Council for Wisconsin Writers

12 09 2013

Norbert Blei

The Council for Wisconsin Writers,founded to honor Wisconsin writers published in the previous year, has renamed the Kingery/Derleth Award for Book-Length Non-Fiction to the Blei/Derleth Award for Book-Length Non-Fiction. The first time this will be bestowed will be at the annual Awards Banquet in Milwaukee, May 2014, which will also commemorate the Council’s 50- Year Anniversary. The awards are named for prominent Wisconsin writers in their category and include: book-length fiction, short fiction, book-length non-fiction (including outdoor) and short non-fiction, as well as poetry book.

Norbert Blei was presented with the “Major Achievement Award” in 1999 and also won the award for book-length nonfiction in 1981 for Door Way and short fiction in 1978 for A Distance of Horses.

Norbert Blei





Norbert Blei | Jim Spector | The Quiet Time: Door County in Winter

30 08 2013

Readings by Norb Blei & Music by Jim Spector

Tracklist: Door in Winter: December Entries: 1. 29th Going for Milk 2. 30th A Remberance of Red 3. 31th The White Path 4. Christmas Eve in Door

All selections from DOOR STEPS © 1996 ELLIS PRESS, P.O. Box 6, Granite Falls, MN 56241

The Quiet Time: Door County in Winter. Readings from Norb Blei’s DOOR STEPS (The Days, The Seasons) Original music for guitar by Jim Spector.

In five seasonal essays and a daybook of 365 entries, Norbert Blei records the passing of days and seasons in Door County, in his life, in our lives.

A delicate balance between the rugged Door terrain and the author’s inner landscape, the entries of DOOR STEPS (the second book in Blei’s Door County trilogy, which also includes DOOR WAY and DOOR TO DOOR) range from objective, almost naturalistic observations to pure poetry.

Jim Spector is best known for his passionate solo flamenco recordings and his inspired concert performances. He has arranged, composed and recorded the soundtracks to award-winning documentary films and music from his compact disc recording “Flamenco Passions” (DCV002, Door Couniy Voices) has been featured on American Airlines. In this collaboration with Norbert Blei, the text provided the images to inspire a musical setting for sensitive, evocative readings.

Produced by Door County Voices, a division of Open Door Productions, Inc., P.O. Box 517, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235. Readings performed by Norbert Blei. Original music composed and recorded by Jim Spector. Recorded at Sound Fanners, Sturgeon Bay, WI. Produced by Mark Thiede. Executive Producer: Cy Rosenthal. Photography by Dan Hatton.

Editors note: This recording was originally released as cassette and is not longer available. Norbert Blei was so kind to send me one of the very last un-played tapes. Digitalized as mp3 in 320kps | 44100hz | Stereo quality by Markus Mayer in Vienna, Austria.


Download

This download consists of one 62.27MB zip file containing the complete track list in 320kbps MP3 format along with album art in high resolution JPG format. If you are interested in, please click here…  A listening example is included.





Norbert Blei | Door Way

29 08 2013

Norbert Blei | Door Way

Norbert Blei’s award winning book “Door Way” is back in print in paperback for the first time. This display of “Door Way” is at Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant in Sister Bay , WI. Al’s was Norbert’s favorite stop each morning for coffee.

The book is also available in the Door County area of Wisconsin at “Main Street Market” in Egg Harbor, WI and the “Pioneer Store” in Ellison Bay, WI.





Jude Genereaux | Happy Birthday Darlen’ …

23 08 2013

Happy Birthday Darlen’ …
78 this day: August 23rd, 2013.

You may find yourself in grander company this birthday dinner Norbert, up there with Dave Brubeck & Studs, Vaclav Havel … my brother Al? But Norbr’ – ya shoulda been here. We – all of us, Blei’s & Buff’s & Aunt Lorry & the Blei-Tribe miss you more than you would have imagined. You left us all – too soon.

And I really don’t know how to do this …
learning to live without the sense of your presence in the simplicities of every day life ~ the habits & routines created, moments I turn with news to tell you … the hardest time – 5:45, when I expect you to be coming in from the Coop. Not that we hadn’t spent time apart … but one of us was always on the road back. Always.

How do the rest of us sing our songs without the lilt that made them come alive? much less celebrate days empty without you? Or move through the favorite month of August when it echoes so much loss? These things we never want to learn.

