july has had a run of hot and humid days, however, living in my underwear with the small dollar store fan has made the summer days tolerable.

i recently posted copies of the two new splake chapbooks, both published in india, to several small press magazine editors and close writing friends. “between the lines” was produced by “cyberwit press,” and “outside the lines” was a “hawakal publishers” production. note: in “outside the lines” an excellent chapbook introduction was written by dustin pickering, editor of “transcendent-zero press.”

on the current small magazine scene, i have had both poems and book reviews published by ZYX (editor arnold skemer), “iconoclast” (editor phil wagner), and “over the transom” (editor johathan hayes).

in addition, i was greatly pleased that the “cholla needles 31” used twenty-eight splake short haiku-type poems in the latest issue.

the 2019 edition of the impressive literary journal CLUTCH (editor robert zoschke – the z-man) is fresh off the press. there are several splake poems and photographs in the new issue of CLUTCH.

finally the most recent splake literary labors have been pounding the keyboard and preparing work for a new poetry collection that has the tentative title of “red line fevers.”



# # # #


“outside the lines”



moving beyond


cell phone technology

deny creative challenges

risking new adventures

try shot of jack

cold beer chaser

taste of life’s reality

# # # #




“leaves of grass”

walt’s powerful visions

able to live

beyond others rules

free butterfly floating

over society


# # # #


“between the lines”




brando and gregory corso

crazy wild rebels

living on the edge




people go to work

long numbing hours

slowly murdering dreams

# # # #



“beyond brautigan creek”

review by arnold skemer

     this is somewhat off the usual splake parameters. in several poems his spirit appears to be flying through intergalactic space in a journey to an indeterminate objective. a poet in parallel lines to eternity, outside of time, in perpetual journey: “starving artist solitude/everything suddenly lost/creative works forgotten/but something might exist/between reality and nothing.” i must also mention his excellent photography. he has a sense for illustrative imagery that compliments his very powerful lines that build in length as the selection continues. high quality, glossy paper that makes his chapbook a delight to behold. one of the best things that he has produced.



# # # #


“cholla needles 31”

lost in used bookstore

outside world distant

like remote trout stream

# # # #

afternoon pleasure

dog taking walk

his master on a leash

# # # #

flowers and marble stones

happy children’s voices

playing with cemetery ghosts

# # # #

missing home town’s rivers

sawyer and finn ghosts

endless flowing adventures

# # # #



# # # #

a love supreme

coltrane playing life

death lasts forever


bottle of advil

icy tall boy

pretty girl cheap beer

taking standing eight count

not wanting more

jobless improv star

air guitar professional

silent applause deafening

white leather bible

mint condition

salvation army thrift table

# # # #







ankle-deep in the big muddy

ah, and mayday mayday mayday so. early last sunday i tranny-tripped north of calumet to check the conditions at the cliffs and brautigan creek. from a safe distance noted that the poet tree did not fare very well during the recent winter season of long white. so, as soon as the creek lowlands dry out, a new poet tree will arise.

any and who, two new splake chapbooks are off the press. “transcendent-zero press” (houston, texas) published “sacred and obscene” while gage press (battle creek, michigan) recently finished “rosetta café ghosts.”

i am also pleased that professor david engel used two splake chapbooks to teach a class in haiku at st antony’s monastery in marathon, wisconsin. the new edition of UP READER has a splake photograph and poem, while the “zyx journal” (editor arnond skemer) had twenty-eight short splake poems in it.

plus, i scored ink and space in daryl ayaz nielsen’s “bear creek haiku” and joyce and robin odams “brevities.”

on the immediate literary horizon, i am waiting for copies of the new literary anthology “clutch.” in addition, a new splake chapbook titled “between the lines” is being published by “cyberwit” press in india.

# # # #

“sacred and obscene”

Scan 2

coping with hangover

emily d’s wisdom

stepping almost straight

# # # #

hiking alone at night

feeling coyote’s breath

hearing sounds of plants

# # # #

smell of paper

feel of book’s weight

hungry mind escaping

# # # #


“rosetta café ghosts”


free bardic specter

part of the wind

able to be anywhere

# # # #

superior frothing and boiling

graybeard poet’s ghost

dancing in the storm

# # # #

moving into the fire

joining glowing embers

dancing on hot coals

# # # #

haiku workshop

at st. anthony’s monastery

marathon, wisconsin

Scan 4




good life

lawyers doctors businessmen

happiness buying things

houses cars furniture

expensive unnecessary luxuries

yet not enjoying life

always feeling empty

afraid to surrender

to living simpler way

sleeping on futon

hotplate frying pan

single knife fork spoon

small coffee pot

sadly never becoming

person in their dreams

# # # #


“bear creek haiku”


