HAPPY BIRTHDAY Norbert

22 08 2018

HAPPY BIRTHDAY Norbert

This would have been his 83rd – and I am fairly certain he would have been venting alot of angst thereto. Aging was not something he relished, and the 80 marker would have shocked him. We have something that should make him smile though!

At his Memorial service in June 2013, several of our folksinger friends were asked to add their special voices to the day. One of whom, Jeanne Kuhns, enthusiastically accepted, saying: I’ll write a song for him!” Song composition is just short of rocket science in my eyes, so I reserved anticipation, thinking … well, that’s just impossible.

True to her word and talents, Jeanne came forth on stage with a lovely, soulful ballad written for and about Norbert George Blei, our Coyote, our hero, our man. Any reservations I had quickly fell away as she charmed us all, leaving this lovely song to float in our hearts.

When I’m in Door and have the pleasure of crossing Jeanne’s path at various gigs, she most often plays this for me. I recently asked her if she would share the lyrics so they could be posted on Poetry Dispatch for him. She –again enthusiastically! replied she would not only do that – but “I’ll record it for him!”. Now all of us can hear again this lovely song, written for Norbert by the incomparable Jeanne Kuhns, lyrics and link to her recording, below. Bless you Jeanne. And bless you, Coyote.
Miss you every day. ~ Jude Gx

YOU WROTE IT WELL

For Norbert, by Jeanne Kuhns

Inspirational man
He was the old Coyote
Howling at the moon of discontent
Using just the right words
About the way life came and went
And how some things, have been lost along the way …

He used his impatience
to fortify a good vision
breathing life into the chapters of his art
He’d write a story of life ~
and the words made life worth living
He spoke his mind about the loss of a simpler time …

What remains to tell of one man’s place in time?
Throw your head back to the moon, shake up the darkened night
Just know you wrote it well, Coyote, you wrote it well
Know you wrote it well …

I saw him in Al Johnsons
With the morning folks around
Always looking for stories wherever he went
He came here for the quiet
He came here to write

Now he’s a star in the dark
Door county night.

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There are all kinds of Anniversaries … by Jude Genereaux

19 04 2018
Norbert Blei et Sandburg's Birthplace

Norbert Blei et Sandburg’s Birthplace

There are all kinds of Anniversaries …

Some are dark. Some hover over us, follow us about, rest on our shoulder like puffy clouds of longing and memory. April 23rd is a major accompaniment in my life.

I heard a program recently on “Radio Lab”/ NPR on the topic of death and the afterlife. And what it means in our culture. How we deal with it. How we honor it.

What I took away with me was a work of David Eagleton’s, commenting on the beliefs of another culture that death comes to us three times. The first is when the spirit leaves the body and we witness the change that instantaneously comes … the stillness, the peace, the release of “what was”. If we’ve been blessed to be with the one we love when they fly free, that moment will never be forgotten, but treasured in the very depth of our soul.

The second death comes when the body that is left behind is taken from us in the act of burial, and the remains cared for in whatever manner our beliefs lead us to. We then have nothing left but tombstones, our destinations for grief, and our memories. The final commemorations of honor and love.

But then comes a third death – this reported final death is marked by “that moment sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.” This notion comes from Eagleman’s essay on the afterlife, “Metamorphosis”, which goes into detail describing the waiting time between first and last deaths, and his imagining of meaning.

For as notable a writer as Norbert Blei – I envision he will be in this waiting zone for a long time to come. His written work, his teaching and the impact he made on his communities, both in Chicago and Door County, will live for years yet to come. He left behind a loving family and legions of readers, students and friends who love him. His writing studio – the very Coop itself – will bring others to know and honor our Norbert. He may even become weary of “waiting” … anxious to move on to the next mystery.

