poem

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

dscn5600

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”

MORE SPLAKE

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.”

graybeard1

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.

ash

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.

“abbey”

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

“glimpse”

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.

MORE SPLAKE’S TAKES

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.

antennas

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.

aatower

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.

aaasplake

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.

aaatvision

 

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

 

# # # #

 

sylvia

 

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

 

# # # #

 

! COMING EVENTS !

 

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.

 

 

 

more splake poems and photogs

recently i have enjoyed success in getting both poems and photographs published in significant small press journals.

george wallace wrote an excellent review of my presa press book “winter river flowing” in the pedestal magazine.  wallace’s remarks are important for the serious splake reader.

 

cover for winter river flowing published by presa press

cover for winter river flowing, published by presa press, reviewed by the pedestal’s george wallace

t. kilgore splake
winter river flowing: selected poems 1979-2014
Presa Press
ISBN: 978-0-9888279-6-7

Reviewer: George Wallace

For lovers of American poetry that flourishes under the radar, wandering through the slow, steady experience of recollecting the past with poet t. kilgore splake will be an experience of ineluctable delight.

In single poems that have basked in the underground, splake offers captivating memory-pieces characterized by fleeting, impressionistic brushstrokes that mount and layer with an inexorable and satisfying sense of inevitability.

To be short, splake writes like a “lonely lake superior lighthouse keeper with time to muse and write”—and asks of his readers that they slow down and listen with the same level of commitment and patience.

Yes, the tales are sometimes told in a disjointed, incomplete way; sufficient to reignite the author’s memory, no doubt, and often capable of rewarding the reader’s faith that, at any moment in the seemingly endless litany of fragmented memory, a golden nugget may emerge.

It requires a certain frame of mind, of course; the ability to take a deep breath, take it in slowly, to fully savor the steady pace of a storyteller with all the time in the world on his hands.

One approaches a splake poem with wonder and anticipation—wait and listen, through the aggregation, for that special moment which will claim the attention.

As much as that may be a challenge for the modern reader when simply confronted with a single splake poem, how will the fast-paced 21st century American make the time to listen to this marvelous voice for a full 150 pages?

For those who can, the rewards are plentiful. There is an incantatory sweep to the author’s voice which invites the splake-savvy reader to trance out with the speaker, go with the flow—mesmerized, as if by a stranger’s monologue in a dusty Upper Peninsula bar, dust motes dancing against the sun-spattered windowpane as the rest of the patrons hunch heavy-shouldered over beer.

splake is an “endless sentence” poet, with a twist. There’s a regularity of rhythmic shorthand that runs consistently through the body of work, an accretion of short sentence fragments that offer snapshot glimpses into a “continuous past” where the present is not only present, but unshakeable.

Still, that’s a Kerouac trope, and the author tips his hand to the beat author in the epigraph to “trout dancing sonata” (2012): july 1947, sal paradise leaving new York with a few veteran benefit dollars, crazy long-hair hipster, dawn of jazz america, following the purity of “on the road” to denver, visiting larimer gang, old colfax bars and poolhalls with dean…”

splake is all-in with Kerouac, it seems; he’s picked up Jack’s old stylistic baton and run with it, dropping articles with abandon and, more importantly, putting down brushstroke after brushstroke of truncated noun phrases and verb phrases that start with –ing.

The opening lines to “far northern dream” (2012) are characteristic:

late afternoon
long quiet pause
january thaw
warm chinook winds
melting long white drifts
graying poet
finishing new verse
surprising words
“suddenly summer old age”
hard to imagine
years rapidly passing

splake’s true to this stylistic approach throughout the 35 years’ worth of poems covered in the book. Turn to almost any page and you’ll find poems that are detailed, minute remembrances reminiscent of Proust, yet yielding—also in Proustian fashion—to the inexorable parade of imagery and moments.

For all the sense that, across the pages, we’re dealing with the writings of a middle-aged man, there is a wilderness-loving, hard-drinking rawness, and immediacy to the early poems which is fundamentally unlike what splake offers us in later poems.

