norbert blei | a packet from henry denander | kamini press

29 01 2011

PoetryDispatch No. 341 | January 28, 2011


Norbert Blei

This makes my day, something new in the mail from Henry’s extraordinary small press, Kamini Press.

One notices immediately the care he takes in the tight packaging alone. The parcel (usually cardboard, sometimes paper) a minor work of art in itself, enhanced with beautiful Swedish stamps, his own unique rubber stamps (planes, jazz musicians, musical instruments, the KAMINI PRESS logo, etc.); the blue foreign label: PRIORITAIRE 1:a-klassbrev… All of it. Everything, a joy to behold. You’re almost afraid to open it, mess it up in any way. It’s so satisfying as it is.

Should I look to see what little beauty of a book he’s put together now? Wait till later…this afternoon? Maybe tonight…treat myself in the late hours? Save it for tomorrow…or the next time I need a particular lift, since I know whatever Kamini Press does will make my day, my night…make everything in my writing world worthwhile?

Like that time one night I opened a packet from Henry and held BIRD EFFORT by Ronald Baatz in my hand…read it once, twice…three times, four times, five times…God, how many times? Till I fell asleep with a warm feeling like good red wine in me, the poet’s words still murmuring in my mouth:

So much light
so much darkness—
the earth crying out
like a clarinet
left behind

O lord
let me
stay drunk somehow
without all this drinking
now and forever amen

the canary’s grave
she catches the reflection
of lovely orange feathers
in the spoon

The stars over the lake
so old and brittle looking—
I stop rowing, rest my back
and think of how soft
my ashes will be.

Henry Denander…a one-man band. A singular focus. A testament to just how good, conscientious, a little press publisher can be if he has the vision, passion, energy, direction to publish a book for someone that he, the publisher-writer, would want for himself. It all comes down to that. The secret to successful small press publishing not enough publishers grasp. Would I want my name on this book? Would I love the way it looks, feels? Would I be anxious to put it in the hands of friends and strangers with a bit of a glow on my face? Would it hold a reader’s attention cover to cover in design, content, form?

Instinct. Insight. Style. Aesthetics. Not to publish anybody or anything for whatever or no reason except to be considered a publisher…slap any old crappy art or photo on the cover that says nothing. Some books, poorly envisioned, you almost don’t want to touch, let alone open and try to read. Contrary to old beliefs, you can judge a book by its cover… especially a Kamini Press cover, usually graced by one of Henry’s throbbing little watercolors.

Once you finally invade the perfect packaging I described, once you find each book carefully wrapped and taped tightly in white paper, once you unfold the paper in your hands…and hold the little book (all of them about 4”x6”) it seems to come alive to one’s touch. And there you have it: from Henry in Sweden to wherever you are in the world…the book feels like a good handshake. Welcome. Thank you. How beautiful the cover. Now, what’s going on inside?

How to Make a Rainbow on a Rainy Day

Locate, in the overcast, some thread of
involvement with backlit sheets of crayoned
manila paper vacuum sealed to the yellow
eyes of an elementary school. Open up the
floodgates to the eccentricities of leaves; find
an alcove, an unused entrance, to lean in,
noting the widening concentric circles in
standing water on pavements commissioned
by raindrops. Take the coins out of your
pocket and throw them, one at a time,
into the fountains of Trevi made by the
intersecting arcs of traffic and rainfall; permit
silver spray to have its way with your face.
Wonder at the beaded pearlescence at the
sides of warm Styrofoam. Internalize
windshield wipers and the lift of umbrellas.
Without going overboard, initiate eye
contact, return the wave.

–Tom Kryss


72nd Birthday

Sitting on
the hill at
sunrise with
my coffee &
fond thoughts
of all those who
hate my guts.

–John Bennett


Two Torch Singers (excerpt)

In high school, when I was discovering
That music could be sexy,
There were two torch singers
(Besides Judy Garland, of course)
Whose albums I played until the vinyl wore thin
And the needles went blunt
I don’t know whether I was more riveted
By Julie London’s throaty rendition
Of “Cry Me a River”
Or by her incredible rocket-launcher, film-noir,
Tightly sweatered bust on the album cover,
Not to mention her wasp-cinctured waist.
But she was too much woman for me,
Even in my fantasies. Scary!