Norbert left us on April 23, 2013, but remains alive in ways of the heart and soul where we hold our Beloveds, forever. I will remember to say his name out loud every breathing day left of my own life. — Jude Genereaux

“The love between two people when confronting death
is a force of nature nothing can take away from them.”
~Dr. Ira Block WPR





Write On, Door County’s coop inspires authors

23 08 2017


posted Aug. 15, 2017 7:56 a.m. (CDT) by / Benjamin Wideman, Regional Editor | ben.wideman@ecpc.com

PHOTO BY BENJAMIN WIDEMAN Jerod Santek, executive director of Write On, Door County, stood outside the coop, a converted chicken coop located on the nonprofit organization’s 39 acres of property.

PHOTO BY BENJAMIN WIDEMAN Jerod Santek, executive director of Write On, Door County, stood outside the coop, a converted chicken coop located on the nonprofit organization’s 39 acres of property.

JUDDVILLE — Typically, writers don’t enjoy being cooped up.

But, then again, not many writers try letting their creativity flow inside a converted chicken coop.

Those who have done so at Write On, Door County emerged invigorated by the experience of working in a coop once utilized by the late Norbert Blei, a well-respected Door County author.

“Walking through the squeaking door into the coop became like passing through a veil, where the world I was creating was more present than all the workaday cares that had been tethering me to literal reality all year,” said Zoe Zolbrod, a novelist and memoirist from Evanston, Ill.

Athena Kildegaard, a poet from Morris, Minn., said it was “a privilege to spend time at Norb Blei’s desk … knowing that those who I admire have sat there, too, all of us blowing as hard as we can into the weird and beautiful world.”

Singer/​songwriters like Tim Johnson of Lake Geneva also have embraced the coop, saying, “The coop was great and inspired more than one new song. I’m going to miss going to work each morning in that cozy space. … Nature and nurture. That’s what it’s all about here.”

They’re among more than 80 writers stretching from California to Massachusetts who completed residencies at Write On, Door County. The organization, which formed in 2013 and received nonprofit status the following year, occupies 39 acres of serene property midway between Egg Harbor and Fish Creek, just a stone’s throw from the shoreline of Green Bay.

Writers are inspired by Write On’s winding walking paths, beautifully renovated main home and its most unique feature, the coop, which overlooks a tranquil meadow.

“The coop offers a feeling of inspiration and accomplishment that other writers respond to. There’s a wonderful energy,” said Jerod Santek, Write On’s executive director. “The view out the window from the writing desk is really inspirational. It’s also the history of the coop that really draws people in.”

Blei worked in the coop for 45 years until his passing in 2013. He wrote novels, essays, short stories and poems — many of them advocating for the preservation of Door County’s natural environment. In 2014, the coop was transported about 20 miles from Blei’s home in Ellison Bay to Juddville. Several of his old typewriters are perched on rocks outside the coop.

Nearly all of the writers who take up residency from May through October use the coop. Most stay for a week, but some remain for several weeks. During the colder months, writers often work in the home (where they sleep in one of the two bedrooms).

“We’ve had fiction writers, poets, children’s authors, songwriters, playwrights, nonfiction writers — it really runs the gamut,” Santek said. “We don’t put any limitations on that.”

Perhaps the most well-known writer to use the coop was New York Times best-selling author Michael Perry, who during a week-long residency produced a stage adaptation for his book “Population: 485.”

Write On offers numerous free programs, both on and off site, to writers of all ages and skill levels. They can range from 5-year-olds to 90-year-olds to someone like Naomi Shihab Nye, an internationally acclaimed poet from Texas, who recently participated in one of Write On’s events. Book clubs also use the coop for small gatherings.

Write On began as the brainchild of Door County residents Michael Brecke and Anne Emerson, who wanted to develop a year-round outlet for anyone interested in writing. Santek, a native of Pittsburgh, connected with them, and not long thereafter an anonymous donor purchased the home and surrounding property for the benefit of Write On.