origin of species

collecting more dollars

survival of fattest wallet

# # # #

drone bee nectar

worker ants foraging

loud oinks at the trough

# # # # #

flying beyond clouds

flirting with angels

dancing in stardust

# # # #


Scan 3

meaning of life

discovered in yourself

journey beyond soul

# # # #

poet giving up

no more confidence

empty brain space

# # # #

dying from grief

or using inner pain

for creating art

# # # #


smell it breathe it

last week’s fierce alberta ‘clipper’ delivered over a foot of snow to the keweenaw farther northern territory. minus zero degrees plus forty-miles-per-hour winds added to the long white accumulation in metrops. however, under the present arctic blanket mice families are growing. also tiny eggs are warming in bird nest homes and soon will be bringing new life into the world. while there is crunching under each bootstep, the michigan upper peninsula is already ‘coming into spring.’

recently i posted copies of two new literary publications to reviewers, editors and close writing friends. presa press (editor eric greinke) finished “anatomy of desire,” and gage press (battle creek, michigan) produced a new collection “beyond brautigan creek.” the brautigan creek production also had a dvd attached to the chapbook. i am hoping that my “wonder woman anna” will have the technological wisdom to make the “beyond brautigan creek” dvd available to wordpress viewers.

the next splake collection of poems – “sacred and obscene” – is now at the transcendent-zero press in houston, texas (editor dustin pickering) and will soon be available.

“anatomy of desire”


mexico city blues

poet’s broken heart

wet espresso tears

lost in arctic white out

dreaming of escape

riding greyhound ghost

midnight crossing border

cold beer breakfast

orizaba street café

chatting with jack

# # # #

poet’s roots

“moving beyond parents”

friday night sockhops

“stardust” slow dancing

suddenly replaced by bill haley

“rock and the clock”

blackboard jungle music

crew cut hair and sweaters

chinos with belt in the back

wildly dreaming of

brando bogart james dean

black leather jackets

motorcycle boots

sexy looking tattoos

not understanding kerouac

on the road miles

searching for good parts

nelson algren paperback

often feeling like elvis

a little bit shook up

#  # # #

all or nothing

“in the desert – man is there

god is not”


few people find

sacred spiritual feelings

abundant in desert space

preferring holy book passages

religious scripture words

for explanations of life

thousands of years passing

rainwater melting snow frost

creating brilliant red lansscape

massive buttes and mesas

glowing like fiery forge

moments of creation

before bethlehem manger

time of eden

sandstone petroglyphs

describing native magic

rolling piling white clouds

becoming black thunderheads

wild mustangs racing across land

dust devils blowing through sand

today shadowy ghosts

still staring at heavens

celebrating gods

forgotten by others

# # # #

“beyond brautigan creek”


something more

late dusky shadows

quickly evening darkness

sitting around campfire

brautigan creek bank

warming hands in embers

remembering summer nights

many years ago

listening to glowing coals

learning greater wisdom

understanding what to think

important things to do

tomorrow leaving behind

important artist’s memories

poet tree sentinel

writings photos paintings

old leather boots

hanging in tree

rocking chair

with jack daniel’s bottle

tin cup waiting

for thirsty traveler

first dawn

following prayer flags

birch tree signs

leading to cliffs trail

traveling light

without rucksack or gear

moving beyond

rocky granite summit

hoping to find true love

perfect place to live

like sam and jill

gilliam’s movie “brazil”

poet’s happy ending

living with paula

chapel rock beach

swimming naked

chilly lake superior

truly free spirits

outside of time

# # # #

Scan 1


“a letter”

i was recently blessed with a rare moment of literary praise. my surprise was a letter from an alabama lady who this past summer had been visiting the pictured rocks lakeshore area in munising, michigan. while having lunch in a grand marais restaurant she found and read a copy of my “pictured rocks memories” poems. she said:

“we sat in a quaint diner, the fog of an overcast afternoon swelling off the west bay, and i noticed a stock of books on the window sill of our booth. one so happened to be a timeworn chapbook of poetry-exactly palatable to my taste. while my mother and aunt savored their dishes, i indulged in poetic musings of local nature, serenity and folkways. i was captured by the culture, the writing; my southern heart felt so connected to a place so far from its origin. i felt immersed in the natural beauty of a land i had just recently laid my own eyes upon.

we left town shortly after and journeyed home, but the name stuck in my head. splake. what an odd name, i thought. it wasn’t until winter engulfed my home here in alabama, that i was reminded of the writing. i’m not sure what spurred me to write this, but i believe the poetry touched my soul in such a unique way. i’ve realized how detached i’ve felt from the likes of frost, thoreau, or whitman because of just how welcoming your writing was. i could feel the words around me, i saw it in the swaggering pines, the rushing waterfalls, the towering sand dunes. i felt the culture, i understood the lore, the myths – it was rapturous. i suppose this is a thank you for drawing me closer to the area and heightening my foreign experience of its lifestyle.

