calumet art center

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.


splake: a day in the life

jim stegner is the central character in the new peter heller book the painter. in the heller book stegner describes his awe as a seventeen year old boy viewing the winslow homer painting “fog warning” at the san francisco museum of modern art.

the winslow painting shows a fisherman in a small boat facing an approaching wall of fog. the fisherman is alone and appears worried that if the fog surrounds him he could be lost at sea forever. young jim stegner immediately decided that he wanted to make stuff come alive as he had seen in the homer work and became a painter.

this driven creative feeling of “i want to do that” is exactly how i felt many years ago after reading the poetry of richard brautigan in his books rommel drives on deep into egypt and the pill versus the springhill mine disaster.

as a younger poet i quickly discovered that discipline – both mental and physical – were crucial to finishing an artist’s creative works. in a recent issue of “the daily rumpus” editor stephen elliott quoted a new york times study of creativity that stated the “way a brain works is similar to an elite athlete.”

becoming a determined artist anxious to discover experiences that i had never felt before, i established a rigid working schedule for my writing days. the outline of my basic habits are revealed in the “splake: a day in the life” dvd.

in the video the alarm wakes me early in the morning and i shower, knot my ponytail, quickly check the home computer and have breakfast at the bard res. then i drive to my studio in the vertin arts building to work. during this early morning time i check on the latest e-mails, jump start my brain with a crossword puzzler or two and review the planned agenda for that day.

however, after an hour or two i pause to get a second cup of coffee and check up on local calumet gossip at the orson welles booth in the evergreen café. at the evergreen café i chat briefly with the waitresses, mary rowe and patrice kauppinen and jikiwe, director of the vertin art gallery. when i made the “a day in the life” video jikiwe and i used to discuss the future issues of cliffs soundings, the literary magazine that we produced on the evergreen café mornings.

“a day in the life” video finishes with a second early morning drive from my ash street old mining row house in the tamarack location to the vertin building in an early morning blizzard. the careful viewer will note that the snowflakes are thick and there is also about eight inches of fresh snow covering the street. a person familiar with calumet architecture can see the red sandstone structure of the old calumet theater building while driving on sixth street to the red blinker light and the vertin art gallery


NOTE: as an additional footnote, since my early mornings in the studio in the vertin art gallery i have moved my writing location to the “splake writing room and library” in the calumet art center building.


“splake: a day in the life”

calumet art center

the calumet art center

the calumet art center

weaving at the calumet art center

weaving at the calumet art center

weaving at the calumet art center

weaving at the calumet art center

sewing machine at the calumet art center

sewing machine at the calumet art center

textile pattern at the calumet art center

textile pattern at the calumet art center

pottery at the calumet art center

pottery at the calumet art center

the old sign at the calumet art center

the old sign at the calumet art center

loom at the calumet art center

loom at the calumet art center