the splake writing room and library has received some recent news publicity. the calumet art center’s “newsletter” had an article about the writing room written by casey brendan. also, mariah powell did an impressive feature article on the writing room that was published by the houghton “daily mining gazette” in the “happenings” section. in the july issue of the “marquette monthly” there was a brief addition piece describing the splake writing room and library in the calumet art center.
Splake Writing Room offers free space to grow with art, poetry
By Mariah Powell, The Daily Mining Gazette, June 16, 2016
While a small space for reading, writing and learning is not an entirely new concept, the man who created and cares for the Splake Writing Room in the Calumet Art Center is someone with a unique history and viewpoint.
Photographer and poet T. Kilgore Splake, born Tom Smith, created the Splake Writing Room eight years ago after a morning chat over coffee with the center’s founder and executive director Ed Gray.
The room and its resources are free and open to the community, and visitors can check out items by signing the checkpoint log. All lending operates purely on the honor system, with no late fees or library card required. Splake says visitors often bring their lunches to the Writing Room.
In addition to books from every genre, the small room contains DVDs and photo Chapbooks, many of which were created by Splake and printed by one of the many small press publishers he has worked with over the years.
The room also includes a working laptop and DVD player, which visitors can use to view some of Splake’s most recent writings and films.
A few writers magazines sit on a side table, which Splake says he hopes will help anyone interested in honing their writing skills.
“If I knew a kid interested in writing,” he said, “he could come look at the magazines and explore interests in that direction.”
Splake’s own journey into writing did not begin until later in his life. In the late 1960s, Tom Smith was a burnt-out political science professor at Kellog Community College in Battle Creek.
In an attempt to recover from that burnout, he lived alone in Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore in Munising. One morning he was up drinking coffee, watching the smoke rise form the fire, and he started writing. That morning, he wrote four poems.
“I don’t know why I got up to write that [first] poem,” Splake said, “It was like being born a second time in life>”
Along with rebirth, Tom Smith chose a new name. Inspiration came from several different sources. First, inspiration came from the character Kilgore Trout from Kurt Vonnegut’s book “Breakfast of Champions.” Then, when Tom Smith caught his first trophy fish registration told him it was a splake. Retaining his first initial, professor Tom Smith became poet T. Kilgore Splake.
Splake’s early poems centered around woodsy and wild animal themes. Like every writer, Splake eventually started hitting periods of writer’s block. In order to gain further inspiration, he turned to photography.
Now, he said, he chases the writing when it goes well and turns his creative energy to photography when it doesn’t. Poetry is his first choice, he said, with photography a distant second.
During those early years, Splake left his job as professor, which led to several tough financial years.
Splake said during those years, “I used to cry myself to sleep, begging for the freedom to do this.”
Over 1,000 poems later, Splake’s themes have evolved, but he still looks back on his first attempts.
He explained, “Sometimes the early, simple poems have a kind of honesty to them my more mature efforts don’t possess.”
the new splake book “graybeard memories was recently published by the gage press in battle creek, michigan. the book is a brief history of how tom smith became the poet t. kilgore splake. the commentary is based on real people and events, however, the names of the central characters in the memoir have been changed to protect their privacy. the book is forty-eight pages long with a variety of seventeen different photographs. some of the photos include the omphale art gallery, cliffs ‘poet tree,’ rosetta café (splake camus corner table), the old copper mining dredge, and the splake writing room in the calumet art center.
on the small press scene, splake has had poems recently published in the literary magazines “abbey,” and “glimpse.” plus, his haiku poem “loving herself” was the cover poem in a recent
“bear haiku” publication.
poets like detectives
bardic shamus tecs
marlowe spade spenser
mike hammer and nero wolfe
drinking rot-gut booze
familiar with tough guys
flirting with sexy blondes
where the money went
finally going home
with dark-haired companion
attractive intelligent woman
feeling a poem (2014)
deep long breaths
forget your job
all your schooling
ibids and op cits
close your eyes
long dark shadows
imagine edith piaf
barefoot in the rain
another sad song
“bear creek haiku”
no one cares for yesterday
worries about tomorrow
living in the moment
currently splake is filming for a new dvd production that will highlight the “green stone mine.” the mine was mentioned in splake’s previous publication “rainbow diary.” in addition, splake is waiting for copies of his new collection of poems to be published by editor dustin pickering of “transcendent-zero press: in houston, texas. the chapbook titled “last dance” is expected to be off the press sometime in mid-july.