–Gerald Locklin


False Starts

The birds have
already begun
their morning song
and I haven’t
yet been to sleep
the night
a series of false
starts, like the
many journals
I’ve kept over
the years—
one after another
abandoned before
anything was
ever said.

–Glenn W. Cooper



Something out of childhood –
orange streetcars on
Ellsworth Avenue,
and every fifteen minutes an
orange earthquake
rattling my unsteady bed.

–Samuel Charters


last clarksville train

washing down aspirins
warm blue ribbon suds
damp gray first light
jerry lee’s cassettes silent
black terminal loneliness
yesterday wife saying
“things got to change’
squeeze the trigger
gain methodist salvation
promised better life

–t. kilgore splake


Unwritten poems—
so many of them
hanging like bats
inside the darkness
of me

–Ronald Baatz


Confession. I truly envy what Henry Denander is doing. This is the way I intended to go when I got into small press publishing back in 1995. Do the little book, the little work, and do it well. Make is beautiful to behold. Something to glow in the dark.

Then I reflected on all the new and old writers with bigger appetites seeking, needing pages and pages for larger works. Novelists, short story writers, poets with books of poems…essayists, experimental writers, artists, photographers. They needed to be honored as well. There was not enough attention paid them.

Lately, given all I’ve done so far, thirty-four books, given my present circumstances–age factor, health issues, financial circumstances, limited time to write my own stories and books–I see again the beauty and attraction of publishing the little gift, and may in time (“simplify, simplify…”) honor that first dream…find my way down that road of small, fluttering white pages, words enough to lift the spirit in short, deep breaths. —Norbert Blei

winter is losing its grip—
in my sleep
I hear the pond’s spine

–Ronald Baatz, BIRD EFFORT

charles p. ries | ries reviews

4 03 2010

PoetryDispatch No.316 | March 3, 2010


the small presses

Lines On Lake Winnebago

Gary C. Busha, 33 pages, $8.00, Marsh River Editions, M233 Marsh Road, Marshfield, Wisconsin 54449

To Gary C. Busha, life is the sound of one man fishing. Lake Winnebago (located in East Central Wisconsin) plays host to guys in boats, guys sitting over ice holes, guys drinking schnapps and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, and guys standing under maple trees waiting for the big one to take the bait. It’s Zen meditation with worms and fishing rods. Busha’s Lines On Lake Winnebago is a reflection on life in sparse, conversational language. His poems and reflections are as effortless as the act of casting and reeling. In Getting Hooked he notes “Each fishing day / adds to my memories of / a star-clear night. / drunk with fresh life.” And in Portrait of Dock Fishing he sees “Old men with big yellow bellies / remember themselves as lean river boys / fishing together from the docks.”

There are no existential crisies or drunken diatribes against the insanity of life here. No shock rocks to grab your mind, but rather a numinous embracing of the freedom found on Lake Winnebago doing almost nothing. Ham and Cheeses on Rye “I am an old man fishing in the rain / on my sagging dock, without a fish in miles- / yet, it’s a perfect day for fishing.” #6 Hooks “on the dock, the scent of weeds, / wet wood, and rain hangs over the water. / The scales fly up like hailstones. / He hears a roll of thunder and feels / scales and raindrops fall in his hair.”

But beyond the beauty of these plain-spoken poems is the production quality of this fine looking chapbook. The cover jacket, photo reproductions, and cardstock are all well chosen making this not just a great chap to read, but a wonderful chap to hold. Gary Busha goes deep into common experience and nets rich imagery with still, clear meanings.


By: t. kilgore splake | The Vertin Press, P.O. Box 508, Calumet, Michigan 49913 | 56 Pages / Price: $17.50 | Make checks and money order payable to t.k. splake

