summer summer summer

well, the familiar “yooper” joke is that the michigan upper peninsula has two seasons. . . eleven months of winter. . . and, one month of very hard sledding.”

however, the july 4th hol is over and now the people in the keweenaw peninsula are focused on the coming labor day.  following that pause, the colors come into the trees for a brief moment.  then in a sudden blink the world turns all over white.

it is heresy to my neighbor, but as an artist i thrive during the winter months.  when the snow is knee high and rising there are fewer distractions to disturb an artist’s focus.  after shoveling a path to the tranny, i can then read most books, watch two or three movies, or enjoy several hours contesting the elusive muse.

things have been going quite well on the splake literary front.  i have received many “kudos” and “congrats” on the recent “final curtain” collection of poems.  this book used several photographs of the calumet theater, in calumet, michigan.  i borrowed the idea of “final curtain” from the poet “raindog,” and his book of forgotten poems titled “orphaned words.”

i am also pleased with the several poems published in the new issue of UP READER.  this is a literary magazine edited by mikel classen and deborah frontiers, that provides a view of the michigan upper peninsula artists and their creations.

note: a new poet tree now exists in the cliffson the banks of brautigan creek.  attached is a short writing which provides a short history of the splake poet trees.

recently, native potter jikiwe made two clay books containing my haiku-like writings.  one clay book will soon be at the northern michigan archives with marcus robyns in marquette, michigan.  the second book is now on sale at the calumet art center in calumet, michigan.

looking ahead, i am presently working on two new chapbook manuscripts.  i am hoping by labor day to have finished “beyond the poet tree and brautigan creek,” and “windows to the soul.”


final curtain


part-time poet

replied the local artist
sadly not realizing
real fire comes
redlining speedometer
revving full tilt
writer used to idling
foot on the break
going nowhere

all in the family

men wearing suits
shaving every day
lost in rat race
nine-to-five routines
mothers on meds
afternoon alcoholic rush
son and daughter confused
over sex and romance
parents selling out
worshiping personal property
things money buys
never redlining
100 miles-per-hour
threatening airborne escape
drinking beer from keg
while lying on couch
patsy cline’s voice
stereo cranked to max
trashing “no trespassing” signs
needing freedom to roam
instead of others
dull boring lives
waiting for death

beyond the waterfall

cheap old milwaukee
bushmills shots
angels softly singing
mad rush
brain skull cavity
sweet delicious sin
waking after surgery
heart rhythm fix
cold turkey rehab
never serious question
quiet new existence
unlike papa hem
failing sawtooth ghosts
brautigan going belly up
dead like sixties dream
hunter thompson
declaring nada mas
good stuff and booze
now seeking
mountain lion shadow
cool early morning mists
following dusty prints
path to cliffs summit
learning secrets
gaining new wisdom
about life above
beyond passing clouds


ethos literary journal

IMG_1253 (002)


fire burning to coals
poet looking past embers
seeing distant world
before existence of light
coming of god

answer me

telephone without voice
no caller i.d.
broken-hearted poet
wondering if ex-lover
quietly begging


routine family counseling
necessary before divorce
doctor’s dark office
framed degrees on wall
wet blue seascapes
rural pastoral scenes
soft mood music
from hidden speakers
playing word games
keeping self alive
waiting for freedom to be



IMG_1296 (002)

another morning

exploding alarm clock
waking weary brain
lying in bed
eyes slowly focusing
staring at ceiling tiles
rigid arthritic bones
feeling like rigor mortis
growing coffee thirst
bladder needing relief
dull morning light
filtering through drapes
blank page waiting
graying poet’s pen
elusive dame muse
rat bastard time
determined creative foes
all too soon
death stealing vision
denying hemingway depression
papa’s 12 gauge solution
or leonard cohen
telling lord he’s ready
“kill the flame
make it darker”
soon outside myself
pressing imagination
making words sing



munising falls


5th street long white


The New “Poet Tree”

t. kilgore splake


Fourteen years ago I moved from Munising to live above the Omphale Art Gallery in Calumet, Michigan. For several years I was a member of the Omphale Association of Artists.

One morning while drinking coffee at John’s Cafe and Family Restaurant in Calumet I met Bruce Nordin. While chatting with bruce I learned about his growing up in Clifton, the village for the Cliffs Mining operation. After listening to his interesting stories, one morning I decided to drive out and investigate the old Cliffs mining location.

I hiked the North American trail to the cliffs summit where I found an old cobblestone smokestack, a huge poor-rock pile and the foundation for the major Cliffs mineshaft. From the top of the cliffs, a visitor can view a vast panorama of the entire Keweenaw Peninsula. After my first hiking experiene in the cliffs I developed a spiritual association with this wilderness area. During brief moments trekking in the cliffs I felt entirely relaxed and able to explore my writing ideas easier.

Musing one day, I decided to create a poet tree on the edge of the cliffs escarpment. From ice out to the first snowfall, I regularly added new things — poems, postcards, photographs, artworks — to keep the poet tree fresh. On one morning hike I found that someone had torched the poet tree. It was an unusual surprise that the only thing remaining was a section of my favorite Richard Brautigan poem. Then sadly one spring visit three years ago I discovered that someone else had cut the poet tree down and unsuccessfully tried to burn its remains.

So now I have established a new poet tree close to the banks of Brautigan Creek at the base of the cliffs. The new poet tree has a birchbark poem written by Paul Bach Jr., plus artwork drawings of Norbert Blei and Henry Denander. In addition, different colored Tibetan prayer flags are attached to the tree. There are also poems, artistic postcards and some of my recent photographs.

Presently I am using the ‘new’ poet tree as the source of inspiration for a new splake poem that will investigate the theme of “Beyond Brautigan Creek.”


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clay books

by stella large

     Nationally known pottter Ed Gray (jikiwe) and t. kilgore splake have combined their vision and artistry to create claybooks of splake’s haiku poetry. Cuurently one book is located at the Northern Michigan University archives in Marquette, Michigan. The second title is on display at the Calumet Art Center in Calumet, Michigan.

The existence of clay books goes back to the cuneiform writings in ancient near eastern history. The first clay tablets recorded accounts of merchandise exchanges in business transactions. Subsequently clay tablets were used to record myths, proverbs, hymns, and poetry.

Competition for clay manuscripts came from the use of animal skin parchment, papyrus plant sheets, and the use of paper. Around 1040 a.d. the first movable type made out of porcelain material was invented in China. Later, in 1372, movable type made out of metal was produced in Korea. In the 1450’s, Johannes Gutenberg of Mainze, Germany was the first to bring movable metal type printing to Europe. The influence of moveable-type printing technology plus cheaper paper made from wood pulp created the basis for greater production and consumption of written works.

Today the typewriter has been made obsolete by the rise of computer technology. The increase of new word-processing systems has encouraged more people to publish their own desktop titles. In addition, today’s e-book production makes clay tablet inscriptions seem like more distant history.

In the future, jikiwe plans to make single clay tiles with poems of splake, Rumi, and Wei to hang on the “poet tree” located at Brautigan Creek in the cliffs north of Calumet, Michigan.




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