Month: February 2014

kindle reader

i have a vintage kindle reader without whistles and bells that rarely logs many serious reading hours.  however, there are the significant moments when the kindle saves me a lot of precious rat bastard time.

sometimes i find a day or a weekend when suddenly the splake note folder is empty and i have no new netflix movies to watch.  a few minutes afterh a quick click on the computer screen i have a new and interesting book ready to read on my kindle.

already i have read four of my brain-candy favorite clive cussler novels on my kindle.  in a serious day of page turning i can finish a NUMA (united state national underwater and marine agency) adventure with cussler’s exciting dirk pitt, al giordino, and admiral sandecker.

in addition, i have read poetry collections by charles bukowski, lyn lifshin, and vera pavlova on  my kindle.  the ease of the kindle operation allowed me to quickly acquire and finish the play endgame by samuel beckett.

steve hamilton, joseph heywood and william kent krueger write michigan upper peninsula mystery stories.  these are the thrilling adventures of “yooper” policemen and conservation officers solving criminal activities.  the kindle reader provides me a fast connection to their new books.

the kindle’s ability of instant acquisition has also let me read immediately the writings of my close literary friends.  my kindle has the walt mclaughlin book a little bit of paris and robert zoschke’s work door country blues.

my most recent weekend kindle time saving successes was downloading the new sonny longtine book murder in michigan’s upper peninsula, an interesting collection of upper peninsula history.

the photographer

earlier this week i received an e-mail mesage from editor alison vyain of moon publishign and printing in fort wayne, indiana, saying the march edition of the moon was finished.  this issue has several splake poems plus front and back cover splake photographs.  i quickly put a check in the mail and ordered extra copies of the publication.  i will send a copy to marcus robyns, splake archivist at northen michigan university in marquette, michigan.  also, i will send a copy to the archives at michigan technological university in houghton, michigan.  finally a copy of the moon will be placed in the splake writing studio in the calumet art center.

recently i wrote a short piece about writer’s block and the terror of feeling that nothing creative was happening.  as a response to writer’s block i chose photography as an alternative art form that would provide me with a second creative outlet.  when nothing is happening on the blank page i am able to look at reality through the glass of a camera lens.

in the beginning of my filming i believed that the black-and-white photographic artistry was emphasized by kathleen mccann’s observation.

“for me black-and-white engages my imagination in a way that color does not.  it is timeless in a way that color isn’t.  the textures of light and shadow mirror the daily journeys we all must take in solitude.”

i chose the 35mm film format and used olympus camera bodies with separate wide-angle and telephoto lenses.  a tripod and cable release were also critical accessory items.  i believe that artificial light destroys the creative nuance of a picture.  i can remember waiting precious seconds for a time-released exposure to trigger the camera lens.  when filming i worked almost exclusively with kodak tri-x.

throughout my working years i have enjoyed considerable artistic success with my photography.  i have had gallery shows at the davidson in battle creek, alger area arts center in munising, portage view in houghton, and the omphale in calumet.  angst productions has published three splake photographic chapbooks–available light, shadows visible, and lightness of being.  also, in the past several years i have had cover photographs for many small press literary publications, and splake pictures printed in numerious national poetry journals.

ten years ago i moved from the print format to the digital filming technology.  i purchased a nikon 5000 cool-pix camera and have established a modest inventory of both color and black-and-white digital photographs.

the following are several examples of black-and-white photographs that i took with my nikon camera.

last train out

last train out

long gone long

long gone long

mad dog escape

mad dog escape

amen jesus amen

amen jesus amen

one bridge too far

one bridge too far

sweet sweet dreams

sweet sweet dreams

american flag

american flag

on my way to the fair

on my way to the fair

no forwarding address

no forwarding address



ten and two

ten and two

no mail today

no mail today

penny ante feud 13

the past week i received the latest issue of penny ante feud, an excellent collection of poetry published by “shoe music press” in alpharetta, georgia.  in the new edition ed markowski wrote a poem “a tribute” which contained welcome praise for this graybeard wordsmith living in the far northern territory of michigan’s upper peninsula.

ed is a nationally known writer of haiku poetry who lives below the bridge in the downstate flatlands of auburn hills, michigan.  he has also developed an interest and talent in painting which provides him with a valuable second creative outlet.

