The Norbert Blei Writing Workshop

23 03 2015


The Norbert Blei Writing Workshop

August 2-8, 2015
Albert DeGenova, instructor

  • “First-Person Confessional” with a focus on personal writing
  • Overview of Creative Writing
  • Writer Independent Study

at The Clearing Folk School, Ellison Bay (Door County), Wisc.

Registration now open! Limited Space! Details at The Clearing Folk School (click here)

August 2-8, 2015
With Instructor/Writer
Albert DeGenova

These classes are taught in the tradition of renowned writer and teacher Norbert Blei (1935-2013), who passed the torch of his 40+ year writing class at The Clearing to Albert and Susan O’Leary (Susan will be teaching “The Writer’s Craft,” Sept 13-19, 2015, also at The Clearing). Albert will be continuing Norb’s vision of a week that includes introductory and advanced classes, individual conferences, and the camaraderie of a community of writers.

Please choose one of these classes when registering:

  • Mornings – Overview of Creative Writing
  • Afternoons – “First Person Confessional” (includes more advanced writing assignments)
  • Writer Independent Study
  • Overview of Creative Writing

Burgeoning Writers.

This class will explore the major areas of creative writing: poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. Students will consider various writing techniques, discuss journal writing, poetry and prose poems, short story writing, the personal essay and blogs, and the significance of poetic devices as the basis of all creative writing, what “story” means in our lives, as well as an overview of the promises of publication. Class sessions will be devoted to discussion, in-class writing, and constructive criticism. No one need feel intimidated or out of place regardless of age, background or ability…all that is a required is the urge and desire to write.

“First Person Confessional”

As “autobiographical” detail has become the norm in contemporary writing, this class will look closely at how the confessional writers opened the door to the 21st century phenomena which is Slam Poetry and the explosion of personal memoir onto the best-seller lists. With a focus on this writing genre, students will explore how much confession is too much confession. Poets Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath let their first-person personas detail personal experiences deeper and more honestly than any women who had preceded them. Their “confessional” style was courageous, but not without criticism. Students will examine their own writing for those recurring themes of personal experience and detail that may or may not enhance their work.

Core reading:

  • Selected Poems of Anne Sexton by Anne Sexton
  • Ariel by Sylvia Plath
  • Loose Woman by Sandra Cisneros

Additional reading (recommended but required):

  • The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
  • Birthday Letters, by Ted Hughes
  • Big Sur, by Jack Kerouac

Advanced Writing Individual Conferences

For practicing writers (any creative genre) with some history of previous publication. Albert will work individually with those Advanced Writers who submit manuscripts and/or writing projects to him one month in advance of the first class.
For further information (and before submitting materials), please contact Albert:

Independent Study

Open to anyone with a desire to spend a week at The Clearing during the writing workshop session. No class work, writing assignments, or reading obligations. Consider yourself welcome to monitor the writing classes and programs. This could be a valuable week of insights into the writing life. Recommended as well for people who love to read and would enjoy spending a week as part of a community of fine writers.

The Clearing

Write, relax, learn…getaway from it all!!! This is famed landscape architect Jens Jensen’s dream come true. Read Albert’s essay on his relationship to The Clearing and Norbert Blei here: “Jensen’s Great Poem.”

Albert DeGenova

Your instructor

Albert DeGenova began his studies with Norbert Blei at The Clearing in 1996. He is an award-winning poet, writer, editor and publisher. He is the author of four books of poetry, and for the past 30+ years has worked as a journalist, public relations practitioner, copywriter, and marketing communications professional. In June of 2000 he launched the literary/arts journal After Hours, for which he continues as publisher and editor. In 2014, After Hours Press published The Professor’s Quarters, student perspectives on Norbert Blei and his class at The Clearing. DeGenova holds an MFA in Writing and is an adjunct professor at Concordia University, River Forest, IL. Albert is also a blues saxophonist and one-time contributing editor to Down Beat magazine. Read more on his website. Click here.

Albert DeGenova on Norbert Blei via WGN Radio

12 08 2014



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

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

19 06 2014



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:

al degenova | the blueing hours

2 12 2009

Poetry Dispatch No.302 | December 2, 2009

Al DeGenova

When I consider some of my original intentions in starting a small press some fifteen years ago, and when I look at the book of Al DeGenova’s poems I published in BACK BEAT (CR+P #15, 2001), along with Charles Rossiter, I couldn’t be more pleased considering all Al has accomplished since then, including his most recent book, THE BLUEING HOURS, Virtual Artists Collective, 2008, (http:// vacpoetry .org).