So be patient (for once) until I get back to your side. Our picnics will be quieter now, but I’ll come sit in the grass beside you & recall the ways we honored our holidays – anniversaries & birthdays. For as much as you’d protest that you “didn’t want all that attention!” – you did. Never flinched as favorite restaurant people in Milwaukee & Door served up cupcakes & candles … protests rang hollow up north as well, as Tag-Along or Five O’Clock sang choruses of “Happy Birthday”, you – smiling like a kid.

You left us all too soon, so we’re singing our songs to you with all our hearts … forgive us if they sound a little off key.
~ your Jude

Birthday Gifts

We sit face to face
center of the bed
sharing birthday surprises.

A rose for you
pressed impatiens for me
a watercolor, photo of dawn
strawberries and books
A heart of gold, a truffle or two;
backrubs and chatter
your face
next to mine in the morning.

The true gift is: Time
to lean into hunger
speak the secret language
taste the sweet peace of Renewal.

So run us a tub, my hot lovin’ man
fill it with passion fruit foam
and sink in beside me.
Joy
bubbles forth
You
are the promise
my life bargained for.

Hoarding

I want the shirt he died in.
I want the clothes pins, our dishes,
the last bottle of champagne …

I want all the books, love letters, the
movies and our blankets and
the time we wasted …

I want to hang the sheets, trim his mane
fetch him coffee, bring home bird seed
& go to breakfast at the Viking …

I want his hands, those eyes
his bump in the night
I want him back.

~ Jude Genereaux
Coyote Woman

norbandjude





Steve Grutzmacher | “It’s All Worth It” – Remembering Norbert Blei

12 07 2013

Norbert Blei

As I grow older and remain here on the Door Peninsula, one of the unpleasant realities I must face is the loss of friends and valued community members. Since the last issue of the Peninsula Pulse, our county has suffered three irreplaceable losses – none quite so significant to me, personally, as Norbert Blei.

Norb was a man full of contradictions and moods. He built and burned bridges with a rapidity that could be staggering. But Norb was, first and always, a writer.

My first meeting with him occurred in 1978. My parents had just opened Passtimes Books in the tiny cabin in front of the Toppelmans’ art gallery in Ephraim. Norb had just released a book of short stories titled The Hour of Sunshine Now – before the Door County books and Chicago books garnered him a measure of fame – and my father was hosting an autographing party on the patio in front of the store. Norb and I talked for a time, between customers, about books and writing, the first of what would become many such conversations over the years.

One year later, my college graduation present from my parents was a weeklong class with Norb at The Clearing, titled Zen and the Art of Writing. On Thursday morning of that week, Norb had us load into vans and took the entire class over to Toft Point for a few hours. The afternoon before we had been discussing Japanese Sumi paintings that consist of a single brushstroke across a white canvas and on that morning at Toft Point I chanced upon a dark grey rock with a single orange-red line running its length. When the opportunity afforded, I took the rock over to Norb and commented, simply, “Nature’s Sumi.” He took the rock from me, ran his fingers over the surface, then looked up and said, “If it were in my power, I would bestow a Ph.D. on you right now.” The rock from that day – “my Ph.D.” – sits on a shelf not far from where I write this column.

As the years passed, Norb and I, like many who knew him for an extended period I suspect, had our ups and downs. I was never a fan of his column in the Door Reminder, a viewpoint I shared with him on more than one occasion. Likewise, he was less than thrilled when I replaced him as the Door Reminder’s columnist. Still our love of the written word, and particularly the printed word, gave us ample material for long and engaging conversations.

Back in 2011 I was asked to write an appreciation of Norb for the Go! Guide. It was a task I struggled with, just as I have struggled to write these words. But some of what I wrote back then (with a slight update for time) seems appropriate now:

In the 44 years Norbert Blei has called Door County his home, he has been its faithful chronicler, its conscience, its critic, and its celebrator. In his attempts to capture the essence of the peninsula he has been a short story writer, a novelist, a poet, and painter, and – perhaps most importantly – a teacher.

He has been himself, he has been Coyote, he has been Salvador Prague, and many others. He has garnered a loyal following of admirers, and irritated others to the point of anger – but he has never been ignored or overlooked…

Like few writers of any time or any place, Blei has served a single muse: Door County. The land, the water and the people of this peninsula speak to him and he, in turn, has tried to faithfully record what he hears, what he feels and what he sees. His record of this place, in whatever form he captures it, has been shared with the multitude of us who have cared to listen as we, in turn, try to understand our abiding attraction to this tiny sliver of land – an attraction Blei defined in his book, Meditations on a Small Lake, in this way:

I guess what continues to fascinate me about this place – and I’m now speaking as a writer who lives here – is that after many books and all the years of living in it, I’m still not able to really define the place. Water defines some of it, but not all. The light here is different because of the water that surrounds everything, but that’s not all of it either.

