Norbert Blei – Watercolor Artist | by Jude Genereaux

16 03 2015

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Norbert Blei | Watercolor Artist by Jude Genereaux

I wonder how many of Norb’s readers know, along with all else he accomplished, that he was a prolific water color artist?

Particularly in the late 1970-80’s, Norb turned to painting when he needed to refresh his spirit or give his driven energies a break from the keyboard. On a narrow, tall table behind his writing desk, he laid a simple 23”x 18” flat board where he stood to paint. The only photo I’ve ever seen of him so engaged is found on the back of his book “Paint Me A Picture, Make Me a Poem”, taken in a time zone when he wore his hair long, falling to his shoulders.

The most well known of his paintings may be his collection “Die Mauer”, a series on the Berlin Wall. After returning from a trek to Germany at the time “the Wall” was being dismantled, Norb was haunted by the artful grafitti covering the west side of it. What began as a simple painting to commemorate it for himself, grew into an obsession – in the end he found he’d amassed 46 paintings! Arlene LewAllen, Norb’s close friend and art gallery owner in Santa Fe, was so excited to learn of Norb’s creation that early in 1993 she had him send them to her to be framed and hang in her gallery in Santa Fe. In April, 1993, Norb flew to Santa Fe to host an Opening to show his work, presenting a narration of how the series came to be and talk on the individual pieces.

I later found buried under piles of video and cassette tapes, one of only two VCR tapes that were made of this notable event; be assured copies were made, initially VCR, then transferred to CD’s for the family, a few friends and – history. Many of these provocative and moving paintings were sold, but a number of the Berlin Wall series remain in storage.

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Prolific as this collection was – there were others … SO! many others, ranging widely from the whimsical to the erotic, from his early years of experimental dabbling:

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through borrowings from his favorite artists, Henry Miller, Ken Patchen, Marc Chagal:

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Cover of “Once I Loved Him Madly” | click the image to enlarge…

Over the years Norb’s work evolved into adept expressions of his experiences and personal history. He used painting to express emotional zones he was prone to, naming his collections as he became gripped by them. Some exposed dark side fascinations, as in the “Mr Death” collections:

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One collection sprung from years of growing up as a “Catholic Boy”:

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Others he referred to as the “Angel” series, “Southwest”, “Santa Fe” and “Three Women”.

Norb worked poetry and emotion into much of his work:

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The “Tango Dancers” are among my favorites –

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Norb also painted expansively of Eros … anyone knowing Norbert Blei recognized he was a romantic, a poet, a man in love with life and art; his water colors reflect this.

Norbert Blei

Coyote Woman

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The King and Queen of Bohemia” | click the image to enlarge…

Much of Norb’s work has been sold, but probably far more was given to friends and fellow writers, becoming treasures in private homes from here to California. Some remains in storage. All of his work is a treasure, and “Another facet of Blei”, not everyone knew existed.

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“These paintings are not souvenirs. They are small joys, dreams, meditations, mystical journeys, adorations of the private sort for those seeking what they know not. It is not my business to paint. Just paint.” “The Watercolor Way” Norbert Blei





Jude Genereaux | New Years Eve. Our Way.

29 12 2014
Jude Genereaux & Norbert Blei

Jude Genereaux & Norbert Blei

New Years Eve. Our Way.

There are those of us “quiet people” in the world who’ve spent lifetimes avoiding the hardy HOoHaH of New Year’s Eve. We choose instead to scurry off together after the festivities of Christmas slow down, to savor the peace of just being a duo again. To seek out some place special to share hours of reflection and renewal, in the quiet of winter evenings infused with beauty and light.

This was our deeply held tradition, Norbert’s and mine. We tagged New Years Eve as our own, and escaped to: Milwaukee! The best kept secret in the mid-west. Milwaukee. City of old and treasured buildings and architecture, abundant with ethnic restaurants of every culture, gifted with the world famous Calatrava addition to the Art Museum – and boldly glittered & lit as festive as a city can be. Most surprising: there was somehow a quietness that cocooned the East Side as we walked the snowy sidewalks at night.

