t. kilgore splake


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 https://tksplake.wordpress.com



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 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



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


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




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








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








quiet poet

wrestling elusive muse

light always running

nighttime finally over



january 2015







vulnerable and doubting

like kafkas’ “hunger artists”

exists only to create

not seeking celebrity

accumulating wealth

finding right word

making something new





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


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


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


penny ante feud, alpharetta, ga


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

splake book cover photograph

i am extremely pleased to have a photograph of t. kilgore splake chosen to be the the front cover picture for the new book by alan catlin, “books of the dead: a memoir with poetry.”


Books of the Dead combines prose narration and poems revolving around the life and the deaths of my divorced parents. The first section is The New York City Book of the Dead which centers around Room 641 of the Martha Washington Hotel for Women in Midtown Manhattan, where the refuse of her life collected during seven long years of schizophrenic isolation.  Beginning on the worst day of my life, entering that room and searching through the often knee high piles of junk for vital papers,  the book moves backwards in time, showing our relationship and the various stages of her madness coming full circle back to where we begin, at the end.  The second section is “The Central Florida Book of the Dead” deals with the sudden death of my father and the lingering terminal illness of my step-mother and the dreaded phrase, “according to Florida Law.” This section is a kind of a breathless blur, reflecting a five month odyssey that had us commuting from New York to Florida to deal with estate matters, matters that became so complicated, there was not time for grieving. This is a handsome trade sized paperback of nearly 220 pages and unlike any memoir you have ever read.

 splake photograph for "books of the dead" by alan catlin

splake photograph for “books of the dead” by alan catlin


for those interested in purchasing “books of the dead” the price is $13 and post the book order to:


alan catlin

143 furman street

schenectady, ny 12304

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.”

tommy “bard res”



early april morning

gentle taste of spring

sun shining blue sky

birds cheerily singing

happy melodies

on  warm soft breeze

surviving season of long winter

frigid arctic degrees

accumulating snow drifts

bastard clock hands racing

running out of ticks

greybeard poet

collection of knicks and knacks

golden aging dilemmas

toes grotesquely curling

painful foot spur steps

successful cataract surgery

blurry haze gone

macular degeneration worries

wondering about passing

new driver’s license test

dangerous a-fib ripples

changing coumadin prescription

to eliquis meds

annual chest mri

check aneurysm growth

losing teeth

yet still a decent smile

surprising realization

how sometimes distant past

seems like only yesterday

december 1936

little tommy’s birthday

margaret and emery’s son

young boy

growing up

three rivers michigan

small midwestern town

like 1950’s peyton place

always hungry for adventure

challenging the unknown

not satisfied

being like everyone else

other people choosing

boring safe routines

wasting precious lives

brave romantic

trying family life

surviving three marriages

collecting interesting memories

gayle’s father

telling bootlegger’s tales

working for purple gang

wayndotte fisherman

finding bodies in detroit river

carl and evelyn

pressing me to quit college

earning money

buy their daughter things

new 1954 chevy

seventeen hundred dollars

no down payment

years with wife caryl

sold middle class experiences

emily post niceness

buying big house

new automobile

shiny enamel and chrome

expensive furniture

fancy interior decoration

sear’s “revolver” debt

meatloaf sundays

green beans leftovers

next week’s menu

babies babies babies

shitty pissy diapers

cooking special formula

colic and teething discomfort

logging late hours

nightly rocking chair miles

olga’s husband

older swiss miss nurse

refighting ww-ii with her ex

mad bedroom mating

wild exotic sex

apprenticeship with crazy woman

yelling and crying

door slamming silence

suicide her answer

when not getting her way

poet now alone

upper peninsula ghost mining town

without wife

serious lady friend

owning old row house

mortgage finally paid

social security check

middle of the month

other retirement dollars

michigan pension

for college professor years

final outlasting

bitter classroom burn out

quiet calumet residence

piles of books and dvds

organizers full of poems

photographs framed and loose

solitary creative escape

place to push inspired visions

scribbling words

stuff for new poems

across blank legal tablet page

like ferlingetti’s shack

with kerouac ghost

big sur wilderness

gary snyder’s fire tower

summer writing retreat

saving money

for later travels

lake superior lighthouse

lonely keeper

with time to muse and write

distant alaskan log cabin

home of jack london’s

“call of the wild”

place of robert service’s

“men who don’t fit in”

vermont stone house

of scott and helen nearing

writing about “good life”

splake’s keweenaw peninsula

ancient bard house res

“beat hotel” environment

like paris creative scene

visiting beat’s seclusion

early morning espresso

with crossword puzzle challenge

rosetta café

like left bank bistro

where camus sipped wine

pressed his existential edge

soft shadowy whispers

piaf’s ghostly voice

now doddering old fart

thinning gray beard

pressing past memories

pictured rocks summers

lonely campfire nights

mornings writing poems

sweet dutch master’s aromas

seeking artistic wisdom

from boozy bushmills dreams

still regularly engaging

elusive damn dame muse

wrestling with another

poem two or three

until mind shuts down

body wears out

with desperate final breaths

wondering about celebrity

artist henry darger’s

creative talents recognized

following his death

calvary cemetery service

splake granite rock

red tibetan prayer flag

bones and ashes scattered

across cliffs escarpment

floating from poet tree heights

his mountain lion watching

poet coming home