if the walls could talk


if the walls could talk is a recent publication of the calumet art center press by “jikiwe” and t. kilgore splake. the book is a modest photographic history of the old st. joseph’s hospital that used to be located in hancock, michigan.

the original st. joseph’s hospital began in 1896, and in 1950, with the construction of a new hospital facility in hancock became the ryan hall school of nursing.

because of serious vandalism to the old building’s structure, the original st. jospeh’s hospital was demolished.

in addition to if the walls could talk splake has recently enjoyed publishing success in many books and small press literary magazines. he had a short story and a poem printed in the wood thrush books the world engaged. also, splake poems were published in the literary magazine trajectory (frankfort, kentucky), brevities (sacramento, california) and the canadian literary journal glimpse.



the world engaged


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 explanation of life
thousands of years passing
rainwater melting ice and snow
creating brilliant red landscape
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 plains
dust devils blowing through sand
today shadowy ghosts
still staring at heavens
celebrating gods
forgotten by others

# # # #





graybeard’s weary feet
writing mountain letters
walking in his head


the sea

icy quart of beer
brown paper sack
remembering hem’s “old man”
gulf stream forever flowing


words from beyond

waking in darkness
printer’s wild humming
poem from orizaba
new mexico city blues




fiery lightning flashes
burning through mirror
poet’s brain on fire


staring through fire
beyond smoke and flames
finding poem in fiery embers


life deafening explosion
jackson pollock t-shirt
red splattered art


chasing nature’s music
soft wilderness windsongs
never catching magic






nightly riding “the dog”
md 20 20 buzzzzz
eagles ballads on stereo
low volume sound
distant soothing hum
“take it to the limit”
remembering john fante
once passionate artist
now forgotten ashes
yet still we 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
ohhhhhhhhh please
“one more time”

# # # #



for the people living near calumet, michigan, or visiting the keweenaw peninsula soon, a “poet tree” has been reborn in the calumet art center’s rose garden.






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

# # # #


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”

# # # #


bear creek haiku (#135, 2016)



frequent wilderness visits

listening for passing ghosts

shadowy old spirits

quietly moving again

# # # #

dream of escape


lost in yooper blizzard

riding greyhound ghost

orizaba cafe breakfast

chatting with jack

# # # #


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.”

 # # # #


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 https://tksplake.wordpress.com

 # # # #

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.


 # # # #

“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


# # # #

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 https://tksplake.wordpress.com/

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.”


the upper peninsula color has gone and the leaves are now on the ground. yesterday’s snow in colorado means that shortly calumet and the keweenaw peninsula will begin our season in the “long white.” also, this is the time of the “hols” – thanksgiving and christmas – and then the celebration of a brave and brand new year.


during the last little passage of time, i have enjoyed success publishing my photographs and poems in a variety of small press journals. i have had cover photographs as well as poems printed by THE MOON located in fort wayne, indiana. in addition, there have been several short splake writings in the haiku magazines – CHEAP SEATS TICKET TO RIDE and BEAR CREEK– both publications having a home in colorado. finally, i had poems in the new issue of THE AVOCET, which has a literary base in fountain hills, arizona.


looking ahead, i have two books in the process of completion. editor scott young of RUSTY TRUCK in missouri is wrapping a splake collection of poems. also, dustin pickering, editor of TRANSCENDENT-ZERO PRESS is finishing up another collection of splake poetry in a book titled “splake.”


Cover of


moon, july 2015



class of ’55


honoring alumni
prom and athletic victories
marrying children job
filling house beautiful
forgetting seeker
senior who quit
wanting something more



cheap seats ticket to ride



kerouac followers

tranning tripping roadsters

without facebook pages



to be seventeen again

driving ’48 merc

friday night sock-hops

dancing with young girls



chilling with brautigan

trout fishing in america

no linkedin connection



escaping years ago

leaving thorazine fog

with sanitarium shrink

his rorschach magic



today’s literary journals

computer process

submission manager

password necessary



bear creek haiku



before religion



saints of stained glass

blood of jesus

foot of crucifixion

god waiting

red desert shadows

spiritual beginning

time before eden


long lonely hours

checking empty box

no mail today

listening for call

telephone silent



Cover of The Avocet, Fall 2015 edition

avocet, fall, 2015



beyond autumn



cliffs nightime climb

steady trail steps

sudden cold wind rising

rush of arctic air

canadian interiiors

frigid lake superior depths

stormy lightning flashes

illuminating heavy clouds

light rain staining parka

dark wilderness trek

seeking hidden spirits

humans cannot see



Cover of
the moon, october, 2015



Cover of

the moon, november, 2015




beyond the shadows



fading bardic swamper

gray wrinkled skin

escaping society

youtube facebook

glamorous ego trips

people learning reality

from hand held technology

graybeard poet

chasing birds and butterflies

back to first man’s voice

dawn of earth’s beginning



editor robert zoschke
“street corner press”
sister bay, wisconsin

i am extremely pleased to have several splake poems and photographs published in the new edition of robert zoschke’s excellent literary magazine “the lowdown.”  the ‘z-man’ is a well-known author, poet, and publisher living and working in sister bay, wisconsin.

a splake photograph shares “the lowdown” covers with a painting by lawrence ferlinghetti.  ferlinghetti is a well-known american poet, painter, and owner of the “city lights bookstore and press” in san francisco, california.  my cover photograph is of the “poet tree” which is located in the “cliffs,” a few miles north of my calumet – michigan upper peninsula – living and writing  home.


“the poet tree”


the featured writer of the new issue of “the lowdown” is the late jack micheline.  there are nine previously unpublished poems by the noted san francisco “beat poet.”  i am very pleased to have a signed copy of micheline’s “sixty-seven poems for downtrodden saints” in my personal library.

other poets in the new “the lowdown” are antler, milwaukee, wisconsin poet, gerry nicosia, corte madera, california writer,  alan catlin, schenectady, new york, poet, and several poems and paintings by the late norbert blei, an artist who lived and worked in ellison bay, wisconsin.

because street corner press editor zoschke and i live in the climates of northern wisconsin and michigan’s upper peninsula, the annual winter seasons of “the long white” are very important considerations for us.  in the new “the lowdown” edition there are two splake winter poems and several ‘long white’ photographs.


long white


huge snowflakes falling

arctic wind chilling

simon and garfunkel

“slow down you move too fast”

warm sleepy bodies

making love again



coming winter


bearded geezer

climbing cliffs

slow painful steps

path curving upward

chilly autumn night

hazy full moon

scattered flashing stars

passing poor rock piles

closer to granite edge

soon graying poet

floating over trees

on the other side


DSCN1395 DSCN2332 DSCN2520

DSCN1392 DSCN1394 DSCN2417

kccliffswinter DSCN5007 DSCN5009


winter ‘long white’ photographs


the following are a few of the splake poems in “the lowdown” pages.  in addition there are another two splake photographs.  the photos are of the “cliffs” poet tree after an autumn thunderstorm and the inside of an old miner’s house in the gratiot location.



brave new world



standing at breakwater end

soul lost in superior depths

dreaming of mother

her amniotic fluid

safe peaceful home

before doctor’s slap





hoping to leave

print in dust

floss on the wind

scratch across granite

sign to others

i was here


vanilla candle


lonely nights

bedtime hours

blowing out flame

deeply inhaling

rich penetrating scent

remembering her perfume

our good times together


“poet tree” after autumn thunderstorm


miner’s house at gratiot location