“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,



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.





if anyone besides myself reads about the ‘splake doings’ they will have noted a slight pause in my materials.  anna, my computer ‘techie’ and site genius recently had a baby daughter, which explains the brief literary vacation.  also noting the adventure shining in little ada’s eyes, i suspect that now anna certainly understands the demands of rat bastard time.

recently i have had two collections of splake poems published.  the “ghost light” chapbook was produced by gage press in downstate battle creek, michigan.  “last dance” was published by “transcendent-zero press, in houston, texas.
in addition, the february edition of “brevities,” edited by joyce and robin odam, in sacramento, california, had a special splake profile containing ten poems.
finally, tyler tichenaar, book editor of the “marquette monthly,” in marquette michigan, wrote a review of the splake book “graybeard memories: morning espresso musings” in the april issue of the “marquette monthly” publication.


“ghost light” poems

quiet stillness

early november morning
first white dusting
winter finally settling in
older poet remembering
thanksgiving family dinners
stuff baked turkey
sweet potatoes pecan pie
currier and ives plates
horses pulling sleigh
across snowy countryside
mother father children
waiting holiday feast

heaven sent

dark night communion
eating drinking
body and blood of christ
rejoicing sacred heart
certain after death
entering holy kingdom
not going to hell
aging graybeard poet
denying eternal mystery
question without answer
instead hoping for
club majestic nights
country-western songs
vintage jukebox selections
icy pitcher beer
eightball challenges
quarters on table edge
cue ball off cushion
rule for winning
easy baby easy

“last dance” poems

motorcycles and poetry

kicking bike alive
exciting cc’s exploding
roaring engine power
like sexual climax
near-death experience
few klicks down the road
challenging adventure
as facing blank page
wrestling for words
fearing fatal accident
riding beyond red-line
writing not visceral enough
for poem’s final draft
still wind-blown pleasure
as wild bird soaring
heading toward heaven
until running out of gas

mysterious messages

waking in darkness
printer’s wild humming
wondering about words
roy neary
devils tower meeting
poem from orizaba
new mexican city blues
uncle walt’s command
take to open road
robert frost’s suggestions
hiking less traveled path
surprise haiku
gary synder’s pen
brother brautigan’s directions
secret trophy trout pond
david foster wallace
explaining new freedom
old papa hem
from across the river
describing what lies beyond


“brevities” poems

poet’s driven habits
ignoring everyone else
those talking art

# # # #

snow began slowly
steady quiet accumulation
april years away

# # # #

caffeine fried brain
before family and career
poet scribbling words

# # # #

mad poet
wild reckless passions
living beyond edge

# # # #

ink smeared page
writing until
blood stained words

# # # #

“marquette monthly” april, 2017

tyler tichelaar review

“graybeard memories: morning espresso musings”

Several of t. kilgore splake’s volumes of poetry have been reviewed in this column, but this one is different. While it has the typical splake lack of capitalization, it is also written in paragraph form. At first, I thought it was a long prose poem, and it certainly has some poetic moments, but it’s more prose than poem, which is understandable since it is splake’s autobiography.

I found graybeard memories interesting since it gave me insight into the personal life of this poet and made me better understand his poetry. It begins with splake sitting in the Rosetta Café in Calumet drinking coffee and feeling attracted to the young female barista, but he realizes she would never be interested in him. He goes on to describe himself: octogenarian, teeth falling out, no longer fertile.

Then he takes the reader back to his early years growing up in Kalamazoo, Michigan and how he eventually decided to pursue “the bitch-goddess of academic success” by attending Western Michigan University and then getting a teaching job in Battle Creek at Kellogg Community College. At times, teaching was not that enjoyable for him, but he did seem to care about his students and subject matter.

splake also walks us through his numerous relationships with the opposite sex. He got his college girlfriend pregnant and married her. They tried to be a couple, but eventually they divorced, which he describes as the “final chapter in a sad situation of two spoiled children who had made a mistake.”

splake would have two more failed marriages and more children. He seemed to have a knack for attracting women with psychological issues–the third wife threatened to kill  herself and make it look like he had murdered her.  splake admits his free spirit and penchant for alcohol didn’t help his marriages.

During all these years of teaching and marriage, splake began to make rip s to the Upper Peninsula, which seemed to be a saving grace for him.  During one trip, he came to terms with his drinking.  On another, he began writing poetry.  To this day, he isn’t sure what caused him to write poetry one morning, but he did and he showed his work to an English professor colleague who thought it was good.  Still doubtful about the quality of his poems, splake created a pseudonym to protect him from embarrassment–he combined the names of a fish he had caught, his first name’s initial and a name in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Breakfast of Champions to become t. kilgore splake.