“A Tribute”
by Ed Markowski

With thin blood tender tender calloused feet and a pacemaker propelling his ascension beyond the summit to refresh the poet tree planting new packets of strong steady words that were born bred and bathed in the salt of the Earth up and down a crazy star-pocked trail this sacrilegious saint and Saint Bernard who drained every drop of amber sanity from the decaying industrial guts of greed spilling lava hot from macro micro and Velcro America with an RG Dunn clenched firmly between his teeth flicking flies tagging trout and living wise in the soothing cool of an eternal keweenaw stream carousing with his muse creating shaman songs gloriously drunk with the spirits of the B Brothers and our Grand Papa encased behind a warrior’s sad eyes on the snow-shocked streets of a ghost-less ghost town after seventy-five years the white pine poet explores a new rock-topped superior shoreline that would kill a man half his age splashing his mad mind stew and painting his mind mad mural across a vast shifting snow-carved canvas dancing wolf wild through a shattered glass landscape in shoes that only he can fill.

writer’s block

a close writing friend addressed his recent meager creative output in a blog entry titled “creatus interruptus,” he said, “i’ve been unable to write lately, . . . i sit down with pen and paper or wait with finger poised over my keyboard but new poems just aren’t coming,”

it has been several years since i last experienced what old “papa hem” called his periods of “black ass,” however, i can still remember the terror of feeling brain dead, certain i would never possess another cogent thought, let alone successfully wrestle a new poem i doing contest with my elusive damn dame lady muse,

for me the sure cure for writer’s block has been to saturate my bardic senses with a flood tide of new ideas during a fallow period, or a dry run of creative productivity, this constant input from books, poetry magazines, movies, photography, and trekking odysseys in the nearby “cliffs” reminded me of the spring maintenance necessary for my pump at the ross lake camp,

each may when i arrived at my 10 acre camp in the pictured rocks outback it was necessary to change the leathers in my hand-pump, i would purchase new leathers at denman’s hardware store in munising, soak them overnight in ross lake, and install them the following morning, an empty coffee can of water would be poured down the pump nozzle to prime the mechanism and bring fresh water to the surface, so, it is this menu of books, poems, movies and wilderness meditation that provides the priming to jazz my bardic juices and reinvent the creative imagination,

the recent books that i have read are william krueger’s thunder bay, brian payton’s the wind is not a river, and e.l. doctorow’s andrew’s brain,

in thunder bay krueger explains that building massive church structures is an artificial kind of holiness, and instead says finding the real soul and beauty in the world is to visit it in the wilderness, in the wind is not a river, payton states that once men are released from plato’s cave and observe life outside, they retreat to the cave because the shadows are all they’ve ever known, in doctorow’s andrew’s brain, the author creates a gentle charming “predator” believing in god and money to contrast with the “holy fool” who declares no more biblical fables and metaphysical bullshit,

a week ago while turning treadmill minutes and miles, i watched the movie “doctor zhivago,” a fantastic tale of russian history, afterwards i thought it had been a long time since i had viewed the film “reds,” so, on a recent saturday i watched warren beatty portray the american political radical john reed, soon i shall have to add “the brothers karamazov” to the splake cinema watching agenda,

however, recently the short film “artsiders” was a very important movie for me to see, the narrator chris olsen asked a series of artists, actors, dancers and performers why they were moved to make art, most of the artists replied they wanted to bring a spiritual honesty to their creative activities and not rely on the influences of god, motherhood, and american “red, white, and blue” patriotism, these people were selfish in that they wanted to be creative every waking moment of their lives, and not work a 9 to 5 job and do their art on the weekends, the film “artsiders” provides a necessary emotional boost to any artist who questions his vision and work,

i do not submit my poems and stories to small magazines as much as i used to, however, i still have a few good small press editors who provide me with a fair evaluation of my new writings, i value alison vyain, editor of the moon, chris helvey, editor of trajectory, and charles portolano, editor of avocet, in addition, i appreciate the literary honesty of gordon purkis of shoe music press and eric greinke of presa press,

in summary, to write new poems it is necessary to constantly acquire fresh ideas to push the creative imagination, in the old poetry magazine rattle an observer stated “i believe in work, not waiting for some golden light to descend upon my head,” while phillip roth in his book everyman wrote “amateurs look for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