t-hanks a lot bama and

‘go tide’

the new year

i greatly appreciate the beginning of a new year. this time frame provides an excellent opportunity to review past literary projects and productions. it also gives the creative artist a sense of a fresh new beginning. in short, i have hit this new year running and hope to continually make the bard res’ carpet smoke with my creative activity.

there are four new splake book titles that have early 2019 publication dates. “presa press” (editor eric greinke) in rockford, michigan will publish a collection of poems “anatomy of desire.” “transcendent-zero press” (editor dustin pickering) in houston, texas, will publish another short poetry collection “sacred and obscene.” “rusty truck press” (editor scot young) a missouri small press will creative a collection of splake poems for their “brown bag” poetry series. finally, gage press in battle creek, michigan, will finish the project “beyond brautigan creek.” note: this modest publication will contain both splake poems and a dvd attachment with the work.



     the following references provide a brief review of the splake work that finished the recent old year.

gage press in battle creek, michigan, finished the collection of splake poetry in the chapbook “rectory.”

editor arnold skemer wrote a brief review of “rectory” in the 82nd edition of his “zyx” literary publication.

in the december issue of the “marquette monthly,” literary editor tyler tichenlaar wrote an excellent review of the splake “lost dreams” collection of short poems.

“iconoclast” edition #117 had a splake front cover photograph of his favorite feminine companion “annie.” the literary magazine editor phil wagner also wrote a short review of the splake book “final curtain.”

among my other late 2018 sources of small press literary space and ink, i was particularly pleased with the poems published in “ethos literary journal” (editor kiriti sengupta) in calcutta, india, “brevities” (editor joyce odam) in sacrameno, california, and “bear creek haiku” (editor ayaz) in longmont, colorado.




poet sacrificing music

for deep solitude

free of distractions

sound system silent

while facing blank page

yet still hearing murmurs

“carmina burana”

wild celebrating sounds

ottorino’s nocture

gentle breeze blowing

through pines of rome

vivaldi’s soft birdsongs

coming into spring

# # # #



many years ago

ted pixley

battle creek attorney

handling my divorce

strongly recommending

personal counseling

preventing painful separation

upon reflection

saving troubled marriage

would mean vacations

with overweight wife

stuffed in bermudas

rosetta café breakfast

arguing if pasties

should have rutabagas

time rapidly vanishing

retired professor

without a beard

never writing poetry

# # # #



editor arnold skemer

book review of “rectory”

     splake writes from a small office of the former st.anne’s church. it now services as an art center for the community. this chapbook contains the usual splakian musings, his diurnal activities, writer’s disappointments, frustrations of an elderly gent, snide comments (“graying husbands/pleasantly plump wives/somenhow still married to/summer vacations/wearing new levis, mall-mart bermudas/seeing the sights/no longer fucking.”) splake is very predictable but amusingly so. as usual, nice backgrounding in crusty decrepit calumet, the character of the north woods, like a chronicler of yoknapatawpha county.


“marquette monthly”

book editor tyler tichenlaar

review of “lost dreams”


“lost dreams” is yet another short volume of poetry from the prolific u.p. poet t. kilgore splake. this short volume consists of only fifteen pages of poems, but each page contains five short three-lined poems on it. the poems are not technically haikus (poems of seventeen syllables), but they are similar in their short and concise size. each poem has three to five words per line and three lines, and ranges from about fourteen to seventeen syllables on average. because the poems are not titled, one might think the book is one long poem, but the discerning reader will realize each stanza is a poem m in itself.

i like to think of these as being like “fortune cookies poems,” because each poem creates a single image or feeling by tying together a few connected images. the poems cover numerous themes, including childhood, alcoholism, music, movies, and old age. most have a cynical tone. splake always writes gritty poems and “lost dreams” is no exception. it’s not a volume for the faint of heart, but there are many truths here that need to be said.


“iconoclast # 117”

editor phil wagner

review of “final curtain”


there are several core messages in mr. splake’s work. one of the main admonitions is to get off the false-premised hamster wheel of the consumerist middle class (those who are still left, that is).   he tried it – this other people’s idea of success – was pretty good at it, but non-lived in a constant state of anxiety and falsehood. when the muse called, he answered – indeed followed – damn the consequences.

to pursue an art in today’s society (especially as something more than a pastime or hobby) is looked upon as a fool’s errand (‘show me the money!’). “many are called but few are chosen.” such are the risks of rebelling against the social contract, conformity. in some poems the poet tells of loneliness, a life streamlined to simple pleasure. in the myth of the suffering artist there is often a happy (if not posthumous) ending. but the suffering is real, the price of the lifestyle often that of ‘a rose blooming unseen.’