Santek worked with the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis for 19 years, but he was so enamored with Door County and Write On that he moved to Sturgeon Bay and assumed the role of executive director from day one. The administrative assistant is Jaime Jorns.

“This really is a wonderful place of inspiration, and I’m happy to be part of it,” Santek said.

And the writers who visit feel the same way.

“Nothing inspires a writer more than a change of scenery, a change of pace, a change of lifestyle,” said Todd Boss, a poet from Minneapolis.

Fellow poet Donna Hilbert traveled from Long Beach, Calif., and noted, “This place is paradise for writers — the grounds, the walking trails, the coop, the porch swing and most of all the people.”

If you go

What: Write On, Door County. / Where: 4177 Juddville Road, Juddville.

Information: For details about residencies, visit http://www.writeondoorcounty.org or call 920-868-1457.





Jude Genereaux | Four Years and Holding …

23 04 2017
Norbert George Blei August 23, 1935- April 23, 2013

Norbert George Blei / August 23, 1935- April 23, 2013

 

Four Years and Holding…

Holding on. To memory. To tradition, habits. To legacy.
It’s what we do when we’ve lost that someone most significant in
our lives: we hold on.

Life goes on – yes, yes, we know all that; we’ve heard and repeated and chanted all the mantras that are supposed to bring us peace. Of course “life goes on” … rarely as joyfully or as meaningful. Or inspired. These are the elements Norb brought to my life: joy. Meaning. Inspiration. Both as my Other and as the teacher so many knew him as.

What keeps him in our world now, after all this time? Most immediately we think of his books and all the words he left for us to savor; many of us read and re-read them often, returning to them, to keep him with us. Hear his voice when you read them? I do.

Norb was also a dedicated letter writer, not only on a personal level, but when he’d get onto topics such as the writing life and other writers, films, art –life itself, his letters would take on epic lengths. My shelves are heavy with boxes and files not only of these and his personal letters, but great collections of clippings, news and magazine articles he sent still tumble forth from the corners in my loft. His presence is rich in them. Then come notes and reminders he tucked in books urging me to “Read This!”, underscoring and comments; post-it notes stuck to the pages of my class notebooks, little drawings and doggerel. All saved and richly abundant among the detritus we writers keep at our desk. Messages of encouragement, admonishing, reminding me to: WRITE IT DOWN!

Norbert George Blei / August 23, 1935- April 23, 2013

Norbert George Blei / August 23, 1935- April 23, 2013

The dedication he brought to his own day was a beacon for all of us who shared his vision and passion for the written word.

I continue to pull titles from his reading lists, saved from my eighteen years as participant in his class: a bountiful number of required and “suggested readings” he insisted we experience. Norb focused his workshops on a different genre each summer – the writers of Latin American, Jewish authors, Native American, Irish, Black, the Beats and memoir … more. Besides the dozen or so pre-class readings, during the workshop itself he would discuss and note dozens more we might want to become aware of. I scrupulously made note of all, my intention being to eventually read them, though I fear I’ll never make it.

How many board feet of shelves filled with books were in our home? I should conjure up that number sometime: nine walls, floor to ceiling, holding an estimated 4 to 5,000 books … a tapestry of wonder and knowledge few ever accomplish reading, much less retaining as Norb did. He could search out and find exactly the text he was looking for at any given time, as well as an obscure passage that once captured his attention.

The loss many of us feel at his death is profound. How may we hold onto this amazing man? Here is the one note of comfort I have found: it is he, holding on to us. He stays with us always, in our hearts, our memories and our reading / writing lives. ~Jude Genereaux

Norbert George Blei / August 23, 1935- April 23, 2013

Norbert George Blei / August 23, 1935- April 23, 2013

 





Poetry Dispatch ~ November 2016

2 11 2016

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Poetry Dispatch ~ November 2016

Norb’s rather astonishing life as an artist came to view recently as his admirers and the general public were able to view a sampling of his prolific experiments in water color and other media, many for the first time.