I am always curious to see what poets can do with long writing. I know that for many it is a journey often considered, but seldom taken. I was pleased then to see t. kilgore splake take the leap with his novella entitled, “A Celebration of Samantha”. This is love story made all the more poignant because it also looks at the end of life. I was surprised that splake, who can write sometimes painfully long poems in stream of consciousness prose style, was able to reign himself in to tell this very sweet story. Here we find the Gray Beard Dancer has fallen in love with Elizabeth the young counter waitress at his local coffee shop. She has a young eight-year-old daughter named, Samantha who gives this story much of its depth. Told over thirteen chapters, it also includes black and white photos that depict the various places splake shares with us on this journey. This blending of prose and photo gives the story a memoir kind of intimacy. And while splake calls his book a work of fiction, it is hard to believe there is much distance between what is on the page and his life. Splake reflects on the end of his life, while celebrating love with Elizabeth, and becoming an endearing, wise and thoughtful friend to Samantha. As with all really good stories, I was left at the end wondering, “How did it all work out? Did they stay together?” I wanted more, but realized that fifty-six pages of prose may be all the prose we will get from a writer whose inclinations and interests seem more connected to poetry than long fiction, but I wish this weren’t so. I wanted splake to move this story forward another two hundred pages and take me in and out of the deep waters of love in his very unique fashion.

ČERVENA BARVA PRESS | Gloria Mindock, Editor, P.O. Box 440357, W. Somerville, MA 02144-3222 |

What do you suppose is in the water in Somerville? Small press publishers are popping up all over the place: Ibbetson Street Press, sunny outside press and now, Červená Barva Press. Maybe we should all drink some of that Somerville prose juice as it appears to be poetry fortified.

Gloria Mindock founded Červená Barva Press in April 2005, since that time she has published and designed ten chapbooks, three e-books, and twenty-one poetry postcards. Forthcoming in 2007 are four more chapbooks, four full-length poetry books, as well as two plays and fourteen poetry postcards by fourteen poets using paintings by Nancy Mitchell. Oh, and she also publishes a monthly electronic newsletter which lists readings from all over the world as well as interviews with authors. I asked Gloria how it all began, “I started this press because of my passion for poetry. I edited the Boston Literary Review (BluR) for 10 years, and I read high-quality submissions during that period. Since the magazine ceased circulation, I have spent many years freelance writing, but see a need for a new publishing forum. This led me to take it a step further and expand into publishing. I wanted to provide another outlet for writers who take risks, have a strong voice, and are unique. Eventually I will publish more writing from different countries, particularly authors from Eastern Europe. There are so many wonderful writers in this world and I want to give them more exposure.” Mindock’s fascination with Eastern Europe, and especially Prague, prompted her to name her press Červená Barva which means the “red color” in Czech.

As the following short poetry reviews will note, Mindock has a wide range of tastes and inclinations when it comes to the writers she chooses to publish:

The Whole Enchilada

By: Ed Miller

Wonderful! If this is Miller’s first chap book – I want to put in an advance order on the next ten. I loved “Dear Poet” and “Extraterrestrials Use Holographic Imagery Of Naked Females”. How glorious to read a wry sense of humor who is capable of creating such endless possibilities.

God Of The Jellyfish

By: Lucille Lang Day

We need more poets with M.A.’s in zoology and Ph.D.’s in science and math education, or we will never discover the metaphoric limits of the ocean, stars and universe. Oh, and Lucille Lang Day also has a M.A. in English and M.F.A. in creative writing. She will never run out of material given the galaxies she has chosen to examine. She does a wonderful job making this collision of science, the cosmic, and the day-to-day work.

Of All The Meals I Had Before: Poems About Food and Eating

By: Doug Holder

This collection of poetry may well elevate food above sex as one of life’s two great pleasures. Holder writes in the spare precise style he is known for. No extras – all meat and potatoes. These are highly descriptive, ambient poems of place and person. I was surprised at how well Holder pulled this collection off.

Gothic Calligraphy

By: Flavia Cosma

Mindock says her favorite writers come from Eastern Europe. As I read this delicious and somber Romanian born Canadian poet, it is easy to see why. Cosma uses nature as a backdrop and foundation for her poetry. She is a Richard Wilber Poetry in Translation winner for her book of poetry 47 POEMS. One has to wonder if being born speaking Slavic gives a poet the upper hand when painting silk on water.

Bilingual Poems

By: Richard Kostelanetz

I had to work hard to get through Kostelanetz’s work – esoteric word art more than poetry. Begging the question, where does poetry end and visual art begin? Scrabble meets Einstein. Bilingual Poems is on one level a series of two dimensional Mandalas, and on another, a series of Gideon knots. Kostelanetz says that his goal is “to be the most inventive poet ever in American Literature.” He just might do it, but will people read it?