As much of a Chicago person as one can be, Norb still came to love Milwaukee. It was something we discovered and made Ours together. More negotiable in scale (and expense), and an easy drive from home in Door County. We could be there in a three short hours, to check into our favorite corner room at the (former) Park East, where we could walk to the museum and numerous galleries nearby. Walk to breakfast at the Plaza or the old Knick; walk past gracious brownstone homes and glorious churches, through the beautiful neighborhood of the East Side. Walk to dinner at the Lakeside, the County Clare Irish Pub or if we were lucky enough to be there on a Friday – through the city square’s brightly lit park to Elsa’s for giant shrimp and broccoli & honey-mustard sauce.

Afternoons were for bookstores. The old Schwartz bookstore (now Boswells) on Downer and the classic “Woodland Patterns” on Locust. Once inside, Norb could only be lured out by a good movie ~ or two … all the films that never made it north to the Door, we’d catch up on at the Oriental or on Downer Street. In between, to wander through Sendiks wonderful grocery to oogle the beautifully fresh produce, and never! missed stopping at Glorioso’s on Brady Street – an Italian deli loaded with wonder.

New Years Eve dinner itself? Only one place for that. “Three Brothers”- from Serbia. The Burek and Serbian salad – incomparable. Not everyone might “get” the ambience of its old country charm, but Norb cozied in like a cat in a cushion. Before all the new road work, it was nearly impossible to find – our first time, we drove in circles through south Milwaukee until nearly giving up, though thankfully we did not. Just a few years ago, one of the founding brothers, Branko Radicevik (now 91), joined us at our table to talk history and recipes with Norb. We did not know it would be our last time.

Norbert Blei & Branko Radicevik

Norbert Blei & Branko Radicevik

One crucial stop remained before returning to our room to watch the New Year’s Eve ball drop in New York. A cab ride took us to the Pfister Hotel for after dinner scotch in the luscious golden lobby, relishing the beauty of the room and Jeff Hollander on the baby grand. Then to the top – the Blu Room, where a jazz trio normally held forth. We finished our kind of New Year’s Eve surrounded by just the right amount of glitter, soft sexy jazz, city lights and – the quietness we treasured, just the two of us.

Time is a river, rolling and roaring and whisking away our days … days that rush at us in abundance, tumbling forth one after another as if they’ll never end. They do. Our New Years Eves were high in treasure, and memory. Friends have followed our lead and some now walk these same paths; I’d ask that you remember us in our favorite haunts ~ that’s what I’ll be doing on New Years Eve.

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection” ~Anaїs Nin.

Alchemy: a mingling; the medieval chemical science, object of which was to transmute base metals into gold, to discover the universal cure for disease and means of indefinitely prolonging life.

Alchemy

A frosty New Year’s morning
from a corner window, our favorite room
we watch the Calatrava salute
a new morning sun.

Sea smoke rolls off Lake Michigan,
the famous blue flame flags our cold walk
to the Plaza for coffee & eggs & early chatter.
Streets lined with brownstone mansions,
gothic churches and cafes steeped
in scent of the old country.
We wander through bookstores
the riverfront; the Oriental at two o’clock.

City lights dot & glitter the night sky as our
cab delivers us to the warmth of golden lobbies
beckoning “come inside”;
Pfister’s piano man teases longing and
memory from ivory & shadow
the tower turns, blue jazz on top.

We start again
open as Calatrava’s wings.

~ Jude Genereaux

Norbert Blei

Norbert Blei





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





jeffrey johannes, michael farmer, cory a. masiak, jude genereaux, bobbie krinsky | WISCONSIN POETS’ CALENDAR, 2011

19 07 2010

Poetry Dispatch No. 327 | July 19, 2010

WISCONSIN POETS’ CALENDAR, 2011

Jeffrey Johannes, Michael Farmer, Cory A. Masiak, Jude Genereaux, Bobbie Krinsky

Editor’s Note: This excellent collection, the Twenty-fifth Anniversary Celebration of Wisconsin’s Best Poetry (wfop.org/calendar.html), first published by Tom and Mary Montag in 1982 and under the superb direction of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets since 1987, is an annual reminder that poetry is alive and well in a Midwestern state noted for cows, cheese, beer, Fighting Bob LaFollette’s Progressive Party, and the Green Bay Packers.