poet of the frontier

yesterday i received an e-mail message from “presa press” editor eric greinke who informed me that he had nominated my poem “snowfly dreams” for a “pushcart award,” enjoying this literary surprise, i decided to drive out, hike in, and climb the “cliffs” to the old cobblestone smelter smokestack a the summit, my winter trek would be easy as i would be following the trail packed down by the recent snowmobilers,

as i was turning quiet tranny miles north of calumet, the eastern horizon was coming into early first dawn light, this reminded me of the weekends a long time ago when, as a young boy, i would go with my father to visit the smith deer hunting camp outside pentwater, michigan, a three-hour drive from our three rivers home, dad drove a 1947 plymouth coupe in those days, which was equipped with a metal box-type heater which had small doors that would open and close to control the automobile temperature,

we would leave three rivers about 5 o’clock in the morning and arrive in pentwater just in time to have our breakfast at the pentwater bakery before continuing the drive out to the smith camp, ah, such delicious memories, hot cocoa, greasy sausage links, eggs, and the most marvelous stack of thick dark brown wheatcakes,

in the 1950s, the small towns of hart and pentwater represented the true michigan wilderness, later the area sadly became over-populated by the people escaping the grand rapids and muskegon metros to settle on their own recreational properties, emery hired locals to cut the jack and norway pines on our 40 acres to sell to the lumber mill in walkerville, for three or four summers i was friends with two colorful old-time lumberjacks, charlie schultz and jack deutchman, another old logger, bob hughes, would skid the cut logs out of the forest to a roadside loading site with his team of horses, bob fed his horses chewing tobacco as a special treat, of course, this was an extremely exciting experience for a young ten-year-old boy,

many years later, married with two young sons and a daughter, i had grown tired of the college classroom and empty title of associate professor, and i began searching for a more desirable alternative, finally i thought why not sign up with the bureau of indian affairs and teach in a remote alaskan one-room school, work three or four years, save as much money as possible, buy some cheap alaskan land, build a log cabin and as best as possible live off the land, hunting, fishing, gardening and foraging, i would become my own boss and not have controlling academic committees or stifling college administrators telling me what i had to do, plus, my children, ted, mike, and casey, would enjoy a bi-cultural childhood, growing up familiar with the customs of the alaskan indians as well as the ways of the mainstream american culture,

alas, my wife caryl was very cool to the idea of flying into a remote alaksan village to live for two years, which was the duration of a bureau of indian affairs teaching contract, nor was she sympathetic to ordering a year’s supply of food that we would need in advance of settling in an alaskan village, it was with a bitter degree of disappointment that i aborted my grand alaskan escape adventure,

all of my life i have been drawn to some remote wilderness location as the place to live, for ten summers i would flee kellogg community college in battle creek in early may and live in the pictured rocks national lakeshore outback between munising in the west and grand marais in the east, summer days in the pictured rocks were spent trout fishing, hiking, and just slowing down to the pace of my ross lake camp’s daily consciousness,

now in the twilight of my lifetime i live in the small michigan upper peninsula village of calumet, once the center of a booming copper mining industry, the “cliffs,” a ridge of basaltic outcropping north of calumet provides me with a final sense of being at the edge of civilization, often while hiking and climbing in the “cliffs” i find that i become at one with my “self,” and thus able to ebb and flow with the mad magical stuff that new poems and stories are made of.

plan x

i borrowed the concept of a “plan x” from my correspondence with mike fitzgibbon, a long time friend who is now a resident forester with the bureau of indian affairs in ashland, wisconsin.

it is necessary for serious artists to look for new ideas, and constantly be in a process of reinventing their lives.

the brave new ’14 is still relatively young, but it appears already to be a very busy time.  i have the manuscripts to finish for “shoe music press” and “presa press.” also there are necessary trips to marquette for a dental check and green bay, wisconsin, for my annual eye examination.  in addition  i want to make a flying low tranny trip back to grand marais to visit my old pictured rocks friends.  in grand marais i shall have coffee at the sportsman’s bar, walk out on the lake superior breakwater to check on the fishing, and stay overnight at bessie’s superior hotel.