W Is For War

By: George Held

It is hard to create metaphor or image equal to combat. War is horror – how can words ever come close to mirroring moments of such suffering and fear? I give George Held credit for trying and doing such a good job at it. His poem, “From Nam to Armageddon” is a great piece of work. One of the most complete war poems I have ever read.

Fishing In Green Waters

By: Judy Ray

These are effortless poems that spin between here and now using both conversational and lyrical language. Judy Ray lavishes description around the subjects of her observations that are often common in their nature, but elevates their substance with her gentle compassion. Her poems, “Anonymous Valentines” and “Sometimes” are wonderful works. About this Fishing In Green Waters, Judy Ray says, “This new collection is more elusive in theme, and maybe more mysterious for that reason. Several of the poems refer to those sparks of excitement which come from recognition of some moment of transient beauty, or a small gesture which speaks for a historic moment.” This is work by a very fine, skilled, steady hand

I asked Mindock about her background and influences and she said, “My mother always painted, and poetry was always around me. I always had that artistic background. My dad taught 7th and 8th grade English. There are a lot of artists in my family. My sister is a musicologist. My parents are my biggest influence.”

Doug Holder of Ibbetson Street says this about Mindock, “Gloria has long experience in the poetry biz. We call each other holy fools because we are passionate about our work, and don’t make a red cent, like most of the holy fools in the small press. She puts out a quality product and is a joy to deal with!” Doug is right, and we poets are lucky to have holy fools who work for nothing, but the joy it brings them.

SALUD | Selected Writings. By Curt Johnson

216 Pages, Price: $15.00, Cross & Roads Press, P.O. Box 33, Ellison Bay, WI 54210

SALUD is a homage to Curt Johnson by his dear friend and small press institution, Norb Blei. This is the 27th publication from Blei’s, Cross + Roads Press. Blei says, “When a writer reaches the point of Selected Works in his life, a definite benchmark has been achieved. You stand by your words. What you’ve penned you are. This could not be more true then in the life and work of Curt Johnson, short story artist, novelist, essayist, critic, and one of the best yet, least celebrated writers and publisher (december magazine and december press) coming out of the heartland.”

Through SALUD, Blei gives us a sampling of Johnson’s work: novel excerpts, essays, articles, and memoirs. The challenge here is condensing the works of a writer who wrote so broadly and in so many forms. I often felt like I was getting only the first course – a taste. But this is want Blei intended to do; tempt us with Johnson’s work and encourage us to seek it out.

This book is both a literary experience and a history of the small independent press. Johnson who is now in his 80’s, was editor of the highly regarded december magazine in the early 60s. He was one of the first to publish the works of Raymond Carver, Joyce Carol Oates, Bukowski, and Ted Kooser, to name only a few who have gone onto popular acclaim. But Johnson also published the work of many writers who never hit it big, or at all. Johnson and Blei are two of the patron saints of the small press. They have been in it and doing it for over 50 years. They do it as much to give new writers a place to shine, a chance to be heard, as much as for any glory they may receive.

I found the interview between Johnson and Blei that concludes SALUD a delight – a history lesson and look inside the head of two small press pioneers. Blei says in the interview, “Curt have you, one of the Granddaddies of independent publishers in America, ever been invited to read your work and/or discuss the role of the independent presses in academia? Northwestern University? The University of Illinois (Johnson has lived his life in Chicago). And Johnson replies, “I don’t think the academy and its creative writing courses are of much use to the real writer. And I don’t think the safe haven the academy provides established writers does their own writing much good either.”

For those of us active in the independent small press this book is a must read. How can we know that we are innovating if we don’t know what has come before us? But even more, SALUD is a morality tale that has been told again and again by yet another talented, prolific writer sitting at linoleum kitchen table at 11:00 a.m., having a coffee and a shot of whiskey with a fellow writer and friend reflecting on the old days, lamenting the fact he never quite hit it big, but not willing to change one thing about his journey, the books he wrote, the people he met, or the writers he helped along the way.