The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Ephraim, WI displayed a good variety of Norb’s paintings in their gallery during the month of October. An Opening Reception was held October 2nd , hosted by partner Jude and featuring three of Blei’s former students who read short passages from his work: Al DeGenova, Sharon Auberle and Ralph Murre, all published authors of Norb’s “Cross+Roads Press”.

As one of Norb’s assistants at The Clearing, DeGenova now carries on his tradition in teaching the Blei Writers Workshop there each summer. Besides being a well known poet and performer in the Chicago area, Al is also Editor and publisher of the notable “After Hours” Journal of Chicago Writing and Art. He read one of Norb’s essays from Winter Book and excerpts from “In Praise of the Country Night” found in “Meditations on a Small Lake”. Al and wife Eden recently purchased a home in Door County with plans to one day re-locate permanently.

Sharon Auberle did just this not that long ago, and is now full time resident of Sister Bay. Active in both artistic and writer’s circles in Door County, Sharon has a bountiful collection of published chapbooks to her credit, and occasionally teaches winter classes at The Clearing and the newly created Write On! Center in Juddville. During the reception, she read an essay from “The Season of Looking Back” found in “Door Steps”, one of Norb’s triology books on Door County.

Ralph Murre serves as the current Poet Laureate of Door County and is a nearly life-long resident of Door, well known in the community as a successful architect. He also secured his Captain’s license from the Coast Guard, but prefers sailing his own boat, and is often seen touring the county by motor cycle as well. As a published poet, Ralph went on to create the “Little Eagle Press” giving back to the writer’s world by publishing the works of others. He read an essay which Norb had contributed to “Bar Code”, one of the “Little Eagle” collections.

Hosting the event, Jude Genereaux briefly described some of Norb’s eclectic collections and their genesis, from his “Berlin” series which was featured at the LewAllen Gallery, Santa Fe circa 1993 and random groupings Norb dubbed as “Mr Death”, “Recovering Catholic”, the “Santa Fe” paintings and more. Heavily influenced by Henry Miller, Ken Patchen and Marc Chagall, their presence can be detected in Norb’s energized art.

The most endearing experience of the showing was seeing people’s reactions – so few knew of his work as an artist, that surprise, amusement and shock were equally expressed. But overall, the most appreciated reaction was feeling Norb’s presence among us once again. — Jude Genereaux

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aldo

gallery





Jude Genereaux | Good, Good Vibrations

1 06 2016

Coop ID

Good, Good Vibrations

I just returned from touching-base w/ the beloved village, Ellison Bay. I know I shouldn’t do it – but, on an emotional pilgrimage to our old house, the excuse being to deliver a few mementoes to the new owners, Ivan and I walked out to where Norb’s working space, the mystical chicken Coop once stood.

After the founders of the “Write On! Door County” center for writing and writers heave-ho’ed moving the Coop to Juddville in 2014, nearly all of Norb’s totems and “forest art” was taken from the surrounding woods: the log that displayed a row of his exhausted typewriters, gone … the rocks swinging like prehistoric wind chimes from the trees, removed … broken bits of pottery he displayed in the sun, thrown away, and the bench where he once took breaks to smoke pipe – has been moved to sit in front of “the woman’s” reflecting pond, now turned into a campfire pit. Even the cement pad that once cradled the Coop has been removed.

It’s a heartache witnessing change, even when expected, so I don’t go there often. But this was spring! with baby buds about to burst in the tree limbs and my feet couldn’t resist following what use to be path to where the Coop once was. There, where the earth has been moved, routed, disturbed and bulldozed – there! bursting forth in blue: a solid bed of ‘Forget-Me-Nots’ blanketed the sorry earth that once thrummed with Norb’s energy. He’s still at work.

Nose to the ground, our good dog Ivan scouted the perimeter of the Coop’s exact boundary, resplendent in the tiny blue flowers. Forget him ~ Not. ~ Jude