In the early poems, he’s prone to rev up his engine in fine fashion, an angler gripped with fisherman’s fever, going on“tunnel vision odysseys” across southern Ontario, sipping beer and chewing down sausages for untold hours until “bending into motel-service station complex, crashing on pickup truck front seat.” (“journey to climb a mountain,” 1991).

Or he’s picking up strange women outside a bar on some middle-American city street and taking them off to a cabin for a one night stand, then “sneaking away with carom off basement furnace, relieved to be outside, see the sky…” (“the trophy room,” 1993).

It’s not all macho display. splake adopts a worshipful, wistful tone in poems like “winter prayer” (1980), asking the returning sun to “green the spring forest…and bleach my gray beard red…one more time”; in “memories in spring” (1990), taking “communion in the woods…almost like aging primal druid seeking soul mood in quiet sacred nemeton….”

All things must pass, however. As might be expected, the energy level, sense of virility, and pure spunk shift perceptibly as the years pass and splake approaches 80.

In later poems we’re more likely to be confronted with the“graybeard poet angler/ passing misty memories” (“cocaine rainbow trout,” 2001); an “old man on nightly hike/…deep in december tides/” with a “hated millstone career/ alcoholic suicide dance/ avoiding seductive nothingness,” anticipating waking up in the morning with a “wild tiger/ roaring in his skull” (“long white musings, 2006).

It’s worth noting that Ernest Hemingway is one of the many male/macho characters to whom splake tips his hat. In early poems, Hemingway’s invoked as a macho figure with hard-drinking ways, who jumps out of boxcars with seeming abandon. But by the end of the collection, splake reduces Hemingway to just another literary suicide, in a list that includes Hunter S. Thompson, Richard Brautigan, and Richard Corey.

Our author, thankfully, spares us wondering too much about the whole suicide thing. In fact, he leaves us with a taste of his irreducible impulse to hang on, “wrestling with another/ poem two or three/ until mind shuts down/ body wears out…” (“tommy,” 2014).

For those of us who have enjoyed the poetry of t. kilgore splake all these years, and for new readers about to enter his world, that impulse is certainly good news.

use this link to view the story on pedestal magazine’s website.

# # # # #

glimpse published a splake poem in the june issue.

growing up a poet

collecting stamps

british empire issues best

making one-tube radio

listening to foreign voices

assembling model airplanes

balsa cement tissues

summer with cubs

raspy static chicago station

chuck berry fats domino songs

wlac tennessee

lonely boy

shy around girls

tender feelings

hoping someone cares

the latest edition of bear creek haiku published six splake poems.

riding with delivery man

bottles clinking in wire baskets

early morning adventure

to end of the block

####

waiting early morning

computer screen warming

creative tensions growing

time to make things happen

third wednesday‘s new production has a splake black-and-white photograph titled “long white spirit”.

splake photo - the long white spirit

splake photo – the long white spirit

lilliput review #196 also published a splake poem.

lilliput review #196

lilliput review #196

beginning

agates describing

fiery explosions

crawling glacier whispers

before fish

leaving fossil lines

quiet echoes

along superior shore

spring edition of trajectory published two splake poems in issue 10.

finishing line

suddenly realizing

days closing fast

rat bastard time disappearing

necessary to stand tall

in small ignorant world

shouting loud goddamn

i was here

this is my poem

finally, i have cover photographs and poems in alison vayne’s june edition of the moon literary magazine.

june edition of the moon

june edition of the moon, cover photo by splake

misfits

arid nevada mesquite

empty desert waiting

new crazy dreamers

escaping civilized life

previous ghosts forgotten

big blond girl

not trusting people

couple of cowboys

suffering broken hearts

john huston film

arthur miller in shadows

wrestling wild horses

hoping solitude

freedom from wages

regular routines

providing quiet peace

more splake ink

recently i have enjoyed success in getting my work printed in several significant small press publications.

my poem “go out and play” was printed in the 35th anniversary issue of plainsongs.

the splake poem “spring training” was published in the spring issue of the avocet.

kevin ring, editor of the british magazine beat scene wrote a book review of my “the jack kerouac upper peninsula diary.”

bear creek haiku volumes # 125 and 126 contained four separate short splake poems.

finally my poems earned ink and space in the april and may editions of the moon.

