Month: September 2016


i am already conscious of and looking forward to the coming winter in the michigan upper peninsula. i have had my furnace checked, pickup truck winterized, retrieved the snow shovel and snow rake from the back shed, and got my flu shot at the local clinic. so now i believe i am ‘ready-teddy-set’ to enjoy the yooper season in the long white.

upon reviewing the recent summer and fall artistic labors, i feel that i have done extremely well with my creative literary and photographic projects.

i had ten splake poems and ten color photographs published in the annual literary journal the lowdown. this year’s the lowdown was dedicated to merle haggard and had a photograph of him on the front cover. many other poets, photographers, and painters feel that editor robert zoschke’s new collection of art is one of the finest productions on the small press scene today.

in addition i have had poems and book reviews getting published in the pages of ayaz daryl neilsen’s bear creek haiku, and arnold skemer’s zyx literary magazine. i was also pleased with tyler tichelaar’s fine review of my book splake in the september edition of marquette monthly. plus, mike edwards at “red jacket video” recently finished the work on a new splake dvd titled green stones.


the lowdown (2016)



telephone booth


self portrait


old bowling alley

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poet at work


nightly riding “the dog”

md 20 20 buzz

eagles ballads on stereo

low volume sound

distant soothing hum

“take it to the limit”

remembering john fante

once passionate artist

now forgotten poet

yet we still ask

does life have meaning

waiting early morning

fewer competing distractions

hotplate coffee

brain-skull cavity rush

hammering new courier

twelve-point font

peaceful writing escape

hoping moment of epiphany

oh please

“one more time”

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bear creek haiku (#135, 2016)



frequent wilderness visits

listening for passing ghosts

shadowy old spirits

quietly moving again

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dream of escape


lost in yooper blizzard

riding greyhound ghost

orizaba cafe breakfast

chatting with jack

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zyx (december, 2016)

zyx editor arnold skemer reviewed twelve splake chapbook titles and published seven poems in his latest edition of his excellent literary journal. in addition, editor skemer provided one of the best writing compliments that i have ever received.

“having saturated myself doing readings and reviews of your 12 chapbooks in a

three day period about 6 weeks ago, i got a good dose of you and have come to the conclusion that you are certainly original. i am much taken by your image.”

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review by tyler tichenlaar

“superior reads”

marquette monthly (september)

Splake is just one of several recent poetry collections by t. kilgore splake.  This 110-page volume is published by Transcendent Zero Press and includes an introduction by the publisher, Dustin Pickering, which includes a few biographical comments about splake (this author never capitalizes his name or anything else). splake taught at Kellog Community College, retiring in 1989, then lived in Munising for 10 years before moving to his current home in Calumet.  His name is a pseudonym.  The year he began writing poetry, he went fishing and caught a splake; he decided to blend that word with the name of Kilgore Trout, a character who appears in several books by Kurt Vonnegut, including Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions.

Despite this book’s title, it is not solely about splake but four other authors, whom it seems clear splake feels are kindred spirits.

The book’s first section, “early wilderness poems,” describes splake in the landscape.  The poem in this section I most liked was “alastor,” about a half-spirit, half-man who lived in the woods and worshiped intellectual beauty.  splake compares himself to alastor, sort of seeing himself in his near future in a similar mystical way.  He is now an old man, once a teacher and a poet, knows all the fishing spots, but someday he’ll have to pick one stream to haunt.  This poem largely sets the tone for the rest of the book.

Between these two sections are four sections on authors and one section on the Rosetta Cafe in Calumet.  The authors he focuses on are Hemingway, Bukowski, Kerouac, and Brautigan.  These sections require readers to know a bit about the authors to catch all the references.

The opening Hemingway poem has splake taking photo that has shadows hiding the apparition he sees of Hemingway coming to Seney to stalk trout again.  A theme throughout these poems is splake wanting these authors to visit him in Upper Michigan.  In “kerouac in the cliffs,” he invites Kerouac to go on a new spiritual adventure north to Calumet, saying it may be his last chance to save himself.