“ethos literary journal”

editor kiriti sengupta



paula’s weak moment

leaving me early

sad lonely feeling

nightly she returns

softly whispering

her lost love

still in my heart

# # # #



waking to birdsong

before first light

building small fire

boiling water from stream

instant coffee

oats in tin cup

ready for journey

picking way over deadfall

brushing aside cobwebs

escaping invisible satellites

government surveillance

knowing where i am

finding empty cave

remote cliffs heights

sitting around campfires

discussing with owls

wisdom magic poetry

# # # #



editor joyce odam

north tower’s 87th floor

diving into unknown

ten seconds totally alive

# # # #

fledgling bird

edge of nest

stretching small wings

# # # #

hiking alone at night

feeling coyotes breaths

hearing sounds of plants

# # # #

poet’s dream

tilting universe

touching soul of god

# # # #


“bear creek haiku”

editor ayaz daryl nielsen

steady river flowing

carrying poet’s soul

endless creative beauty

# # # #

desolation angels

kerouac and icarus

falling back to earth

# # # #

eyes tightly closed

soft hesitating lips

about to whisper something

# # # #

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.”


IMG_1162 (002)

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.



spring tides rising

splake’s tales

     the upper peninsula season of “long white” has finally released its arctic grip and spring has arrived and is presently settling into the keweenaw far northlands.

     it has been a time of considerable publishing success for this graybeard poet.  recently i had a poem published in ‘glimpse,” a canadian magazine.  in addition, “bear creek haiku” in colorado had four splake poems.  the spring issue of “trajectory” contained four splake black-and-white photographs and a review of my recent book “depot.”  february, march, and april “brevities” editions contained a total of sixteen splake poems.

     also, “iconoclast” 116 published two pages of splake haiku-type poems and its editor, phil wagner, wrote an excellent review of my presa press book, “winter river flowing.”

     in may, the nationally acclaimed “beat” literary journal, edited by wisconsin writer robert zoschke was released.  in the new edition there were forty-one splake photographs and eleven splake poems.  my “cliffs” photo of the poet tree shared the inside cover honors with a poem by the famous lawrence ferlinghetti.

     a comment about coming events – to be listed in the next splake site takes – in june the new UP READER will be published with several splake poems.  also, the editor of a new asian publication, “ethos literary journal,” has accepted four splake poems for its inaugural issue.  finally, ed gray (jikiwe), a calumet potter of national recognition, is finishing a clay booklet containing several splake short poems.

“bear creek haiku”

red tibetan prayer flag
floating on creek currents
poet’s creative bloodline

“brevities” (february)


kite without string
floating away
lost somewhere in clouds

“brevities” (march)


econoline van
horses running forever
turning miles in heaven

“brevities” (april)


barefoot girl
passionate eyes flashing
touch me touch me

“iconoclast” 116

“winter river flowing”
selected poems 1979-2014
t. kilgore splake

 mr. splake (aka tom smith) came to his vocation relatively late in life.  his calling coming in a moment of satori in the wilderness (which he has always used as a palliative and an inspiration).  he came of age in the thick of the postwar peak of american consumerism and conformity, a society that informed the rebelliousness in his heart against false notions of success, duplicity.  much of his early work is long, descriptive, narrative streams of consciousness.  there’s the road trip from michigan to maine (“journey to climb a mountain”), tales of “the trophy room,” a year of colorful drunken escapes while getting his masters (the “t room alky squad regulars” marching in disheveled formation around the block); three marriages, five (i think) children, countless one-night stands and short relationships – all taking place through endless gallons of booze, cheap cigars – and madness.  thank god for the leavening power of nature.  in short: hemingway meets kerouac.

but poetry gives shape and meaning to the quest.  the poet chooses what needs to be recaptured, remembered, noticed; what needs to be excoriated.  going home.  mr. splake’s poem’s become more compressed, impressionistic.  one word signifies an entier scene – the glint of light off a trout in an icy stream.  the poet’s rebellion against a shallow, money-grubbing world must lead to solitude.  if lucky, a home is found (in this case a michigan upper peninsula small town).  self-sufficiency is attained.  the work is what matters.  holding moloch and other demons at bay.

review by phil wagner


splake poems

deeper consciousness
late night storm
crossing superior
driving rain
bending pines
old chair
brautigan creek
guttural noises
yellow eyes
shining in darkness
hot blood scent
poet cleansed
vision restored
thunder lightning
moving east
solitary artist
moving beyond

# # # #

young girl leaving poems
writer’s cemetery stone
proof life worth it

# # # #

keep the motor running

escaping midwest
wheat and corn fields
vanishing in rearview mirror
pistons slapping
noisy tappets clicking
vintage transmission
turning highway miles
dreaming of new life
finding happiness
new woman to love
some place out west
pod buried in ear
“radar love”
ricocheting inside brain