Charles P. Ries lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His narrative poems, short stories, interviews and poetry reviews have appeared in over two hundred print and electronic publications. He has received four Pushcart Prize nominations for his writing. He is the author of THE FATHERS WE FIND, a novel based on memory and five books of poetry. He is the poetry editor for Word Riot (, Pass Port Journal ( and ESC! ( He is on the board of the Woodland Pattern Bookstore ( He is a founding member of the Lake Shore Surf Club, the oldest fresh water surfing club on the Great Lakes ( You may find additional samples of his work by going to:

thomas h. smith aka t. kilgore splake | one book

25 02 2010

Poetry Dispatch No. 314 | February 25, 2010


thomas h. smith
t. kilgore splake

in march of 1979 i was camping in michigan’s upper peninsula “pictured rocks lakeshore” area and warming myself over the coals from last night’s fire. nursing a heavy-duty hangover and drinking the first coffee of the morning i wrote my first poem in a green-covered 4”x6” notebook. suddenly this burned out college professor with a failed marriage and captive to demon rum ethers had become a poet.

i have spent much time wondering over what a poet is, as well as seriously doubting if i qualified to be a poet. in order to hide my real self, i borrowed the kurt vonnegut character kilgore trout and developed the pseudonym t. kilgore splake.

with this new role as a poet, i quickly began using my creative imagination to write more poems describing the great variety of different human behaviors. no longer was i tommy smith following what my mother, father, and society demanded of my life, but a new man in the process of reinventing my “self.”

arriving in the poetic arts late in my years, i tried to make up for the time lost to other writers. i published several chapbook collections of my poetry with “angst productions” press. in 2009, i decided it was time to write my personal memoir. my the winter diary would define who i was and in my remaining few years describe what i was hoping to accomplish.

while reflecting on the life and times of tom smith, i felt like a visitor to the douglas gordon “24 hour psycho” show at the museum of modern art held in new york city in 2006. the hitchcock movie was slowed down to two frames per second, making a viewing nearly a day long event. thus, i found that reviewing my life in slow motion allowed me to take a harder look at the many things that happened to me.

any author writing a memoir has to decide what things to reveal as well as the personal history that will be left out. in the winter diary i did not talk about running away from home to join the navy during my senior year in high school at three rivers, michigan. i also chose not to tell of drunkenly opening beer bottles on the back bumper of my pickup truck while driving through canada to maine one spring. indeed, a “dui” in a foreign country with my summer thorazine prescription would have been quite a personal detail.

stephen elliott, author of the adderall diaries said a memoir must have perfect sentences, tension, honesty, and cannot intentionally lie. i believe that my the winter diary meets his literary requirements. however, to prevent a possible lawsuit or two, i did alter a couple of names and dates in the book.

after receiving several compliments to the winter diary, i think that walter mclaughlin, editor of wood thrush press in albans, vermont, summed up my writing best. walt said:

“i spent an entire afternoon with TWD, to my own surprise. not what i had planned to do. but, it caught me just the right time, when i needed something whacky, offbeat, yet very real.

you are a nut, no doubt about that! no need for you to look over your shoulder-normalcy lost sight of you long ago. and that is the best compliment any poet can receive from another.”

it seems a shame that when many poets pass away their voices and works are forgotten and quickly vanish. in the last couple of years i have lost three close writing friends: cait collins, editor of “the hold,” dave christy, editor of alpha beat soup, and the nationally known cab-driving poet dave church. i truly hope that someone is saving copies of their writings in literary archives so they won’t disappear.

my the winter diary covers the details of my life, and also has several splake poems in the commentary to emphasize my history of becoming a poet. following the 2009 publication of the winter diary, i discovered many additional thoughts about the life and times of tom smith, and published the winter diary notebook.

what might be called the splake-smith memoirs, volume iii, my manuscript “lost whispers” is currently getting a take-no-prisoners-parsing from a couple of close writing friends. in the late spring or early summer of 2010, i hope to publish “lost whispers” as an extension of my personal writing history.

the early morning poem i wrote while camping in the “pictured rocks lakeshore” area gave me a new life as well as provided me with a fresh creative vision. as i have grown intellectually, i find that now i exist outside the mainstream of modern society. i no longer feel any necessity to be treated as “one of them.”