 

35th anniversary issue of plainsongs

35th anniversary issue of plainsongs

 

go out and play

never heard anymore
music lessons sports practices
social club activities
cocooned children
lost in technology
alien blips and bleeps
playing computer games
beating monitor enemy
quietly all alone

 

 

2015 spring issue of the avocet

2015 spring issue of the avocet

spring training

march coming into april
on cold misty breaths
red-throated hawks
dark silhouettes
inside shafts of sunlight
afloat on warm thermals
old poet musing
remembering camping trips
with two young sons
gathering dry twigs
building small pyramids
campfire flame kindlings
late hot chocolate
toasted marshmallow dessert
couple of wonka chapters
before going to bed

 

beat scene issue #76

beat scene issue #76

The Jack Kerouac Upper Peninsula Diary
T. Kilgore Splake
(Angst Productions)

Thomas Smith has me confused.  I’ve known of him, and T. Kilgore Splake for a good few years.  Splake is his alter ego, I guess.  Having just read this chapbook, originally published in 1998, I’ve found it unsettling and beguiling at the same turning of a page.

In this diary of a purely fictitious road trip by Jack Kerouac back in 1958, Kerouac rejoices in all the trials, tribulations and little joys of being mobile, sticking his thumb out – drinking beers with truck drivers, sleeping in woods at the edge of whatever small town he is passing through.  He’s inwardly lamenting his loneliness, his inability to love fully, find a woman and stay with her.  And he writes to his various friends around America, often thinly disguised friends, Old Bull Lee, Julien, Gilgoric, JanJan, his Memere, Japhy, Sterling, Neal of course.

In his short introduction to this collection of diaries and journals, letters to and from Jack Kerouac, – T. Kilgore Splake tells us “…quickly I leafed through the wrinkled, dogeared pages, discovering it was a diary collection of letters, notes, poems, and sort commentaries still distinguishable in fading ink colors, suddenly I felt a stunned awareness at the potential of my accidental find.  My brain felt like it was madly spinning while I pondered the possible discovery of some unknown and unacknowledged “On the Road” writings of the sad, down and out master of the ‘Beat Generation.’ I felt my curiosity growing as I quickly read the diary accounts of Jack cutting out of San Francisco, playing rides across the country, passing through Michigan’s upper peninsula on his way back east, maybe to New York, or maybe to visit memere, maybe both.”

Now, this forty four page chapbook was published 17 years ago, it may have gone mostly unnoticed outside of a small circle, I don’t know.  But it is a clever, intriguing, almost unique slant on looking at Jack Kerouac.  Getting inside his head. If you were completely unaware you migh, just might, imagine these were really Kerouac’s own words.  I’d put it up alongside Victor Levy Beaulieu’s Jack Kerouac: A Chicken Essay from long ago.

 

 

bear creek haiku #125 – 126

 

winter dawn

early white softness
sweet dreamsongs
warming old bardic bones

# # # #

backwater winter

pewter gray sky
blue jay flitting
long white
blizzard

 

 

the moon april 2015

the moon april 2015

my lie

faded prom orchid
“stardust” memories
in country “dear john”
shau valley massacre
finding dead “lurps”
cocks in their mouths
burning hooches
women and childern kia’s
lost boy soldier
dreaming of home

 

the moon may 2015

the moon may 2015

untitled

unexpected pregnancy
destroying young girl’s plans
becoming airline stewardess
hospital technician
iga grocery lifer
stocking cans
pricing boxes
sleeping eating paying bills
dreams of travel
buying new clothes
finding interesting man
seeing her reflection
store window glass
looking like amish doll
without any face

the moon

splake cover photographs and poems

 

     i am fortunate to have a wonderful creative-artist-editor relationship with alison vyain who publishes the moon literary journal. alison has been extremely generous in giving me ink and page space for my poems as well as choosing several splake photographs for her magazine covers.

     yesterday i posted several recent copies of the moon to my archives at northern michigan university in marquette, michigan, and michigan technological university on the houghton, michigan campus.

     the following are some of the cover photographs as well as recent splake poems published by alison vyain in the moon.