# # # #





calumet art center press


57055 fifth street
calumet, mi 49913
(906) 934-2228

unused “depot” photographs

jikiwe and i were extremely pleased that copies of “depot” arrived in calumet in time for the christmas holiday and gift purchases. the sales of the book have gone very well, and we are hoping that this continues into the 2018 new year. however, this addition to the splake computer site contains some calumet railroad station photographs that were not used in the publication of “depot”.  i hope that the viewer finds them interesting.


station with catholic church in background


roof supports for station eaves


side view of railroad station


station – note the porthole window


station ticket selling section


bench in the station waiting room


bench in the station waiting room


railroad station interior — fisheye lens


railroad station tile floor design


railroad station’s mail box


railroad station interior — fisheye lens


railroad station interior — fisheye lens


train lantern


directional switch signal


advertisement for copper miners


suitcase for pierce roberts — train cart


train engine snow plow


open house 2017


open house 2017

winter musings

     ah, splake reader, this graybeard artist is definitely a prisoner of rat bastard time, eh. summer is long gone, autumn’s “indian summer” a memory, and now it is the michigan upper peninsula season in the long white. it seems the precious hours in a day vanish so quickly, especially when you are having fun, and the snow is knee-high and rising.

since the last entry i have had poems published in “bear creek haiku,” of longmont, colorado, and in “iconoclast” published in mohegan lake, new york. i am also very pleased that the literary magazine, “brevities,” printed in scaramento, california, published twelve short splake poems.

“bear creek haiku”

early morning breeze
small branches swaying
like restless heart



seeking serious enlightenment
without huge statue
silent bronze buddha
massive european cathedrals
stained rose windows
muslim mosques
with tall minarets
living alone
solitary wilderness days
becoming one with nature
joyful songbirds chattering
musical pine needles hum
rich evergreen scent
surrounded by beautiful wildflowers
wild thimbleberry blossoms
spring campfire smoke
bringing new poems
later cold autumn ashes
scattering words
lost in the winds




licking wet leaves
delicious morning dew
like emily drunk on air

# # # #

thelonious monk
soft jazzy touch
world full of edges

# # # #

poet’s ashes scattered
light wilderness breeze
sky taking him back

# # # #

the splake chair at brautigan creek


the recent cover for “trajectory,” edited by chris helvey in frankford, kentucky, was a photograph of the splake chair located at brautigan creek.

in “trajectory’s” editorial remarks, helvey made reference to my recent book “ahhh” published by transcendent-zero press in houston, texas. he said “it is full of splake’s own inimitable staccato lines like these from “mad memories” – “old route 66/ mother road mainstreet/ concrete road to nirvana. . . . “

“u.p. reader”


there is a new michigan upper peninsula literary magazine, U.P. READER. it is published annually and is edited by mikal classen, of marquette, michigan. i have submitted both poems and photographs on literary spec for consideration in the next edition. in addition, the “splake writing room and library” in the calumet art center, calumet, michigan, will be advertised in the next issue of U.P. READER.


the calumet art center press recently published its second title, “depot.” the book is a modest history of the old calumet railroad station. in addition to the historical text, there are several old photographs of the train station and railroad transportation. these photographs came from the michigan technological university archives in houghton, michigan, and the keweenaw national historical park library in calumet, michigan.


in memoriam

ward pratt was one of the new friends i had during the ten years i lived in munising, michigan. during those years of pursuing an understanding of writing poetry, i developed a new, deeper definition of reclusiveness..

ward and i often went fishing together. we seemed to enjoy our silent company while exploring new and used remote fishing sites. a couple of times we busted my old ford bronco through the wilderness and canoed and fished the headwaters of the fox river. many readers remember that it was the fox river that hemingway wrote about in his “nick adams stories.” however, for a more catchy short story title, old papa renamed the river the “big two-hearted.”

sadly ward passed away in november, and is greatly missed. yet, i am certain that he has found a fresh beaver dam in heaven and is waiting this graybeard’s arrival.

fox river odyssey

with nick adams

tried the question a couple of times in seney,

“anyone around who still remembers when ernest

hemingway jumped out the boxcar for a fishing

trip, and made the fox river the “big two-hearted”