The 2011 edition, extremely well-edited by Sandra Lindow and Peg Lauber, represents over two hundred Wisconsin poets, from the state’s past and present poet laureates to fledgling writers finding print for the first time. That’s a particular measure of mine I champion whenever possible: Does this little magazine publication, small press, etc. keep its door wide open for any and every writer who submits a piece of work for publication, or is it a ‘private club’ of like-minded friends and academics who publish only themselves? What I particularly admire about three Wisconsin publications—the former Free Verse, Hummingbird, and the Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar—is the open door policy, knowing how difficult it has always been for beginning writers to get their foot in the literary door, even more so these days via print.

The 2011 calendar is further enhanced by the cover and interior art work of poet/painter of Candace Hennekens.

Bear in mind that my selections for this posting represent a very small fraction of all the fine work to be found in this volume. Also, many of the poets are either friends of mine and/or former students of my annual writing workshop at The Clearing, here in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin where I live, many of them with a substantial amount of books and credits to their name, and consequently will try my best (with the possibility of one or two exceptions) to concentrate primarily on the poets I do not know and/or those who could use a little more exposure.

This collection is such a rich resource of good work, I will very likely return to it throughout the year and post additional poems either on this site or either of my two Wisconsin sites: NBCoop News or Door County Today. –Norbert Blei

Some Winter Day
Think of winter as the creative
recluse who emerges
from his half of your duplex
to borrow a cup of sugar.
He sits at your table sipping coffee,
frost clinging to his beard.
Your coffee still too hot to drink,
conversation drifts.
You try to remind him about color:
daffodils, playground chalk, koi;
but he only wants to talk
about his latest composition,
an opera in which the protagonist
paints the world white.
It takes him all morning to sing
the opening aria.
Outside your window,
snow lifts and curls.
You light a cigarette,
pour some Irish whiskey
into your coffee,
and settle in for the second act.

Jeffrey Johannes




Cool

ice fishing called off
boat refuses proper launch
water much too hard

–Michael Farmer


Reclamation

I have to dig deep
to learn to be farmer again
I have to uproot
the strata of office jobs
the habit of meetings
and memos
and get my hands dirty
break into working sweat
dig past
the academic degrees
and study abroad
to find the grain
that kernel of need
and obligation
and love
in the sweet soil of me

–Cory A. Masiak


Bait Shop
You know that smell
the minute you walk in
Know you’ve reached back & found it again
that old bait shop, milk & bread store
at the Four corners by the lake.

Could be in Petoskey where Old Hem
hung out on his way to the Big Two Hearted
or the one in Baileys on the harbor
any hundred others near the U.P. or the Brule

And you’re 10 again, a can of worms in your fist
waiting for Dad to take you out in that old row boat
with the leaky bottom, water sloshing between the slats
tied to the dock & bobbing in morning mist
up at Uncle Hank’s.

Walk through that old wooden screen door—BAM!
Bags of chips, iced cokes & souvenirs—jack knives,
birch bark canoes &; sweetgrass baskets For Sale
next to postcards of black bear & trout, all
steeped in the scent of old wood, damp & musty
Closed-for-Winter air lingering in summer’s musk

Walking back through that door
to summers past.

—Jude Genereaux


Winter’s First Orange

On nights like these
when temperatures plunge
and turn our world
into black ice and powder white

and my dog—even my dog—
won’t step outside,

it’s time to reach
for my first winter’s orange,
peel it in a single spiral,
lean over the kitchen sink
and, juice running
down my fingers,
take one bite, then another
and another
till lips and tongue tingling,

I purr, “Hey Jack Frost,
blow me a kiss.”

–Bobbie Krinsky



For those wishing to get a copy of the Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar, drop by the Clearing in Ellison Bay or Novel Ideas in Baileys Harbor if you are local, or to go the the website http://www.wfop.org and hit the Calendar link for information…then wander through some of the other areas to find out more about the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets.








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