 

 ###

september 2014

SeptMoon

 

 

cuppa regular

 

early morning

barista’s small talk

italian coffee maker

strange growling sounds

hot steamy hiss

customers waiting

exotic caffeine mixtures

lattes espressos cappuccinos

make mind black

no cream or sugar

paper cup with lid

ready to go

 

###

november 2014

 

 

NovMoon

 

 

dad

 

nighttime musings

warm leinie suds

soon winter

many miles waiting

before time to rest

father never knowing

his poetry writing son

fatal heart attack

killing chance

being proud

of his creative blood

 

###

december 2014

 

 

DecMoon

 

 

lighthouse

 

quiet poet

wrestling elusive muse

light always running

nighttime finally over

 

###

january 2015

 

MoonJan

 

 

poet

 

vulnerable and doubting

like kafkas’ “hunger artists”

exists only to create

not seeking celebrity

accumulating wealth

finding right word

making something new

 

 

depression

 

drapes pulled

long dark days

without any friends

grocery post office

trout fishing

serious forced labors

five lives gone

demanding one more

 

small press literary “scores”

at the close of 2014, splake had poems published in several small literary editions.  these included the kurt vonnegut memorial library journal so it goes.  he also had poems produced in cheap seats ticket to ride, bear creek haiku, penny ante feud, and trajectory. the literary magazine trajectory published the splake photograph of the old railroad station in seney, michigan, where ernest hemingway arrived to discover and write about the “big two-hearted river.”


 

so it goes, indianapolis, in

 

hip gallerinas

 

bloody guitar fingers

playing another riff

lonely poet

staring in mirror

seeing pollack’s ghost

watching colors dry

 

 

academic angling

 

buff colored volvo

faculty parking lot

trout fishing outing

expensive graphite rod

fly box loaded

dry “ibis”

weighted “op cits”

 


 

trajectory, frankfort, ky

trajectory

t. kilgore splake's photo of the old train station in seney, mi  published in trajectory, fall 2014

t. kilgore splake’s photo of the old train station in seney, mi
published in trajectory, fall 2014

 

always heading north

 

relentless focus

bolano jim harrison splake

crossing nameless rivers

hiking toward mountains

seeking space

solitary beauty

abandoning greed

broken-hearted love

forgotten youthful dreams

living in pine shadows

running with wolves

soaring on eagle wings

dark clear nights

moon belongs to us

 


 

cheap seats ticket to ride, empire, co

###

her soft voice whispering, “i

still love you, please come

home,” like yuri zhivago on

endless odyssey, chasing aching

heart


bear creek haiku, boulder, co

###

sanity = denial of reality and no poets

about as creative as toilet seat at

“self-service” gas station  on the

interstate


penny ante feud, alpharetta, ga

penny

darkness into light

 

early morning

first dawn shadows

turning tranny miles north

time for trekking

leaving quiet footsteps

climbing cliffs summit

crossing brautigan creek

recalling papa hem favorite

across the river

and into the trees

solitary poet

whiskey soaked brain

moving slowly

out of body consciousness

not like others

ant farm beehive drones

dawn to dusk

doing same old same

or tartt’s goldfinch

cage chained ankle

always landing in same place

listening to forest ghosts

old copper miners

big lake seamen

lumberjacks and trappers

finnish farmers

tilling hard-scrabble soils

young native warriors

children lost

hot diphtheria fevers

better companions

than living cadavers

stupid petty voices

not missing woman

sacred profane passions

adriana of dreams

“renata” safe for papa

sad females

full of pas resentments

collected from junior high

constant naggy complaints

numbing creative visions

leaving unpublished books

lost in literary shadows

moving up path

passing young pines

needles softly purring

old meadow with

thimbleberries in season

deep blue sky

thin clouds across horizon

hawks eagles falcons

soaring on warm thermals

reaching escarpment heights

standing at world’s edge

thinking about beyond

wondering what’s next

knowing i’ll be here forever

dave engel scattering

funeral ashes and bones

afternoon light fading

racing night

back down cliffs

retrieving pickup truck

crockpot madness stew

bard res dinner waiting

before lost in darkness

like prisoner of tri-xxxy neg

keeping eyes open

for mountain lion

like matthiessen’s snow leopard

another pure spirit

winter river flowing

cover for winter river flowing published by presa press

cover for winter river flowing published by presa press

i am extremely pleased with my latest book winter river flowing, a collection of splake poems from 1967 to 2014.

