Saturday, July 13, 2013

On sea, on land; You look good to me; Slow as the hands on a schoolroom clock; What she puts her mind to; Tizzuvthe; A tribute; To the ends of the earth


Sing it, fellas.................

go to

or, this is suggested:


Jul. 7, 2013

The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor


At the Cottage of Messer Violi

The mailbox, painted dark blue,
sits atop a tilted cedar post.
It has a little red flag on one side
and it is altogether remarkable.

The Toyota in the driveway
is very old and is said
to have come from Japan.

There is in the hallway
an immense dogfood bowl.
It is made of iridescent pink plastic.
It is, as I have said, immense
and it is hideous.

In the kitchenette is a statuette
of Ceres, Goddess of Wheaties.

The dishwasher is a Kenmore
and altogether worthy of praise.

In the foyer the over-sized painting
of a porkchop provides
visitors many opportunities
for conversation.

In the servants' quarters
there are many impressive works
that stress the imminence of death
and the probability of hell fire.

Placed on the broad maplewood table
beside bottles of cognac
there is a recording device
with a silver megaphone
into which natives are often
invited to shout
the oral histories of their people.

We whose hearts have been gripped
by life, scoff at the idea of art

as mere ornamentation: So they
seem to proclaim,
the three statues that adorn
the neighbor's lawn, plaster deer
with real bulletholes in them.

"At the Cottage of Messer Violi" by Paul Violi, from Breakers. © Coffee House Press, 2000




Jul. 8, 2013

The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor



For a long time I was sure
it should be "Jumping Jack Flash," then
the adagio from Schubert's C major Quintet,
but right now I want Oscar Peterson's

"You Look Good to Me." That's my request.
Play it at the end of the service,
after my friends have spoken.
I don't believe I'll be listening in,

but sitting here I'm imagining
you could be feeling what I'd like to feel—
defiance from the Stones, grief
and resignation with Schubert, but now

Peterson and Ray Brown are making
the moment sound like some kind
of release. Sad enough
at first, but doesn't it slide into

tapping your feet, then clapping
your hands, maybe standing up
in that shadowy hall in Paris
in the late sixties when this was recorded,

getting up and dancing
as I would not have done,
and being dead, cannot, but might
wish for you, who would then

understand what a poem—or perhaps only
the making of a poem, just that moment
when it starts, when so much
is still possible—

has allowed me to feel.
Happy to be there. Carried away.

"Request" by Lawrence Raab, from Visible Signs. © Penguin, 2003. 


Lobsters in the Window

First, you think they are dead.
Then you are almost sure
One is beginning to stir.
Out of the crushed ice, slow
As the hands of a schoolroom clock,
He lifts his one great claw
And holds it over his head;
Now, he is trying to walk.

But like a run-down toy;
Like the backward crabs we boys
Splashed after in the creek,
Trapped in jars or a net,
And then took home to keep.
Overgrown, retarded, weak,
He is fumbling yet
From the deep chill of his sleep

As if, in a glacial thaw,
Some ancient thing might wake
Sore and cold and stiff
Struggling to raise one claw
Like a defiant fist;
Yet wavering, as if
Starting to swell and ache
With that thick peg in the wrist.

I should wave back, I guess.
But still in his permanent clench
He's fallen back with the mass
Heaped in their common trench
Who stir, but do not look out
Through the rainstreaming glass,
Hear what the newsboys shout,
Or see the raincoats pass.

"Lobsters in the Window" by W.D. Snodgrass, from After Experience. © Harper Collins, 1968



What She Puts Her Mind To

A girl on the smallish side flying above the clouds

And into clouds and out of clouds

Plummeting, soaring

Diving until the last possible moment

And pulling back on The Stick

Skimming rooftops

Evening out and rising once more

Nearly straight up

Until momentum stalls

Then rolling over and recovering  power

By dropping like a stone in the sky

And just generally living like that

Kind of upping and downing it

Decides to play tuba and bass fiddle

And does it because she can do just about

Anything, anything, anything


Casts a quick smile at her mother

Unseen by most but me

In the audience of the high school auditorium

- I hope her mother saw it, too -

Then addresses the tall bass she just took up

On a whim a couple years ago

And plays intricate and fast runs  up and down

As a Flying Jazz Musician 

She can do just about

Anything, anything, anything


[Zep 11-1-2002]



Tizzuvthe, Tizzuvthe?
Where  is that located, exactly?
They had us singing about in grade school
In the 40s, a country evidently
Called Tizzuvthe

We were ‘Merukins yet
They had us calling it our country
And they had us singing about it;
“of thee I sing’

Of Tizzuvthe I sing?
I don’t think so
As a patriotic boy ‘Merukin there was only
One country I sang about during WW II
And only one country
I would call mine

And that would be only
The United States of America
But sometimes the teacher would
Have us put our hand over our hearts
When we sang this tribute
To an unknown country

I didn’t want to spot myself out
In a roomful of kids who seemed
Either to know where it was
Or didn’t care enough to stop
Thinking about upcoming recess

But at night I would take an atlas
Under my covers with a flashlight
And try to look up Tizzuvthe
Being somewhat embarrassed
That I appeared not in the know

And right about then I started to
Look at the atlas’s whole pages
And the improbable shapes of the countries
And then at a globe, regarding it
As a whole sphere
Instead of pieces of planetary patchwork
Borders which made no sense
Names of countries I couldn’t understand
And couldn’t in the case of Tizzuvthe
Even find

And I formed an opinion then
As I looked down at the atlas pages
From the top of my blanket tent
In bed in my darkened bedroom
Or from outside space
When regarding a globe
At a distance, and that was

That what mattered to me anyway
Was the whole thing as One!
Was that just being a lazy boy
Who tired of not being able to  find

As a rationale if indeed it was
Indolence operating I took another
Anthem I was accustomed to
From Sunday School
This Is My Father’s World
(as it still was my “Father’s” world in the 40s)
and adopted a world view

Instead of obscure circumscribed pieces of it,
And I still have that broader vision today
Which has helped me with perspectives
Many times

Yet I still sometimes wonder, and now
In a broader sense
With my still imperfect brain more filled out:

Just where, in the scheme of things,
Is or was  this Tizzuvthe?
And, if it exists, what does it do? 
Does it do things, to be so sung about,
- Land of the pilgrims’ pride -
To please My Father of the World?

Is all nature singing
And round me ringing
The music of the spheres?

[Zep, Memorial Day Weekend 2003]


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

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


Thanks to Steve G for a shimmering tribute and exposition on Norb Blei the late.
I have a post card he wrote and painted for me
which encapsulates our plight at the raccoon news.

I'd sent phrases of a haiku attempt to Norb.
He corrected my arrangement and embellished it.
Now it's is a treasure not to be parted with.

DZD 7/12/13

Norb the generous even gave the byline to me on his postal.