with what feels like an already crowded agenda, i have added a couple of my own plan x projects as a catchall miscellany.  between now and the end of the bardic year in december—quien sabe—who knows how many other surprise plan x’s will materialize and compete for the precious minutes of rat bastard time.



suddenly it is february and already the days are getting light earlier.  yesterday morning at my camus corner in the rosetta café i noticeda pickup truck driving up fifth street with a “sisu” bumper sticker on it.

sisu is a finnish term used frequently across the michigan upper peninsula, and its basic translation is “having guts”, however, in the larger dimension, sisu relates to perseverance to overcome challenges against impossible odds.

noticing the morning bumper sticker reminded me of the short sotry “sisu calling” that i wrote many years ago.  “sisu calling” may not necessarily be a good literary work, but, johanna is still one of my favorite characters.

sisu calling

this is a story from long ago, but only yesterday in my mind, crewcut, shiny clean-shaven face, harris tween jacket, dark slacks, new cordovan wingtips, compliments of my mother’s generous shopping spree to celebrate my college graduation in 1961, young organizational man ready to create cracker-jack advertising copy for the ford motor company, hotshot michigan state university graduate, bachelor-of-arts sheepskin, senior majors in literature and communications,

office in “company promotions,” fourth floor, posh new headquarters of henry ii’s “glass house” in dearborn, michigan, no more college debts, hoping to log a few corporate serious paychecks, ink a little resume, before moving on to what might happen next,

warm michigan autumn of golden colorful foliage, apple cider dreaminess of foggy cool weekend mornings, dating substantial midwestern corn-fed girls, heavy wool skirts, expensive soft cashmere sweaters, breck bottle blondes, back to east lansing for spartan saturday afternoon football games, other times into “big d,” seeing new movies at the old strand theater, young feminine teases with sights on orange blossom scores, future suburban tri-level, “fairlane” in the driveway, toys scattered about the yard,

remembering the mysterious “johanna” swajanen, the quiet, strange ice maiden of the dearborn “glass house,” slender, graceful young woman with tan burnished complexion, and the most incredible rich black hair, girl from some small michigan upper peninsula map dot, hired out of michigan technological university with a “graduate in honors” degree in mechanical engineering, a very special ford employee and available escort for hank “deuce’s” hart-schaffner and marx inner company mafia,

“glass house” gossip and rumor mill rife with johanna johanna stories, abandoned by her father in infancy, his mysterious disappearance from profitable log cabin bar and brothel operation, dead man, or vanished to minneapolis, maybe remote places farther wes, raised by her uncle gus “red” lintula, home an old cold springs farm out past jenk’s spur, “red” acquitted by a jury of his peers for killing a conservation officer, overzealous c.o. too concerned with saving the governor’s deer, sister hildy, bar girl at the silver dollar carousel, hurly, wisconsin, hustling drinks and her body to keep popping sweet jesus in her veins, little brother “toivo” drowning under the falls on the black river outside wakefield, johanna always talking about friday nights and “doin’ sauna,” and skiiing which she pronounced “skin,” like “eh, good cold weather and fresh snow makes for some mighty fine skin, hmmmm,” rumored to have collected a shelf full of trophys and medals for alpine and cross-country competitions while going to mtu,

unable to remember exactly how it came up, but early one winter morning chatting over coffee, johanna telling me about some “ice diving club” she belonged to, explaining next week they were traveling north to walloon lake to cut a hole in the ice and dive in and swim, wearing wet suits for protection, naturally, she asked me if i would like to come along and watch, saying there would be liquid refreshments and music, and i could help with the gear, her cold stoic demeanor did not reveal if she experienced any disappointment over my “thanks ever so much, but, sorry, it’s not for me,”

next saturday driving up to walloon lake, sequestering myself in a warm lakeside tavern with ice fishermen, young skaters, and their parents, shy reluctant voyeur watching the “ice diving party” through boozy, bleary eyes, several men wearing dark wet suits making the plunge beneath the icy lake opening, johanna wearing a tight purple swimming suit, arching up and bending into the black waters, after a little while suddenly conscious of the nervous commotion of others to something gone very wrong, quickly grasping my empty pocket flask, fleeing the rising terror, determined to sleep off the disaster at home, sunday morning  the detroit free press article reporting swajanen body not found, lake several miles square with numerous deep trenches maybe finding her body in the spring after ice out,

the following spring giving my notice at the dearborn “glass house” before the rumored in-staff cutbacks and terminations became history, couple of fat ford checks saved, turning miles east toward new york, new job at a small public relations firm in the downtown metro, creative studio apartment, working on writing new stories, attending movies and off-broadway plays, trying to forget the “ice maiden.”