the literary kudos and congratulations for this publication should go to eric greinke and roseanne rizema – the editor and the creative genius of “presa press” – located in rockford, michigan. in a september, 2013 e-mail message eric strong suggested a splake “deathbed edition.” he said such a collection of my “greatest works” would allow readers the opportunity to see the full range of my writings. winter river flowing contains both long and short poems. it also demonstrates the change from my more traditional writing style to a more spartan poetic dimension.

it was my pleasure working with eric. our relationship – the creative give and take between poet and editor – made me feel like old papa hem working with the scribner’s press editor maxwell perkins,

the book’s title, winter river flowing reflects upon my status as a gray-bearded versemaker. in the winter river waters run slower and yet still reach their destination. now, late in my life the mornings when i engage the elusive damn dame lady muse, my imagination is also slower, but it is still determined to succeed.

 

excerpts from winter river flowing

the following are a few of the shorter poems found in the pages of the recent PRESA PRESS publication of splake poems.

 

rx for a tired presence (1979)

 

climate where air is fresh, surroundings quiet

some rain and sunshine

fewer people more animals and birds

forest leaves for footsteps’ carpet

moonshadows for a roof

travel by foot moving slowly

worms if trout are biting

 

###

 

cybernetic chapbook (1997)

 

roman-numbered copyright i.d., contact library of congress

computer network, key book to credit card account,

“seal of approval” happy endings, registered, sanitized,

authentic, with special ISBN birthright, closing credits,

while lone “road weary” beat-boho poet passes out

wrinkled sheets of poetry,

street corner graybeard giving away pieces of his heart.

 

###

 

long white musings (2006)

 

winter evening darkness

frosty breath steaming

old man on nightly hike

graybeard poet

deep in December tides

swamper bootsteps crunching

arctic long white

misty dreams

pretty girl lover

never found

april motorcycle fevers

vincent “black lightning”

brit cc’s jazzing cojones

fading distant light

grizzled bardic survivor

youth wives hospital stays

hated millstone career

alcoholic suicide dance

avoiding seductive nothingness

garden gold

television vegetable

soon back home

art gallery sanctuary

alone in nighttime quiet

sipping warm bitter ale

soft incense aroma

muse light whispers

words becoming music

early tomorrow waking

wild tiger

roaring in his skull

 

###

 

holy holy holy (2013)

 

chartres stained glass

bleeding jesus body

like faded body art

old beatnik tattoo

 

###

 

feeding 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

doomsday library – “second five books”

continued from doomsday library, first five books

zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance
robert pirsig

pirsig’s book describes a 17-day motorcycle journey from minnesota to northern california by the author and his young son.  the narrator of the story is phaedrus, a teacher of creative and technical writing at a small midwestern college.

while turning the highway miles there is a heavy-duty discussion of the topics of epistemology, ethical emotivism, and the philosophy of science.  however, the most important issue ot phaedrus is establishing a definition of quality.  phaedrus says, “you know what it is, yet you do’t know what it is. . . obviously some things are better than others. . . so round and round you go.”

zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance was also a serious attempt of a failed father to successfully bond with his son on their road trip.  this brought back memories of my uneasy relationship as a single-parent taking my son camping in the michigan upper peninsula for the first time.  for a brief moment i was seen as a distant personality to ted, until we fished for trout, climbed in the porcupine mountains, and cooked our dinners on the lake superior shore.

with pirsig–or phaedrus–and his history of mental illness there was also a tension over would he stay well until they reached their california destination.  reflecting on this dilemma, i remembered driving late at night through the canadian gaspee peninsula, my brain numbed with thorazine and wondering if i would make it to maine and climb mount katahdin.