Other poems are filled with references to the authors’ lives and often the dysfunctional relationships they had.  The Brautigan poems are full of references to Alcatraz, San Francisco, pumpkins and watermelons.  The Bukowski section includes splake visiting Mexico and looking for the bar where Bukowski used to drink.

splake clearly feels a bond with the authors, all mixed up in the angst of trying to write, what to write, and how life and its troubles can get in your way.  I sympathizes with some of splake’s frustrations in these poems, the efforts to fight against conformity, the efforts to be published, “falling with small presses/editors returning manuscripts/wanting mfa authors/deadly academic style,” and the frustrations of listening to people talk about how they will write, “believing writer’s block/excuse for second raters/writers write/talkers talk.”

splake can certainly be critical in his views of others.  The penultimate section, “Rosetta Cafe,” shows his frustration and disdain as he writes about other people who come into the cafe, lonely women who go home to watch the Weather Channel, for whom there is “no mail today/nothing to do.”  Ironically, in the last section, splake goes home to watch the Weather Channel also.  And so the book comes full circle in some ways.  Those depicted are, as Thoreau said, living “lives of quiet desperation” and splake is among them.  IN some poems, he comes off gruff, but in the end, he is just like all of us and the authors he relates to, asking “is this all there is” and just trying to get by each day.

In addition, splake is something of a multimedia poet.  He often uses photography in some of his other books–such as his collection named Rosetta Cafe.  He has also produced several short videos, including splake: a day in the life and pictured rocks poetry, in which he reads poetry from his book with the same title after giving a short introduction about how Pictured Rocks helped him endure difficult years of teaching.

Learn more about splake and his poetry at

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green stones


dvd production

by mike edwards

“red jacket media”

   the green stones video is comprised of two brief prose works — “green magic discovery” — and — “green magic finish.” in addition, there are four short poems read in the dvd presentation. the calumet art center has my permission to publish the two prose sections in their autumn “newsletter.”

green stones by thomas h. smith from t. kilgore splake on Vimeo.

green magic discovery

     for many years i would reread the chapters in “rainbow diary,” and enjoy the exciting tales of t. kilgore splake. the main character in spake’s book is a poet, an existential loner like meusalt in albert camus’s “the stranger.” the poet has chosen to escape the mediocrity of modern civilization by living on an isolated island.

     occasionally the poet in splakes’ rainbow diary” would take green stones from an ancient mine and trade them for needed things at the “pointe,” a small community in malanada. he also used green stones to make jewelry for himself.

   now as an aging artist, realizing soon i would be rejoining the earth, i suddenly felt a great force compelling me to find and explore the mystery of the old green stone mine. after a serious search, i found the poet’s exile location. it was a small uninhabited island in northern lake superior. the wilderness growth made my search for the old green stone mine almost impossible. however, bushwhacking through the dense tangle of deadfall and new forest growth, i finally found the poet’s green stone mining site.

     sitting alone in the darkness of the old mine, i felt free from upsetting personal concerns that had distracted my vision of the future.

   i listened carefully for whispers from the early native miners who used stone tools to extract green stones. i was hoping to learn from their wisdom the secrets of my life and eventually what follows.


green magic finish

   dawn’s first glow was illuminating the autumn colors at the green stone mine, on the small lake superior island. the blazing foliage was a reminder of the double-rainbow morning in the ‘cliffs’ chapter of splake’s rainbow diary.

     however, the fall season would quickly pass and soon the dry warped leaves would be scattered by the fierce november gales. the endless scrapping of black bare branches would create a harsh winter symphony during the bitter arctic season of long white.

       like splake’s rainbow diary poet i realized my years had been rapidly vanishing. as a graybeard artist i quickly understood the loss of time and energy to write more poems and make new green rock jewelry. my ancestral bones were made long ago from the material that came swimming across the galaxy from exploded stars. once emerging from the precious earth’s womb, all too soon i would have to return to the reality of the earth’s hardscrabble soil.

       now i seriously wonder if after death a new, deeper reality will exist beyond the continuous worldly hum. splake’s rainbow diary poet thought about the search for new uncharted lands lying beyond his island home. he also considered leaping off his island’s cliffs to fly with the wild birds into another existence.


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“kudos” and “congrats”

(comment on graybeard memories)


         “went to the post this morning and got your book. i came home, sat down and read it. i loved everything about it, the easy style, pictures, and some of the blanks you filled in. but, the best part is you found where you wanted to be. most go through life never reaching that place. thank you for sending this my way.”

scot young, editor

rusty truck press


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