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”


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.

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


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


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


kilgore splake’s most recent chapbook “last train home” was edited by emilie ruiz and published by “gage press” in battle creek, michigan. the general theme of splake’s “last train home” are poems that describe the memories of a graybeard artist. his book begins with an excerpt from the hank williams country-western ballad “i’m so lonesome i could cry.”

“hear that lonesome whippoorwill

he sounds too blue to fly

the midnight train is whining low

i’m so lonesome i could cry”



last train home cover

last train home cover



sabbath truth

pentecostal sunday service

mercy river choir

singing loud hallelujahs

solemn prayers to god

while i believe in birds

making wilderness music

writing poems capturing

freedom of their songs



quiet nevada yonlands

empty desert waiting

new crazy dreamers

escaping civilized life

seeking mysterious something

that doesn’t have a name

previous ghosts forgotten

big blond girl

not trusting people

couple of cowboys

suffering broken hearts

john huston’s film

arthur miller in shadows

wrestling wild horses

hoping to discover

way back home



steady rain

cold early may

old chevy van

full of mice shit

scattered acorn shells

wet sleeping bag

damp levis socks sweater

clammy chilly feel

threatening hypothermia

deep forest hours

blackest time of night

noises getting louder

wolves moving closer

last beer hours ago

radio signal distant

batteries almost dead

d.j.’s fading whispers

country-western music weak

nashville wlac

mind wildly racing

waking early

brain-killing hangover

lost in eternal darkness

joining ghost pack

flying above treetops

early morning mists

chasing hot blood scents


beginning of forever

early morning silence

city limit sign

fading in rearview mirror

keweenaw co-op stop

tranny petrol fill

holiday quick-mart pause

grabbing two bundles

dry campfire wood

large styrene cup

six hour old coffee

yesterday’s mining gazette

on pickup seat

bottle of jack d.

brown paper sack

black label prime

after coffee push

solitary traveler

tavern’s last call done

too early for morning workers

as f. scott said

dark night of the soul

always three o’clock

crossing portage liftbridge

passing through houghton

quiet university campus

chassell baraga l’anse

headlights silhouetting

miles of pine forest shadows

large green highway sign

big bay marquette escanaba

wfxd-103 noise

uncle elmer aho

midnight to dawn

country-western music express

program celebrating two hanks

ranger snow’s

“a fool such as i”

sad williams voice

“cold cold heart”

down hill into munising

radio sounds dim

listening instead

to steady thrummm

rhythm of highway wheels turning

hi yo silver away

ford ranger’s horses

pistons softly purring

dark distant hours

driving through kingston plains

sudden storm exploding

lightning streaking across sky

loud thunder rocking old stumps

magical wilderness sympathy

turning into sullivan pond

remote two-tire ruts

building small fire

winter blowdown shelter

brewing fresh coffee

tiny hot embers

watching eastern horizon

becoming first light

remembering early morning

many years ago

college professor

nursing last night’s hangover

with folger’s red label

for some reason

scribbling a poem

on wrinkled paper plate

quickly writing

another poem or two

stories about

birds and owls

black bears and trees

lumberjacks at log slide

warm lighthouse community

dark rogue wolf

hunting early breakfast

sable lake splake waiting

not realizing then

new person born

choosing right words

creating something new

now exciting challenge

as mayfly

teasing hungry trout


future footnotes

splake is currently working on a new manuscript of poems for dustin pickering, editor of
“transcendent-zero-press” in houston, texas.

in addition splake has established a serious connection with john burroughs, editor of “crisis chronicles press” in cleveland, ohio. burroughs and splake are negotiating a splake collection of poems to be published early in 2016.


photo featured in last train home, by t.k. splake


photo featured in last train home, by t.k. splake


photo featured in last train home, by t.k. splake

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.”

doomsday library – “first five books”

the reader of this commentary should understand that i have read and enjoyed all of the books on my “doomsday library” list.  i also found the decision of the top ten books to be an extremely difficult choice to make.  in addition, it should be understood that whether living on a desert island, in a mountaintop stone hut, or cabin in the deep forest, my books would be reread several times.  so, the strength of my authors is their reminder of important past events and to continue to provide me with insights to new experiences.

pilgrim at tinker creek
annie dillard

i have many writing friends who live on the west coast and in the warmer southern states who frequently ask me, “t, how can you stand those bitter upper peninsula winters.” my response is probably not very convincing to them, however, i would not feel comfortable living where i did not experience the changing of the different seasons.

annie dillard’s book grew out of her personal journal recording her meanderings around tinker creek in the blue ridge mountains of virginia. the book, pilgram at tinker creek, is divided into four sections, each one describing what dillard saw during each passing season.

the book’s narrative identifies with the area’s flora and fauna and suggests to me what i should see and understand during my visits to the upper peninsula wilderness areas. i read pilgrim at tinker creek the first time one summer while camping in the pictured rocks outback. two days after reading about the “giant water bug,” i saw one devouring a frog in a backwater swamp

in short, annie’s book is my continuous outdoor guide.

