PRESS dedicated to the publication of first chapbooks by poets, short story writers, novelists and artists. He was a contributing editor to the national quarterly, FORKROADS, A Journal of Ethnic-American Literature; co-editor of The Door Voice, the literary/associate editor of The Peninsula Pulse, and a columnist/feature writer for the online publication: http://www.doorcountycompass.com. His nonfiction has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine, the Washington Post, etc. while his short stories and poems have appeared in numerous literary anthologies, textbooks, and magazines including the Minnesota Review, Tri-Quarterly, Story, Kenyon Review, Utne Reader, and The New Yorker.

His Wisconsin work includes the award winning trilogy: Door Way, Door Steps, Door to Door, as well as Meditations on a Small Lake and the controversial Chronicles of a Rural Journalist in America–dedicated to the preservation of the rural landscape. Works-in-progress include a novel set in Door County, three collections of short stories, and four books of nonfiction. His most recent works include Winter Book and the first tradeback edition of CHI TOWN published by Northwestern University Press.


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3 responses

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