Eventually, splake retired and moved to the U.P., first living in Munising and later in Calumet, where he currently lives.  The last chapters of the book describe the years he spent studying poetry until he finally bought a French beret to wear as a sign that he was ready to announce himself as a poet.  He describes his involvement with the local arts community, including the Vertin Gallery, editing the journal cliffs soundings and being given a Lifetime Achievement award by the U.P Writers Association.  The book includes several of splake’s photos of places mentioned in the book, especially around Calumet.

splake is in some ways your typical rough-living Hemingway type writer, but in other ways, he has a distinct voice.  This book will be welcomed by his fans because it gives his full story, only pieces of which could previously be gleaned from his poetry.

For more information, visit splake’s blog at

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”


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

 # # # #

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


# # # #


the splake writing room and library has received some recent news publicity. the calumet art center’s “newsletter” had an article about the writing room written by casey brendan. also, mariah powell did an impressive feature article on the writing room that was published by the houghton “daily mining gazette” in the “happenings” section. in the july issue of the “marquette monthly” there was a brief addition piece describing the splake writing room and library in the calumet art center.

Splake Writing Room offers free space to grow with art, poetry

By Mariah Powell, The Daily Mining Gazette, June 16, 2016

While a small space for reading, writing and learning is not an entirely new concept, the man who created and cares for the Splake Writing Room in the Calumet Art Center is someone with a unique history and viewpoint.
Photographer and poet T. Kilgore Splake, born Tom Smith, created the Splake Writing Room eight years ago after a morning chat over coffee with the center’s founder and executive director Ed Gray.

The room and its resources are free and open to the community, and visitors can check out items by signing the checkpoint log. All lending operates purely on the honor system, with no late fees or library card required. Splake says visitors often bring their lunches to the Writing Room.

In addition to books from every genre, the small room contains DVDs and photo Chapbooks, many of which were created by Splake and printed by one of the many small press publishers he has worked with over the years.
The room also includes a working laptop and DVD player, which visitors can use to view some of Splake’s most recent writings and films.

A few writers magazines sit on a side table, which Splake says he hopes will help anyone interested in honing their writing skills.

“If I knew a kid interested in writing,” he said, “he could come look at the magazines and explore interests in that direction.”

Splake’s own journey into writing did not begin until later in his life. In the late 1960s, Tom Smith was a burnt-out political science professor at Kellog Community College in Battle Creek.

In an attempt to recover from that burnout, he lived alone in Pictured Rocks National Lake Shore in Munising. One morning he was up drinking coffee, watching the smoke rise form the fire, and he started writing. That morning, he wrote four poems.

“I don’t know why I got up to write that [first] poem,” Splake said, “It was like being born a second time in life>”

Along with rebirth, Tom Smith chose a new name. Inspiration came from several different sources. First, inspiration came from the character Kilgore Trout from Kurt Vonnegut’s book “Breakfast of Champions.” Then, when Tom Smith caught his first trophy fish registration told him it was a splake. Retaining his first initial, professor Tom Smith became poet T. Kilgore Splake.

Splake’s early poems centered around woodsy and wild animal themes. Like every writer, Splake eventually started hitting periods of writer’s block. In order to gain further inspiration, he turned to photography.
Now, he said, he chases the writing when it goes well and turns his creative energy to photography when it doesn’t. Poetry is his first choice, he said, with photography a distant second.

During those early years, Splake left his job as professor, which led to several tough financial years.

Splake said during those years, “I used to cry myself to sleep, begging for the freedom to do this.”

Over 1,000 poems later, Splake’s themes have evolved, but he still looks back on his first attempts.