of literary fame,

one spring steve at the mobilgas said “the old

SOB probably just came and stayed drunk for a week,

slept under the bridge, never wetting a line, then

went back to the newspaper and made up his fish


next spring, steve’s son alan agreed that this was

probably true,

so i decided to roam around the fox headwaters,

fish, look, and try to find out,

first dawn light drove an aging bronco torturous

miles of winding two-wheel ruts, eventually sliding

a canoe down wet grasses to pond waters, scattering

nesting sandhill cranes, disturbing a beaver family

slapping their tails making hasty retreat,

fast rising un burning off cool morning mist, drying

icy beads in spider webs

black flies constantly hovered, biting clouds of hungry

mosquitos an endless swarm, around a pond dogleg,

portaging two ancient beaver dams, finally arriving at

flooded muskeg meadow of river meanders, one plump

brookie already in creel,

large brown fish hawk lazily circling as the high noon

sun baked hot against the welts rising from my neck, when

i saw nick, shadowy figure resting under some second

growth pines in the distance, where marsh grass turned

to upland soil,

trace of bacon grease and streak of dried condensed milk

in his beard, apple butter pancake and onion sandwich lunch

set before him, laughing at me,

greenhorn trout fisherman furiously grasping at small

willow branches, ass and billfold valuables soaked by

sudden icy plunge, finally pulling free of sinkhole ooze,

cold shock reminder of tragedy waiting the unwary alone

in the woods,

nick mocking the foolish who fish during hot noon,

when high sky and bright sun make trout wary,

temptation to wave, holler adams down to chat, tell

fishing lies, smoke, but quickly recall he did not like to

fish with other men,

so i left him to the bitterns high up among the

pine, cedar, and birches, let him have his dreamy

nap, knowing later when the dark purple clouds and

orange remains turn to dusk

bottle of grasshoppers around his neck, flour

sack tied to waist, he will climb over the log pile

amid cool evening shadows, this time working the

“big fish,” playing the sandy pebbles and gravel

further this time, maybe even into the swamp.

coming events

the old riviera and rialto movie theaters in my old home town used to advertise the “coming pictures.” so, very soon, i will be reviewing the new splake collection of poetry in the chapbook “lost dreams” published by transcendent-zero press in houston, texas.


“going going gone”

most veteran “yoopers” feel that after the july 4th holiday the summer is over and it is time to start looking for the snow shovel. shortly it will be time to have the bard res’ furnace checked as well as the mechanic get my pickup truck ready for the upper peninsula “season in the long white.”

since the last entry, i have had two poetry chapbooks published and a poem printed in the july issue of “abbey” magazine. plus there was a splake creative coup with nineteen poems and twenty-four black and white photographs a part of robby zoschke’s latest “clutch” literary journal.


     the poem “lightness” was a printed in editor david greisman’s july issue of “abbey,


shadow breaths
pale skin color
feverish sweating
end near
graying poet struggling
seeking right words
to finish final poem
inability to love
jigsaw puzzle with
pieces missing



gage press editor emilie johnson recently published a splake collection of three-line poems in a chapbook titled “creative moments,”

tick tock panic
bardic thieves stealing
rat bastard time
# # # #
people not realizing
doing same old same
lost without curiosity
# # # #
empty mirror reflection
nothing beyond mirage
courage inside the eye
# # # #


“transcendent-zero press” editor dustin pickering recently printed a splake chapbook collection “ahhh life.”


mad memories

old route 66
mother road mainstreet
concrete avenue to nirvana
for steinbeck’s oakies
road for kerouac
looking for himself
café waitress
“good mornin’ hon”
imaginary romantic dreams
speedometer miles turning
new surprise waiting
around next highway bend
unknown artist creating
large blue whale
car radio whispers
bobby troupe’s ballad
chicago to l.a.
don’t forget winona
old san berdoo




     the cover of zoschke’s “clutch” is a vintage photograph of san francisco “beat poet” jack micheline. i was extremely pleased with the micheline image, as my old friend jack truly possessed black and white reality with a lunch-bucket creative energy.

“clutch” is easily one of the best avant garde literary publications currently published today. i believe serious artists and poets should order a copy of robby’s marvelous collection of photographs, poems and stories. his mailing address is:

robert zoschke
10781 birchwood drive
sister bay, wi

ohhhhhhhhhhhhh yes, and where was that rake, hmmm,

and the beat goes on

pushcart nomination

     my close writing friend antler, a nationally recognized poet who lives in milwaukee, wisconsin nominated me again for pushcart literary honors. antler is one of the most honest and trustworthy artists in my small creative circle. borrowing from the biblical reference, “many are called but few are chosen,” i hope this year we win.


book review


the 2017 issue of “onthebus” published the review of the splake book “backwater graybeard twilight” written by charles p. ries.


t. kilgore splake

Backwater Graybeard Twilight

Thunder Sandwich Publishing
PO Box 508, Calumet, MI 49913
ISBN: 0-9718948-0-91     91 pp.     $17.50

Thomas Hugh Smith was 44 years old when he wrote his first poem in 1979. Now known as t. kilgore splake, he has become one of the small press icons. His work and name appear everywhere. The self-proclaimed “graybeard dancer” told me, “Early one l979 morning while nursing a modest hangover and drinking a cup of coffee brewed from the coals of the previous night’s campfire, I felt compelled to write my thoughts about the past several days living in the pictured rocks wilderness outback. I collected several additional poems over my summer of camping, and upon returning to Battle Creek after Labor Day, they were published in my first chapbook edition titled pictured rocks poetry.”