doomsday library

recently i watched and enjoyed the film “big sur.” the movie portrayed the decline of jack kerouac, author of the american classic on the road. it was sad that jack only wanted to write and not be the spiritual leader for a younger generation opposing their parents vision of the american dream. often during the movie i though “please stop drinking jack, marry the young woman, leave your haunting demons behind.”

the sign of great film adaptation is that it makes the viewer return to the original source material. while turning pages of my paperback copy of kerouac’s big sur, i remembered the “doomsday” backpack library i created many years ago. because of a marriage in trouble and my own personal “on the road” angst, i selected twelve books to give me a portable escape library. as time passed, i would borrow books for my writings and forget to return them to their backpack home. quickly the collection became scattered and my doomsday exile library was no more.

like a new york times literary interview, i recently listed the significant books that i return to frequently in my thinking and writing. i have identified the prime authors and their book titles under one heading and added a few “afterthoughts” in a secondary list. following a period of personal reflection i will select the ten best books and briefly explain my decision.

splake’s prime books
 annie dillard

samuel beckett

han shan

frederick exley

anne proulx

carol maso

richard pirsig

albert camus


malcolm lowry

h.d. thoreau

gary snyder

hayden carruth

saul bellow

richard yates

ernest becker

boris pasternak

tom robbins

jim harrison

e.l. masters

sherwood anderson

pilgrim at tinker creek

waiting for godot

cold mountain

a fan’s notes

the shipping news

the art lover

zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance

the stranger

the waste land

under the volcano


mountains and rivers without end

scrambled eggs and whiskey

henderson the rain king

revolutionary road

the denial of death

doctor zhivago

another roadside attraction


spoon river anthology

winesburg, ohio

splake’s afterthoughts
 jim harrison

richard brautigan

f.s. fitzgerald

ernest hemingway

ed abbey

t.k. splake

stephen meader

jules verne

r.l. haig-brown

robert service

albert huffstickler

return to earth

trout fishing in america

the great gatsby

the sun also rises

desert silitaire

rainbow diary

traplines north

mysterious island

starbuck valley winter

songs of a sourdough

working on my death chant

the wander years

the hennessey papers

new poems

i have a file-folder titled “new poems” that is part of my manuscript for the “presa press” splake memoirs.  when i complete the literary preparation for editor eric greinke, i will select the best of my new poems for a section of the book’s format.

the following represent some of my more recent and unpublished splake poems.

long ago

daily dreaming
memories growing stronger
loving her more today
after two hearts failed


cold blue ribbon
sharp cheddar wedge
dutch masters scent
dusty dirt road clouds
chasing rainbows


agates describing
fiery volcanic explosions
crawling glacier whispers
before fish
leaving fossil lines
quiet echoes
along superior shore

everyman’s barbie

almost seventeen
deep in paxil
sweet dreamy haze
dollhouse dreams
alone with ken
soft caresses
whispering love me

sylvia escaping

beyond school celebrity
no think job
lost in headphones
constant textings
killer ‘tits’ shoes
lacy bra and panties
black sunglasses
teasing tattoos
without existential self
new life waiting
living in her head
nothing the same


classroom students campus
child support dollars
weekend with kids
wasting precious time
poet discovering magic
making words sing
wanting creative freedom
see where it goes
alone dark evenings
sipping bitter longneck
terrified panic
dreams buried alive


naked young girl
wild animal child
junk food addict
overdosing on bling
handjobs blowjobs
warm michelob chasers
smoking endless cigarettes
dreaming of love
whispers in her hair
lost in paxil haze
meds smothering fear
never being

wife madness

diaper pail full
dishes unwashed
lost in afternoon soaps
practicing her act
dramatic surprise
when husband comes home