He explained, “Sometimes the early, simple poems have a kind of honesty to them my more mature efforts don’t possess.”


the new splake book “graybeard memories was recently published by the gage press in battle creek, michigan. the book is a brief history of how tom smith became the poet t. kilgore splake. the commentary is based on real people and events, however, the names of the central characters in the memoir have been changed to protect their privacy. the book is forty-eight pages long with a variety of seventeen different photographs. some of the photos include the omphale art gallery, cliffs ‘poet tree,’ rosetta café (splake camus corner table), the old copper mining dredge, and the splake writing room in the calumet art center.


on the small press scene, splake has had poems recently published in the literary magazines “abbey,” and “glimpse.” plus, his haiku poem “loving herself” was the cover poem in a recent
“bear haiku” publication.


private eyes

poets like detectives
bardic shamus tecs
marlowe spade spenser
mike hammer and nero wolfe
chain smokers
drinking rot-gut booze
ignoring policemen
familiar with tough guys
flirting with sexy blondes
solving mysteries
finding killers
where the money went
finally going home
with dark-haired companion
attractive intelligent woman
celebrating together


feeling a poem (2014)

just relax
deep long breaths
forget your job
all your schooling
posturing professors
ibids and op cits
close your eyes
keep quiet
look inside
long dark shadows
brain-skull cavity
imagine edith piaf
barefoot in the rain
softly singing
another sad song

“bear creek haiku”

loving herself

no one cares for yesterday
worries about tomorrow
living in the moment

currently splake is filming for a new dvd production that will highlight the “green stone mine.” the mine was mentioned in splake’s previous publication “rainbow diary.” in addition, splake is waiting for copies of his new collection of poems to be published by editor dustin pickering of “transcendent-zero press: in houston, texas. the chapbook titled “last dance” is expected to be off the press sometime in mid-july.

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

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.”

crossing brautigan creek

RUSTY TRUCK PRESS editor scot young recently published a selection of my poetry in a side fold chapbook edition titled “crossing brautigan creek.”

scot like myself has for a long time appreciated the poetry in several of the richard brautigan books. he has a recent collection of his own brautigan poems titled “brautigan meets bukowski,” also produced by “rusty truck press.”

the “rusty truck” chapbook has a very special design with “die cuts” for the book’s title and the author’s name “splake.” in addition, the book has a very attractive feather stitch binding.

nationally-known poet alan catlin, of schenectady, new york, recently described “crossing brautigan creek” as a “unique idea – something from the good old days when the small presses did strange new things.”




forgotten works

brief moment

pausing at brautigan creek

piney woods path

beyond cobblestone chimney

american mine ruins

below granite cliffs

watery musical melodies

gentle reminder

of richard’s fine poetry

catfish friends


perfect days

marcus a-plus

also remembering

rocking chair miles

nights long ago

songs for baby daughter

soothing words

taking anxious casey

back to sweet dreams

# # # #



recently i have had two books published – calumet air force base, by gage press in battle creek, michigan, and splake, produced by transcendent-zero press in houston, texas. in addition i had five poems published in the fine small press literary journal “transcendent visions” located in fairless hills, pennsylvania.


the calumet air force base book had a brief history of the creation and operation of the base in calumet, michigan. there are also several color photographs that graphically review the wholesale vandalism that was done to the radar facility after it closed. finally there is a longer splake poem that reveals my personal feelings about walking around the old air force base and seeing the human devastation.


the central focus of splake was my literary tribute to my favorite writers – hemingway, keroauc, brautigan and charles bukowski. besides the poems for these writers, there were a few writings about the rosetta café, my favorite morning coffee drinking place. finally the “transcendent-zero press book finished with several new “graybeard” splake poems.


in the splake introduction, transcendent-zero press editor dustin pickering stated:

“splake does not coddle the reader like a baby, sugarcoating lust with spiritualizing. he affirms his life and he seeks a higher order in simplicity and defies the usual authorities with spark and courage.”

the following three “splake” poems come from the latest issue of “transcendent visions,” edited by david kime and published in fairless hills, pennsylvania.



the zone


daring outlaw

like tarovsky’s stalker

searching forbidden unknowns

soul suddenly alive

possessing new vision

silent passing

running through jungle

finding way back

returning to himself

before lost behind

yellow crime-scene tape


# # # #




beyond school celebrity

no think job

lost in cellphone

constant textings

killer “tits” shoes

lacy bra and panties

black sunglasses

teasing tattoos

without existential self

having no escape



# # # #


ice out finis


winds slowly turning

dark heavy shadow

hanging from eaves

naughty girl

showing her tits

silently whispering

“look at me”

black arctic nights

lonely endless terror

sunshine and spring

coming too late


# # # #




and and and, note, save your milk duds and jujubes, shortly there will be a new addition to the “splake site.” there will be poetry and photographs from the rusty truck chapbook collection of new poems, plus, eric greinke, editor of PRESA PRESS is presently reviewing my work for another book collection that will be titled “tommy’s desk.” finally, a modest chap of poems “waiting” is being prepared.





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