Bridget Buff | Coop Dedication

31 05 2015

Norbert Blei

Coop Dedication

I am so very sorry that I wasn’t able to attend this great dedication day of my dad’s beloved chicken coop to the Write On School. When Jude asked me to come up with “a little something to say” for the dedication I immediately thought of something. A conversation I had that sticks in my head and I continue to think about. After my dad passed away and we were in the process of selling the house and trying to figure out just what to do with the coop I remember talking to my dear friend Annika Johnson. I was explaining to her that on my last visit with my dad in the hospital he knew he was going to be leaving us soon. He had some final wishes about things I never imagined him telling me. Specifics on where he wanted to be buried and what he wanted on his headstone. Even the shape and color of the headstone! He mentioned details on his library and his own books but not one mention of the coop! His precious coop!

It was one of those things you always hear about after the fact…”I should have asked him!…If only I would have brought up that subject!” As I expressed this frustration to Annika she replied,”Well why would he have mentioned it?!” These are the words that replay in my head. Why would he mention his coop? I guess because it was such a huge part of him and who he was? I guess he and many others just assumed it would just go with the house. Today I can honestly say thank goodness it didn’t! More than likely the coop would have been used as a shed or torn down. That would have been quite a sad ending to the story…his story!

Instead the story of Norbert Blei’s chicken coop is still being written. His precious writing space is still here with us. Dad would be thrilled that the coop found a new perfect home at Write On in a beautiful field with his dear friend Michael Brecke’s former church in the background. True, it won’t be exactly the same. Not possible. I know he wouldn’t want it to be a museum or gift shop either. It won’t be that. But his chicken coop will gradually be set up as close to possible to the way dad once enjoyed it. His own art and postcards and trinkets and treasures covering the walls and window sills and desk and even the door and ceiling. Hopefully it has that same magical smell and feeling and is filled with sunlight when we step inside. I can almost see the tiny bouquets of black eyed susan’s and forget me nots I would bring to him as he typed in the coop when I was a little girl. He would put them in brightly colored glass bottles he used as vases on his desk.

The best part of all, and the most comforting to me…comes from knowing that my dad would love that now writers can use his own chicken coop as a workspace to inspire their own writing. There is nothing that gave my dad greater joy than his love of helping other writers discover the joy of writing in Door County.

Thank you to so many for making this day possible and for allowing the story of dad’s chicken coop to continue to be written. I know you have dad’s blessing. The coop at Write On will be my first stop on my upcoming trip to Door County. I can’t wait to feel the magic of “the coop” once again. — Bridget Buff

Write On To Dedicate Norb Blei’s Coop | Peninsula Pulse

15 05 2015

719A91Qij2B87593.medWrite On, Door County will celebrate the literary legacy of the late Norbert Blei and a dedication of The Coop (the writing studio where he worked in Ellison Bay) during its second annual house May 30.

Blei, born and raised in Chicago, moved to Ellison Bay in 1968 and lived his passion and joy for writing, teaching and art. He was writer-in-residence at The Clearing Folk School, a position he held for 40 years; edited a Door County arts newspaper; and was editor and publisher of CROSS+ROADS PRESS, which was devoted to emerging and accomplished poets, short story writers, essayists, novelists, artists, and photographers.

With the help of a neighbor, Blei converted an old chicken coop into his writing studio. Surrounded by stacks of books, newspapers, and notebooks, he wrote at his table, first on a typewriter, then on a computer, composing the profiles that would be included in such books as Door Way and Meditations on a Small Lake.

Blei died April 23, 2013. The Coop was moved to the Write On property Aug. 26, 2014. It will be used as it was intended – as an inspirational place set in nature in which writers can work on their craft.

Join Write On for an afternoon of fun and celebration at their second annual open house on May 30, 1 – 4 pm. There will be live music by Jeanne Kuhns & Small Forest, Pete Thelen, Jay Whitney, Al DeGenova, Charlie Rossiter and Mark Raddatz; readings by contributors to Soundings: Door County in Poetry and from selected works of Norb Blei; and family-friendly activities. Open mic readings will be held during the first hour: readers taken on a first-come, first-served basis and limited to three minutes. Chicken paella by Scott McEvoy will be served throughout the afternoon until it’s gone. Bring a lawn chair or blanket and walking shoes to hike the half-mile writing path. Watch for a detailed schedule of the afternoon.

Open House…Open Coop

6 05 2015

Write On celebrates the love of writing and reading, along with the legacy of award-winning writer Norbert Blei in an afternoon that will include readings, music, and the dedication of the Coop, Norb’s beloved writing studio. Festivities begin at 1 and conclude at 4. Continue to watch our site for details.

Write On celebrates the love of writing and reading, along with the legacy of award-winning writer Norbert Blei in an afternoon that will include readings, music, and the dedication of the Coop, Norb’s beloved writing studio. Festivities begin at 1 and conclude at 4. Continue to watch our site for details.

Write On’s Second Annual Open House
May 30 @ 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Write On celebrates the love of writing and reading, along with the legacy of award-winning writer Norbert Blei in an afternoon that will include readings, music, and the dedication of the Coop, Norb’s beloved writing studio. Festivities begin at 1 and conclude at 4.

Date: May 30, 2015 | Time: 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Write On, Door County Center, 4177 Juddville Rd, Fish Creek, WI 54212 United States

Write On celebrates the love of writing and reading, along with the legacy of award-winning writer Norbert Blei in an afternoon that will include readings, music, and the dedication of the Coop, Norb’s beloved writing studio. Festivities begin at 1 and conclude at 4. Continue to watch our site for details.

Norbert Blei | August 23, 1935 – April 23, 2013

23 04 2015

Norbert Blei | August 23, 1935 – April 23, 2013


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.

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:


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


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


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