literature

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

“iconoclast”

“discovery”

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

 
 
 

“brevities”

IMG_20171220_130944056

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

IMG_20171220_131011366_BURST000_COVER

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”

IMG_20171220_131119609_BURST000_COVER

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.

writingroom“depot”

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.

CACP -

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

story,

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.

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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

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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.

splakewwcac

 

 

“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.

greenstones

 

 

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”

 

death

 

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

 

 

“brevities”

 

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

 

 

2017

     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.

 

ristau

 

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

kindle reader

i have a vintage kindle reader without whistles and bells that rarely logs many serious reading hours.  however, there are the significant moments when the kindle saves me a lot of precious rat bastard time.

sometimes i find a day or a weekend when suddenly the splake note folder is empty and i have no new netflix movies to watch.  a few minutes afterh a quick click on the computer screen i have a new and interesting book ready to read on my kindle.

already i have read four of my brain-candy favorite clive cussler novels on my kindle.  in a serious day of page turning i can finish a NUMA (united state national underwater and marine agency) adventure with cussler’s exciting dirk pitt, al giordino, and admiral sandecker.

in addition, i have read poetry collections by charles bukowski, lyn lifshin, and vera pavlova on  my kindle.  the ease of the kindle operation allowed me to quickly acquire and finish the play endgame by samuel beckett.

steve hamilton, joseph heywood and william kent krueger write michigan upper peninsula mystery stories.  these are the thrilling adventures of “yooper” policemen and conservation officers solving criminal activities.  the kindle reader provides me a fast connection to their new books.

the kindle’s ability of instant acquisition has also let me read immediately the writings of my close literary friends.  my kindle has the walt mclaughlin book a little bit of paris and robert zoschke’s work door country blues.

my most recent weekend kindle time saving successes was downloading the new sonny longtine book murder in michigan’s upper peninsula, an interesting collection of upper peninsula history.