Until that day Splake had never written poetry, “I taught political science at Kellogg Community College in Battle Creek, Michigan, for twenty-six years. I lectured on the dynamics of a federal system of government and outlined the characteristics and functions of the American political party system. However, outside the world of academia, my job status was at best anonymous. If I was in with a strange group of people and asked what I did for a living, I might as well have replied I was a brain surgeon for the understanding most people have of what is political science. Now, I declare myself a poet, and it still seems I am anonymous to the average individual.”

Backwater Graybeard Twilight is the magnum opus of Splake’s work. It is a comprehensive collection of both his word and photo art. The 150 pages devoted to his writing are dense and word filled; word overflowing, words everywhere; for Splake puts to paper what comes to his mind in what he calls stream of consciousness prose. I asked him about this and he told me, “What initially attracted me to poetry, and later writing stream of consciousness prose, was the absence of necessary writing rules. In a doing contest with the ever elusive damn-dame lady muse, I seize a passion and redline it. I still compose my writing works in long hand, scribbling between the lines of quill econo legal padlets. With the rough long hand drafts, I then key a poem or a story into a word document and turn to the fine-tuning the writing into the best shape possible.”

One of the characteristics of the writing in Backwater Graybeard Twilight is its sheer volume. I often felt like I was drowning in a tidal wave of images and metaphors. This machine gunning of words often left me feeling lost and falling; not an altogether unpleasant experience, but even numinous falling needs nuance and direction lest we shut down the sponge in our head that reads and absorbs. Here is an example from, “homeboy escape”: “small town, womb nurturing captive population of fascists / and losers, hometurf where acting like a man is all important, // a few basking in fleeting, momentary athletic glories, awash / in school colors, cheers, the rest settling for spectator status, small // value for sadness of beating nobody, // small numbers move on town the highway, seeking college / education, others off to a career, some branch of the military service, most quickly back at home, armed and relieved, convenient excuse,” and on it goes for two more pages. Image on image, metaphor after metaphor, with only commas to give my mind a breath.

I asked Splake about this volume of words and whether themes get lost in the word pile. He sort of answered my question, “I believe in a pizza theory of poetry. Imagine being on a date and discussing what kind of a pizza to order. If I might suggest a pizza with anchovies, my feminine acquaintance might reply, “Ugh, I can’t stand those slimy little fish.” Where if she would suggest a pineapple pizza, I would not find pineapple agreeable to my culinary palette. Yet neither anchovies nor pineapple are bad, they simple represent a difference in individual tastes. I think the same analogy holds true for poetry. There are no good or bad poems, and what is good in poetry simply appeals to one’s aesthetic sensibilities. I can, and do not believe that the poems and stories I write will be liked by all those who read them. An anchovy lover will not win over a pineapple devotee.” I can’t argue that all art is loved by someone and finds a home, but does poetry lose its power (brevity) when it becomes overloaded? I think it does, but this does not diminish Splake’s achievement or skill in accomplishing it, it just means his audience will be filled anchovy lovers who welcome his form of word art.

Backwater Graybeard Twilight is broken into titled, Being, NonBeing and Becoming – I was most drawn to Becoming (can I say the pineapple section) where Splake delivers more then a few poems I could read, digest, inhale such as this excerpt from, “the mountain beyond”: “mournful foghorn elegy / chuck spires vanishing / gray dying light / san fran bay / union street hill / below Washington square / bro brautigan / bench shadows / ben franklin statue / brown sipping sack / bard blood a-hummmmmm/inviting Alcatraz gulls / to carry him home / musical wings / through vivaldi’s season / escaping / life’s surface mirror.” Splake’s gift is his facility with image, his challenge maybe mitigating the blinding speed with which he lets these images fall to his paper.

I asked Jim Chandler, whose Thunder Sandwich Publishing published Backwater Graybeard Twilight what drew him to Splake’s work and he told me “I believe Splake is unique because his style is unlike that of anyone I’m familiar with. I suspect that most people who have read any Splake could pick his work out of poems by 10 (or 20 or 100) poets by reading a line or two. I know I can. The talent obviously speaks for itself, since one doesn’t bother to interview untalented people. Splake is the most dedicated writer I know; perhaps driven is a better word. He sets goals and he doesn’t rest until he achieves them. “

Indeed, he is a Type-A poet if ever there was one; a volcano of productivity. In an interview conducted by Peter Magliocco of ART:MAG Splake describes himself as a proverbial over-achiever who TRIES HARDER and I would agree. I asked him if, as he nears his 70th birthday, if he has enough time to get it all done and he told me, “ NO! I do not have enough time in the working day to bring my attention to all of the works that I currently have in progress. What I call “rat bastard time” has truly become my primary adversary. I often hear some of the truly geezer gents at the evergreen café sigh over their coffee mornings and whisper “what am I going to do today.” I feel, how sad I cannot allocate a couple of their unused hours, and possess twenty-six for a day’s lit-laborings. It is obvious they would not miss them.”