with the discovery of my poetic epiphany and writing itch, i definitely agree with baron wormser who said: “this is it. this is who i am. this thrills me. whatever this poetry is, i want to live there.”

t. kilgore splake | painting by Henry Denander taken from the book The Poet Tree (Kamini Press) Please click the image if you are interested in buying this book.

splake biblio


  • 2010 lost whispers novel in progress
  • 2009 the winter diary gage printing
  • 2009 the winter diary notebook gage printing
  • 2009 backwater graybeard twilight thunder sandwich publishing


  • 2010 union printer mary-mark press
  • 2010 the poet tree kamini press
  • 2010 backwater bard lofdt musings moon press
  • 2010 splakeus and lillies moon press
  • 2009 beyond the cliffs miskwakbic press
  • 2009 deuce miswakbik press
  • 2009 the brautigan table miskwabik press
  • 2009 beyond the cliffs miskwabic press
  • 2007 samantha miskwabik press
  • 2007 connections: ann arbor-keweenaw miskwabik press
  • 2006 betsy miskwabik press
  • 2006 the dredge miskwabik press
  • 2006 shadows passing miskwabik press
  • 2006 dream song dream miskwabik press
  • 2006 cold mountain passages miskwabik press
  • 2006 bum wine miskwabik press
  • 2004 next stop paradise the hold
  • 2004 rainbow diary thunder sandwich publishing
  • 2004 evergreen thunder sandwich publishing
  • 2002 lac la belle morninga thunder sandwich publishing
  • 2002 tailings thunder sandwich publishing
  • 2002 slouching toward calvary thunder sandwich publishing
  • 2001 the murderous clown angst productions
  • 2001 rainbow rising angst productions
  • 2001 “cliffs” angst productions
  • 2001 cocaine asterius press
  • 2000 morning mourning angst productions
  • 2000 being becoming angst productions
  • 2000 light lightness angst productions
  • 2000 kerouac upper peninsula diary angst productions
  • 1999 trout dancing sonata hodge podge press
  • 1998 porcupine mountain papers angst productions
  • 1997 last train out angst productions
  • 1997 opening day breakfast musings green bean press
  • 1995 memories angst productions
  • 1995 odyssey to civilization and back angst productions
  • 1995 celebration of thea angst productions
  • 1995 twilight long white angst productions
  • 1993 boho beat theater angst productions
  • 1993 expatriate homeboy returns angst productions
  • 1993 sadness of backwater women angst productions
  • 1993 keweenaw love story angst productions
  • 1993 a loving enemy my muse angst productions
  • 1992 springtime for oona and brautigan angst productions
  • 1991 soft echoes behind the waterfall angst productions
  • 1990 a hole in reality angst productions
  • 1987 notes from the cave angst productions
  • 1985 ghost soundings angst productions
  • 1983 paris express angst productions
  • 1983 alaskan letters angst productions
  • 1983 beyond the fire angst productions
  • 1981 october softly angst productions
  • 1981 mute whispers angst productions
  • 1980 dark musings angst productions
  • 1980 dark musings angst productions
  • 1980 moon shadows angst productions
  • 1979 reststop angst productions
  • 1979 pictured rocks poetry angst productions

photographic chapbooks

  • 2002 available light thunder sandwich publishing
  • 2000 shadows visible angst productions
  • 1996 available light angst productions


  • 2001 full moon trailer engel productions
  • 2002 evergreen engel productions
  • 2003 splake # i angst productions
  • 2004 splake # ii angst productions
  • 2005 “cliffs” angst productions
  • 2006 a poet’s day angst productions
  • 2006 le metrops engel productions

soft-covered upper peninsula books

  • 1984 superior land lights angst productions
  • 1985 pictured rocks memories angst productions
  • 1988 keweenaw: copper country angst productions
  • 1989 soul whispers poetry angst productions

upper peninsula broadsides

  • 1990 superior peninsula themes and places
  • 1990 pictured rocks
  • 1990 keweenaw copper country
  • 1990 superior land lights
  • 1990 waterfalls of the upper peninsula

small press editor

t. kilgore splake | life, death, poet trees

3 06 2009

Poetry Dispatch No. 284 | June 3, 2009


t. kilgore splake

norbert blei

Consider this a variation on that continuing theme I began some weeks ago: The Art & The Artists of Self Destruction—this being #4.