the shipping news
annie proulx

in the shipping news, author annie proulx weaves a tale of a sad newspaper pressman worker quoyle who surprisingly turns his dismal life around.  quoyle takes the advice of his aunt and moves with his two daughters back to his ancestral home in kellick-claw, newfoundland.  in kellick-claw, quoyle gets a job with the local newspaper, the gammy bird, and writes stories about the arrival and departure of ships from the local harbor.

quoyle is successful with his job, makes close friends in his new community, and develops a warm relationship with a young kellick-claw woman.  it was good to read about a loser who seized the opportunity to find happiness.  this was just like my present graybeard days having obtained the freedom to think and write.

the mysterious island
jules verne

i have no idea how many times i have read the mysterious island, the exciting adventure tale by jules verne.  the first time was as a young adolescent in the smith family living room.  other times i would pick up the book when i felt the need to revisit the daring of men facing a serious challenge.

verne’s novel is about five men escaping a richmond, virginia prison during the american civil war by hijacking a balloon.  verne’s characters are cyrus harding, an engineer, and his black servant neb, a sailor pencroff and his adopted son herbert, a journalist gedeon spillet, and cyrus harding’s dog, top.

a violent storm carries their balloon to a small unkown volcanic island in the pacific ocean where they are marooned.  the survivors name their new location “lincoln island” after president abraham lincoln, and establish a cliff-side dwelling that they called “granite house.”

the small group using their wits and intelligence are able to sustain themselves on the “mysterious island.”  they were able to create fire, make pots and bricks, and harvest enough food to live.

at the end of verne’s book, the “mysterious island” is destroyed when the volcano erupts, however, the island colonists were rescued.  another mystery of the island was the presence of captain nemo and his nautilus submarine.  nemo sent a message to the skipper of the ship duncan to come and save the island’s settlers.

each time i have reread verne’s the mysterious island, i dream that i was also a settler on lincoln island and working with the others to face the needs of survival.

songs of a sourdough
robert service

i have always carried on a serious and distant love affair with the territory of alaska.  once i even tried to obtain employment in the state teaching for the bureau of indian affairs.  so, i find the poems of robert service indeed interesting to read and relate to.  if i was a hermit by some accident or design it is likely that i would memorize my favorite sourdough poems.

in his poem “the call of the wild” service speaks to the wilderness.

“there’s a whisper on the night-wind, there’s a
star agleam to guide us,
and the wild is calling, calling, . . . .”

the service poem “the three voices” reminds me of the many nights i camped alone in the pictured rocks michigan upper peninsula outback.

“there by the campfire’s flicker,
deep in my blanket curled,
I long for the peace of the pine-gloom
when the scroll of the lord is unfurled,
and the wind and the wave are silent,
and the world is singing to world.”

my favorite song of a sourdough poem is service’s “the men who don’t fit in.”

“there’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
a race that can’t stand still;
so they break the hearts of kith and kin,
and roam the world at will.
and each forgets that his youth has fled,
forgets his prime is past,
till he stands one day with a hope that’s dead
in the glare of truth at last.
he’s a rolling stone, and it’s bred in the bone;
he’s a man who won’t fit in.”

rainbow diary
t. kilgore splake

i believe in my writing and feel that the story in rainbow diary represents my most honest and creative literary work.  rainbow diary describes the lives of the poet and his soul mate vida who live in their stone house on the cliffs of eagle island.  they have escaped the anarchy of “mala nala” a community connecting five separate islands in the pointe archipelago.

the separate chapbook chapters reflect living beneath the different colored rainbows arching over the separate islands.  these rainbows are “red strawberry, black licorice, golden honey, emerald mint, chocolate brown, and creme vanilla.”  the chapbook concludes with a double-rainbow morning on the cliffs.

my rainbow diary writings raise the question: is the poet the existential loner of camus’ meursault in the stranger, and the cliffs jules verne’s the mysterious island of my youth? are the poet and vida reminiscent of zhivago and his wife living in a romantic retreat on the distant russian steppes outside varykino?  definitely the lives and loves of the poet and vida closely resemble those of brautigan and pauline in their “watermelon sugar.”