Splake has published over 70 chap books of poetry and if that weren’t enough, he is also an excellent photographer. Backwater Graybeard Twilight has over forty pages of his photos, and these are exceptional. His subjects are common and clear. They are lit on the page and easy to assimilate. I asked him if he had to choose poetry or photography, what would it be? In characteristic Splake fashion he didn’t exactly answer my question, but rather the associations my question prompted in his mind, “At present I am moving away from writing poetry and short stories and into the field of movie making. However, note, I am not abandoning poetry, but incorporating a poetry on human “being” into the camera footage that I work with. To date I have produced three DVD movie-length productions: “Splake poetry on location i,” “Splake poetry on location ii,” and the most recent film creation “Splake: the cliffs.” In regards to my filming perspectives, I have been greatly influenced by the work of Jim Jarmusch, and particularly his early movie “Permanent Vacation.” I have also learned a great deal of cinematography from the works of Richard Linklater. His experimental movie which is part of the criterion film package for the movie “Slacker,” has had a strong effect on my movie making attitudes.” Can you hear a man sprinting toward his art? I can.

In less then 20 years Splake has created a lifetime body of work. I asked him about his legacy, “If I flatter myself, I think that t. kilgore splake writings and photographs “might” still be remembered l0 days to a possible full two weeks after I pass on to that “quiet darkness of nothing.” However, I still continue to post my work and daily correspondence to Marcus C. Robyns, archivist for Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan. I do entertain the remote possibility that I possess an Upper Peninsula artistic consciousness and regional identity. So, maybe some future NMU literature or writing students will study the works of Splake. I would like that.”

Jim Chandler is right. Here is a unique voice, talent and personality. Splake is a small press original. While anchovies are not for everyone, even a pineapple lover like me can see the glory in an anchovy. I strongly encourage you to add Backwater Graybeard Twilight to your library.

Review By: Charles P. Ries


Note: “onthebus” editor jack grapes included a short note in the edition saying “thanks for all your poetry and prose all these years, and, fighting the good fight along the wide road.”



calumet art center

     the wooden benches i donated to the art center are currently gathering dust in the dark corners of the art center building. however, the benches have metal tags honoring my mother and father, margaret and emery smith. in addition, there are benches with tags for my children, ted, mike, casey – plus – one for another daughter robin lynn.


splake is also identified on separate rosters – one for keweenaw artists – the other as a calumet art center supporter.

finally the wheelchair ramp to provide easier access to the art center is finished. in the coming new year the art center board of directors with submit a proposal for an elevated lift-chair for getting to the art center’s second floor. such an addition would provide greater access to the splake writing room and library in the center.




“green stones”

     attached is a photograph for those who watched the splake dvd “green stones.” note: hiking into the remote mining site without snowshoes was a pretty demanding challenge.




published poems

     since the last addition to the splake computer site i have had poems published in several small literary magazines. there were five poems in recent “bear creek haiku” editions. “brevities” published seven splake poems in the november issue. “lilliput review # 197″ had two splake poems, and i am extremely thankful for editor don wentworth getting me extra copies in time to mail with my christmas cards.


“bear creek haiku”




maybe after passing

becoming invisible ghost

floating on strange ethers

flitting here and there

like quiet hummingbird

visiting old friends

places once forgotten



dream of escape


lost in yooper blizzard

riding greyhound ghost

orizaba café breakfast

chatting with jack





jazz singer scatting

seeking new pain

lost love blues


roots to higher branches

struggling for light

artist’s life breathing


lake superior tides

eternal ebbing and flowing

leaving haunted ghosts



“lilliput review”


graybeard waiting


slow painful steps

wilderness wanderings

touching tasting reality

almost close enough

nature should let him in



poet’s journey


emerging from trees

end of the trail

looking over cliffs

shining cloud falls

wilderness valley far below

turgid rapids

calm watery pools

graybeard almost home




     after celebrating the christmas holiday i am eagerly looking forward to the brave new ’17 and days counting.

i have chapbook projects progressing with scot young, editor of“rusty truck press,” dustin pickering, editor of “transcendent zero press,” and gordon purkis, of “shoe music press.” next week another manuscript collection of splake poems will go to gage press in downstate battle creek.

also, in the new year i have ink and space promised in editor bob penick’s new literary journal “ristau,” and chris helvey’s publication “trajectory.




“ the drums keep poundin’ a rhythm in the brain”