There’s a spiritual aspect to the landscape. When you try to write what Door County is about, it’s about something as elusive as that: spirit.

That is the mystery that is all compelling.

With the due respect Door County’s community of visual artists deserve, and acknowledgement of the cliché involving pictures and words, no one artist has ever come closer to capturing the essence of Door County than Norbert Blei.

On a whim just now, I pulled my copy of The Hour of Sunshine Now off the shelf and read the inscription Norb wrote that day on the bookstore patio when he was a young 42 years of age and I was all of 20 years. And I was struck by how I, after all these words to memorialize the man, have been outdone by Norb’s three short sentences:

“To Stephen, I wish the hours of sunshine, the writer’s life for you. Tell it all, experience everything. It’s all worth it.” By Steve Grutzmacher, April 25, 2013





Herb Gould | Door County mourns author, Chicago transplant Norbert Blei

12 07 2013

Norbert Blei

Painting by Emmett Johns of Fish Creek, WI

They said goodbye to Norbert Blei the other day.

On a crisp day, friends and family gathered at the open-air Peninsula Players Theater for a memorial service that featured readings, tributes, songs, laughter and tears.

It was a touching and fitting tribute to Blei, a Chicago-born author who packed his Windy City roots when he moved to this vacation land in 1969.

“He wrote about the characters in this place, and then he became one,’’ said Michael Brecke, pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Juddville.

“And where the hell is Juddville?’’ Blei once remarked wryly from behind his penetrating eyes and walrus-like mustache.

A literary descendant of Carl Sandburg, Ernest Hemingway, Nelson Algren, Studs Terkel and Mike Royko, Blei wrote 17 books of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and essays. He also taught and nurtured aspiring writers.

“Norb was about people, about life, about place, about story,’’ said Marianne Ritzer, his first assistant when he founded Cross + Roads Press, which was dedicated to publishing the works of fledgling writers.

Blei died on April 23 in Sister Bay, near his home in Ellison Bay, after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 77.

“I loved his words,’’ Door County musician and friend Julian Hagen said. “I loved his voice. I loved his mustache.’’

Born in Chicago, Blei grew up on the West Side and in Cicero. After graduating from Illinois State, he was a high school teacher in the Chicago area before he moved to Door County with his wife and two young children to continue his writing career.

In the ’90s, he briefly became a figure of controversy with his “Shut the Damn Door’’ campaign, an outrageous, anti-tourist, anti-development proposal. But his true passion was for all things literary, with a dash of painting on the side.

“He’d write cards and mail them to me,’’ his daughter, Bridget Buff, said during her tear-filled remembrance, “even though we lived in the same house.’’

His nickname was “Coyote,’’ and musician Pete Thelen celebrated Blei’s brashness with fresh lyrics to “Sweet Home Chicago’’ that included the chorus, “3 and 6 is 9, 9 and 9 is 18, he left the Windy City for the country scene. Hey, Coyote, don’t you want to go? Back to that same old place, Door County, his home?’’

From his adult Door County home, Blei did some of his best work writing about his childhood in Chicago, describing ethnic neighborhoods and their proud first-generation residents with a stark, true resonance. He wrote about their work, their dreams, their World War II struggles, their zest for life and their flaws.

And he did it with a spare, understated style that showed the influence of Hemingway, a fellow Chicago native.

“He was probably the most dedicated writer I ever saw,’’ said Albert DeGenova, a Chicago poet and publisher who first met Blei at the Clearing, a Door County retreat where Blei taught an annual workshop.

A close friend of Royko, Blei first met the late Chicago newspaperman at the old City News Bureau, where they worked the night shift together. The Pulitzer Prize winner often visited Blei in Door County, marveling at the gregarious coffee talk that would take place at Al Johnson’s, the well-known Swedish restaurant that was to Blei what Billy Goat’s was to Royko.

There’s even a goat connection. Tourists flock to Al Johnson’s to see goats eat the grass on the roof of the restaurant.

“I’m sure there’s a coffee table in heaven,’’ said Al’s daughter, Annika Johnson, who brought a goat with her onstage when she paid tribute to Blei. “And I know Norb will elbow his way in and take over.’’ — Herb Gould, July 8, 2013 9:30AM








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