While the hum of Kerouac and Co. drove much of his word-music in BACK BEAT, there is all that and much more in THE BLUEING HOURS, and its three parts: “The Red Hours, “The Black Hours,” and “The Blueing Hours.”

Maybe ‘blue’ is the working. defining metaphor for all he has to say and sing. Al’s drive is music, Chicago, family, relationships, the poem as ‘memoir’ to some degree…and something bordering between eroticism and love–not a bad ‘red’/‘blue’ place to be, though a hell of a territory to define, call your own.

My idea with CR+Press was to help launch, publish a limited edition, ‘first book’ by writers who could show me something. And not publish a second printing, no matter how well the book may have sold. My preference was to put my efforts in another first book by another new–or older small press writer who had faded into obscurity.

My hope was that the writer would ride the wave of the first book and, when he or she was ready with the next manuscript, find a new, different publisher. Continue to expand, grow make a name/reputation. New horizons. Many publishers. All this was part of the learning process. Al did this—and more. Even found another publisher to reprint the first, best-selling book, BACK BEAT. I could not be prouder of him.

He continues to bring his own kind of music to the writing. Continues to find new pathways to the interior. He is also the publisher/editor of one of the best literary magazines coming out of Chicago, AFTER HOURS.

Here are some poems from THE BLUEING HOURS which capture much of what I see and applaud in the man and his art. —norbert blei

Chicken Shack Blues

We were to play together
a gig, father and son
sax and piano
like some modern-day notion
of vaudeville, or
talent night at the PTA.
I taught him a greasy
fried and dirty blues
like teaching him to tie a half-Windsor
or drink beer
or to live in the wilderness
with what we carried on our backs –
blues in G, that’s what I said
anxious to relive some smoky jam session memory,
as if there were some
in those 12 bars.
We’ll learn Chicken Shack.
He said,
it’s just a blues.
a blues
so nonchalant
as if there were nothing to it.
But at least
the first time he played
“Chicken Shack”
it was with
tenor’s voice
growling low G
a father playing the blues
for his son
opening the door
to free the red rooster
to feed the gray fox.

Living History

Hemingway’s breath still lingers
here on this street, my street,
his street.
Did he ever walk across
my lawn, sit on my porch
on his way to school, the same school
my sons sit in now?
I walk past his boyhood home,
look up to his third-floor bedroom.
The light is on tonight in that center window.
Whose 17-year-old shadow
contemplates the glory of war?
Do those old floorboards still hold
the crescent moons of his fingernails?
If matter and energy can never be destroyed,
then history is a fishbowl –
we share this same water for eternity.
The song Hemingway hears
as he runs to catch a football
is my voice, my son’s piano from our open door
then, if it’s all true
I swim in the same salty Mediterranean
where my grandfathers wash their feet.
I touch the skin of the dead then,
when I write my name in the dust
on my brother’s Manhattan bookshelves
and the dead know me, know I am
here – now – trying to taste
their history like a ripe plum
like sour mash, like
all the lovers who’ve kissed my lover’s lips.
We are the ancient dirt beneath our feet,
are the Nazis, the Popes, the Michigan militia
all the hot dog vendors on Bourbon Street,
we are the Presidents, we are the bombs,
the dead babies, the homeless garbage eaters,
we are history—
the waiter delivers our fathers’ tabs,
and we pay, we pay.


A small move
white key to black
one half-step forward or back
colors major with minor
the smallest distance
between piano keys
transforms gospel to blues
Mozart to Monk.

The twitch of a muscle
sounds a missed note
pinches the corners of a frown
winks an eye
pronounces a wrong word
brushes a finger against a cheek.

To think the end
of a concerto hangs
precariously on the touch
of one little finger as
delicately as an explanation
between wife and husband
of the phone call
that rings dissonance
the caller outside the chord.

Souring Metaphors

Crows line the horizon.
The milk in your breasts sours.
The piano is out of tune.
Your cheeks smell like mascara.
You walk through the valley of fear.
I fix the plumbing.
I carry the groceries.
You are the wind at the curtains.
I read suicide poems.
Your voice calls from a locked steel box.
I read without light.
You eat the leftovers.
You pull the weeds.
I smear gray ink.
You scream at the laundry.
You scream
at the laundry.

[from the BLUEING HOURS, Virtual Artists Collective, 2008,]

Much more on Albert DeGenova with listening examples can be found here…