Month: April 2016

Spring Fevers

it has been an arctic and snowy april across the michigan upper peninsula with alberta clippers and saskatchewan screamers bringing an abundance of fresh long white into our area. however, when hekki lunta finally decides ‘nada mas’ to winter i am ready to chase tiger trout, redecorate the poet tree, and make a flying low visit to grand marais.

so far the brave new ’16 literary year has been good to t. kilgore splake. recently presa press, grand rapids, michigan, published a selection of splake poems in the chapbook ‘tommy’s desk’.


tommy’s desk

turning “m train” pages
discovering like patti smith
i received my father’s desk
serious loving present
emery’s careful carpentry
shaping pine boards
spare hours while
teaching high school manual arts
sturdy wooden chair
drawers for storing valuables
tube of model plane cement
x-acto knives and blades
.22 rifle bullets
snickers and fish hooks
wrinkled “playboy”
janet pilgrim nude
condom three-pack
now place for books
bolano murakami ferlinghetti
favorite authors writings
brokaw’s “the greatest generation”
latest “lowdown” issue
ancient dog-eared dictionary
guide to publishers editors agents
“winter river flowing” poetry
accumulated notes and folders
amazing i still have desk
following three divorces
several insane moves
three rivers to kalamazoo
battle creek munising calumet
new writing locations
now graying poet
wondering about desk’s future
for many years a home
for creative dreams
quiet warm memories
too plain for gifting
birthday or christmas surprise
maybe left forgotten
gathering dust
some used furniture store
possible offering to bardic gods
bright fiery flames
smoke rising to heaven
ashes cooling
mixing with mine

in addition, gage press, battle creek, michigan, has produced another poetry chapbook of splake poems titled “waiting,”


long lonely hours
checking empty box
no mail today
listening for call
telephone silent

the colorado literary journal “bear creek haiku” provided ink and space to two shorter splake poems in its #132 edition.

january thaw

icy mist shadowing
buddha face moon smile
muting alan’s distant

celestial “howl”

in the new april issue of the “marquette monthly,” book editor tyler tichelaar reviewed the splake book “the poet’s room.”  plus, in a recent email-message editor tyler said another splake book would be reviewed in a “marquette monthly” edition later this year.

U.P. poets represent genre well

the poet’s room
by T. Kilgore Splake

Calumet author T. Kilgore Splake has been writing poetry for many decades. In all, he is the author of 75 books of poetry, prose and photographs. He has been published in countless literary and art journals, and much of his writing has drawn attention to the Upper Peninsula. The Vertin Art Gallery also features the T. Kilgore Splake Writer’s Workspace, and his poetry has been taught in poetry classes at Gogebic College.

This poet has written far more than I could ever review here, but one of his newest books is the poet’s room. (The lack of capitalization is one of Splake’s trademarks, although he does not go as far as E.E. Cummings in rejecting punctuation.)

Some of Splake’s poems are quite short, such as the opening poem “morning writing” which reads, “early contest/with elusive muse/premenstrual lady.” Others run up to four pages in length.  Some of the shorter ones read like descriptive lists, for example “heaven” reads: “cold blue ribbon/sharp cheddar wedge/dutch masters scent/dusty dirt road clouds/chasing rainbows.”

Many of the poems offer critical insights into society and life.  One I particularly liked is “razor’s edge,” which comments on Somerset Maughm’s novel The Razor’s Edge, in which a young man leaves society to find God. Splake writes, “easy finding god/distant asian mountain” and compares it to the much harder ‘living real life/with other people/magic and chaos.” Other poems depict the individual angst of people, many of them showing how young girls are preyed upon by men or become victims of society. In “alive,” Splake describes a “young naked girl” who is a “junk food addict” and “smoking endless cigarettes.” She is dreaming of love but “lost in zoloft haze/meds smothering fear/of never being.” In “beyond ashes”a 13-year-old girl with an alcoholic father longs for excitement, gets raped, and ends up reading Sylvia Plath.  Many other poems also feature young women longing for love of middle-aged women who failed to find it; all end up disappointed in their relationships.  Many of these poems also, understandably, have sexual components to them, often sexual frustration.

The poet and his creative angst is the theme of many poems.  The poet finds himself frustrated with “mediocre talkers” and fears the inability to create.  In one poem, a “graying literary veteran” is “facing mfa resistance/english professors.” In another, the “cool acting guy/wannabe poet” is “ignoring suicide/blow-head-off-death/mediocre losers/who talk writing.” I think these poems accurately reflect the glamour many see in writing poetry, along with many people’s inability to write it and the frustrations that come with that.

Other characters are not much happier.  In “football player,” a young athlete gets injured, impregnates his girlfriend and ends up working in a factory.  In “prisoner,” a junior high school teacher spends “years of babysitting,” his last good day was his twelfth birthday and he’s compared to a character in a Beckett play.

These are not happy poems by any means.  Most of their characters are trapped by small lives, restrictive religious beliefs, drugs or dysfunctional relationships.  That said, there is truth in them.  I imagine most readers will find unpleasant similarities to their own lives.  Many of the lines are somewhat graphic in language, reflecting frustration and coarseness.  But there is also a smidgeon of happiness in some.  In “beyond the road,” the poet tells us he is “not bitter over fate” and we get the sense that writing poetry, the “magic chemistry of words/made life complete.” Overall, I found by the end of the book, I’d had a cathartic experience where I could accept that life may be a constant battle of “fighting depression,” yet wi also find reasons to go on.

You can learn more about Splake and his poetry at

by Tyler Tichelaar

“the poet’s room”

finally, young calumet poet casey brendan wrote an article on the “splake writing room and library” that was included in the april newsletter of the calumet art center.


by Casey Brendan

Calumet Art Center Executive Director Ed Gray announced that next week the Splake Writing Room and Library will reopen for another season.  This most certainly is a sign that spring has arrived and tiem for winter to be forgotten.

The writing room and library is named after T. Kilgore Splake, an artist who has become a leged in the american small press movement with his writing and photography.

Since retiring from Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Splake has published over eighty books of poetry and prose writings.  In addition he ahs produced several DVD-films, many Upper Peninsula literary broadsides, and was editor of the literary journal “cliff soundings” for four years.

The library contains many books that an interested reader may check out.  The library has several volumes of William Kent Krueger, Joseph Haywood, Jim Harrison, and James Lee Burke’s writings in addition there are many books of poetry, including several Charles Bukowski titles.  Also, a visitor will find copies of the literary magazines “Poets & Writers,” “Beat Scene” and the artistic materials in “The Lowdown.”  There are also copies of the Splake inventory of published books.  His most recent publications included “A History of the Calumet Radar Station,” and poetry chapbook collections “Waiting,” “Tommy’s Desk,” and “Splake.”

There is a DVD-player for visitors to play the Splake DVDs and a laptop with several “Splake Takes” short prose writing to read.  On the walls of the writing room are several photographs of the old copper mining dredge that is located on the shore of torch lake.

Keweenaw area residents as well as summer tourists are warmly invited to stop by the Calumet Art Center and visit the “Splake Writing Room and Library.”