café morning

attractive young barista
warm seductive voice
already saved
her sins forgiven
loving everyone
never backsliding
tasting sweet flesh
damning her soul
living in hell forever


sad mother
little river town captive
time quietly passing
nothing ever happens
republican protestant voices
few catholics or blacks
hotel tallest building
three stories high
running household
monday morning laundry
caring for children
heavy winter leggings
piano lessons
church circle group
carnegie library books
small motorola radio
link to excitement
museums galleries operas
after-hour jazz clubs
adventures beyond midwest

going home again

oily taste
magnum in the mouth
frame paintings
moving on the wall
28 days detoxification
past dark nightmare
marquette general
small bedroom space
gym for shooting baskets
occupational therapy
playing with clay
making small ashtray
staff professional shrink
flipping rorshach cards
blurred pictures
which all looked like pussies
telling the man
they looked like forests
with rivers and trees
frequent group meetings
sitting around telling stories
about hurting others
chasing necessary fix
forgetting important jobs
clinic doctors
describing continued drinking
bad shit results
losing job and wife
angry alienated kids
both hating you forever
wet brain delirium tremens blackouts
damaged liver heart attacks
messy suicide disasters
program suddenly finished
new friends warm goodbyes
“don’t forget the promise”
“see you at meetings”
“stay with the program”
small community nights
lutheran church basement
weekly aa sessions
drinking cups of coffee
lost in cigarette haze
telling other members
“i’m tom, an alcoholic,
been sober forever”
somehow not believing
this is where i belong
feeling like samuel beckett
engaged with elusive muse
fighting artistic block
declaring time of
man down man going on
leaving “the big book” behind
scribbled words inside cover
“keep it for me
poet’s moving on”
looking for trout stream
wilderness spiritual awakening
cold delicious longneck
with my name on it


two day blizzard
twenty-eight inches of snow
thermometer below zero
receding hairline
fuzz in ears
step slower
pissing in fits and starts
waiting spring ice-out
new fishing season
thinking his seventy-six years
just another number
remembering youth
three rivers beginning
wondering where life went
electric fans
no air conditioning
july dog days
night impossible to sleep
five cent cokes
thick green bottles
later slaking thirsts
expensive water taste
small neighborhood grocers
family café dinners
before taco bell
colonel sanders and pizza hut
small town mini-mall
three digit telephone numbers
no answering service
levis and sweaters
before designer labels
bicycle freedom to roam
without helmets or pads
boxy automobiles
six-cylinder speed
today japanese imports
subarus hondas toyotas
lasting forever
watching stars
clear evening skies
before running away
senior year
fathering children
becoming a poet
while memories fade
rivers keep flowing

splake photographs

following the spring semester, 1965, i had a few extra dollars and my first summer vacation in a very long time.  so i decided to drive to ironwood in michigan’s upper peninsula to visit pat o’neill, an old graduate school friend who was teaching at gogebic community college.  after crossing the mackinaw bridge i enjoyed driving the highway miles west along the northern shore of lake michigan.  by the time i had reached the deep forest tracts between iron river and ironwood, i had fallen in love with michigan’s upper peninsula.

for several years i tried unsuccessfully to find a job in the upper peninsula.  one spring i even applied for a junior high english-history-basketball coaching position at the mohawk schools in the keweenaw peninsula.  the school administration hired a teacher already with the school system and probably cost the upper peninsula a new mike krzyzewski.

suddenly i realized the jeopardy of finding a job vacancy.  i would be the first teacher hired and when the economy might falter, i would be the first faculty member fired.  so i continued to teach at kellogg community college in battle creek and spent my summers camping in the upper peninsula.  during this time i still chased my creative muse by writing poems and stories.  i also examined reality by looking through the glass on my nikon camera lens.

the following are twelve photographs that represent my artistic search and vision taken while living in calumet.



miners battery packs and helmets

miners battery packs and helmets

wood pattern

wood pattern

window at phoenix loc

window at phoenix loc

what can i say

what can i say



spiderweb lac la belle

spiderweb lac la belle

autumn cemetery walk

autumn cemetery walk

ready aim fire

ready aim fire

power house central mine

power house central mine

spring in the keweenaw

spring in the keweenaw

mad dog 20 20 brautigan creek

mad dog 20 20 brautigan creek