henry david thoreau

walden is a book that should be read at least once a year by all students and adult citizens. the wise observations and recommendations made by thoreau provide an excellent guide to measure an individual’s vision and the progress of their life.

in the pages of walden, thoreau mentions “masses of men lead lives of quiet desperation” and strongly recommends “simplicity, simplicity, simplicity.” in the chapter “what i lived for” thoreau says:

“the millions are awake enough for physical labor; but only one in a million is awake enough for effective intellectual exertion, only on in a hundred million to a poetic or divine life.”

having become a poet in my senior, graybeard years, i am, as the author of walden says, marching to a different drummer.

trout fishing in america
richard brautigan

college professors lost in their academic posturing and alaskan politicians who have acted to destroy their state’s wilderness will never understand or appreciate trout fishing in america.  author brautigan believes that trout is a creature of great natural beauty, but also does not believe in catching them. in his short story “the trout fishing diary of alonzo hagen” brautigan makes a chart detailing “trips made–trout lost.”

also in the story “the cleveland wrecking yard” brautigan described selling used trout streams:

“how much are you selling the streams for. . . . six dollars and fifty cents a foot. . . that’s for the first hundred feet. . . after that it is five dollars a foot. . . how much for the birds. . . thirty-five cents a piece. . . but of course they are used, . . .”

in all of brautigan’s writings, there is a short clever wit to his imagination, which explains why only those open to new ideas and writing styles will appreciate reading his books.

a fan’s notes
frederick exley

exley was a fine writer, alcoholic, failure at marriage and rehabilitation, and possessed an alter ego in the football player frank gifford who played for the new york giants. with his writing and personal credentials, how could i not relate to the life of exley. all you have to do is substitute the university of michigan wolverines for his new york giants.

for most of my life i have failed to measure up satisfactorily to what the “great american dream” required of mature individuals. however, the summer that i wrote my first poem and declared myself an artist freed me. it saved me from being one of society’s ordinary spectators quietly watching life from the sidelines.

cold mountain

whatever season i climb the cliffs–spring, summer, autumn, or the upper peninsula time of the long white–this graybeard poet carries along with him the poems of the crazy chinese hermit.  han-shan described the nervous noisy big city life and how he quickly became a prisoner of the things that money could buy.  he returned to the wilderness, prowling about the forests and streams.  his poems say life is too short and that the only true way to determine truth is through meditation.

today, hiking up the cliffs and standing in the summit’s shadows, han-shan and i listen together to the mad poetic voices spoken by the winds.

(continued in “doomsday library – second five books”)

the moon

the moon

the moon – front cover

this past week i received the new copies of the march edition of the moon. this is a fine small publication edited by alison vyain in fort wayne, indiana. i was extremely pleased with the splake cover photographs and my two poems in the new the moon production.

t. kilgore splake

smug others saying
“you need counseling
a good shrink”
preachy pios sob’s
so goddamn sure
they’re perfect

t. kilgore splake

cold hobo campfire
invisible shadow moving on
hard lonely life
no loving wife
caring son or daughter
sour whiskey breath
wrinkled threadbare clothes
boots with many miles
solitary poet
thin morning light
writing new words
desperate chaotic lines
dreams of new love

the moon - back cover

the moon – back cover

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.

penny ante feud 13

the past week i received the latest issue of penny ante feud, an excellent collection of poetry published by “shoe music press” in alpharetta, georgia.  in the new edition ed markowski wrote a poem “a tribute” which contained welcome praise for this graybeard wordsmith living in the far northern territory of michigan’s upper peninsula.

ed is a nationally known writer of haiku poetry who lives below the bridge in the downstate flatlands of auburn hills, michigan.  he has also developed an interest and talent in painting which provides him with a valuable second creative outlet.

“A Tribute”
by Ed Markowski

With thin blood tender tender calloused feet and a pacemaker propelling his ascension beyond the summit to refresh the poet tree planting new packets of strong steady words that were born bred and bathed in the salt of the Earth up and down a crazy star-pocked trail this sacrilegious saint and Saint Bernard who drained every drop of amber sanity from the decaying industrial guts of greed spilling lava hot from macro micro and Velcro America with an RG Dunn clenched firmly between his teeth flicking flies tagging trout and living wise in the soothing cool of an eternal keweenaw stream carousing with his muse creating shaman songs gloriously drunk with the spirits of the B Brothers and our Grand Papa encased behind a warrior’s sad eyes on the snow-shocked streets of a ghost-less ghost town after seventy-five years the white pine poet explores a new rock-topped superior shoreline that would kill a man half his age splashing his mad mind stew and painting his mind mad mural across a vast shifting snow-carved canvas dancing wolf wild through a shattered glass landscape in shoes that only he can fill.