Those of us who know and love and read and keep up with all that goes on in the mind and spirit of our friend t.k. splake, exiled (happily) high above the rest of us Midwesterners, up there on Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, recognize his voice upon the printed page immediately. Theme, style, movement, word choice, line breaks…we don’t need to see his adopted nom de plume on the page, he’s there. Up there on the cliffs. That’s ole t.k. talkin’ to us—the lonesome graybeard, wailing engagingly from his high terrain, calling us all to attention again: Stand still. Gather all the good inside of you. But don’t stand too still—you’ll be gone over the edge soon enough. May even decide to depart on your own terms.

Those are not white spaces between the lines of t.k.’s poems. They’re mostly gray. Time taking its toll in bad heartbeats. Then there’s that unsettling gun again…the American writer’s rosary–handle, barrel, trigger, bullets … handlebarreltriggerbullets…making far too many appearances in the bard’s tapping fingers as he mounts another last stand, another perspective, the odds against him, staring down his old foe “rat-bastard Time”…one more time.

So first, this, a new splake poem, “lia”…

Followed by “the rest of the story”. The tree of life…his tree of poetry.
Something I asked ol splaker to write about the tree for the sake of us all.



by t. kilgore splake

quiet black-haired girl
italia mama’s daughter
name meaning “industrious”
babette’s Saturday waitress
serving conglomerate cafe lattes
taking breakfast orders
school rubber-stamp print
tgif gym dance proof
graybeard poet aging dreams
bo-ho beat young romance
hard throbby flesh
blue viagra rush
geezer rock melodies
elvis “fats” domino chuck berry
camel’s twenty-five cents
pennies in cigarette machine pack
hitch-hiking rides
“on the road” miles
not flying here there
aging poet
creative brain-skull cavity
having to write
only few years left
before alzheimer loss
death’s shit smell
.357 trigger finger
lia’s boyfriend
growling tranny muffler
rusted rocker panels
foam dice real-view mirror
wearing “jock-logo” clothes
chasing fun games laughter
waiting next craze
twitter myspace youtube facebook
waky tobaccy euphoria
wrinkled zig-zag papers
girl too young
knowing real ghosts
believing in god
some afterlife beyond
never understanding
old man CLIFFS summit
imagining mysterious train far below
close enough to feel
eva marie saint
going “north by northwest”
mineral range steam engine
hauling copper ores
tamarack location
torch lake smelters
young metro miss
saying “goodbye”
soft gentle voice adding
“have a good weekend”

the poet tree


t. kilgore splake

the “poet tree” is located on the summit of the CLIFFS, about ten miles north of calumet, michigan, in the keweenaw peninsula. the CLIFFS are the location of the old CLIFFS copper mining activities that i wrote about in my the winter diary notebook memoirs.

my idea for the splake “poet tree” came from a photograph of a similar poet tree that existed in berkeley, california that i saw in an old copy of the poetry flash literary magazine.

quite often i hike in and climb the CLIFFS to the old cobblestone smokestack on the summit in order to reflect upon my ‘self,’ as well as renew my focus on rilke’s dictum “live the question.” on each of my trekkings to the CLIFFS top i carry along a new poem or three and the occasional art-drawing to attach to the “poet tree.” at present, the “poet tree” has a tibetan prayer flag, some henry denander art drawings, and short splake works as well as poems by other writers.

in the nine years of “poet tree” history twice it has been vandalized. i believe that the most likely suspects of the damage are michigan technological students with a six-pack of beer and very little regard for personal creativity. it is interesting that the one poem that survived a “poet tree” burning was my favorite richard brautigan writing: “we stopped at perfect days” from rommel drives on deep into egypt.

We stopped at perfect days
and got out of the car.
The wind glanced at her hair.
It was as simple as that.
I turned to say something—

the “poet tree” survives each of the passing michigan upper peninsula seasons. the autumn storms and winds weaken the paintings and poems. most of the work is lost to the winter “season of long white” blizzards. however, come the spring, like many old forest trees and graying poets, the “poet tree’s” artistry has vanished.

this year i climbed to the CLIFFS summit and gave the fresh beginning to the “poet tree” the last week in april after the keweenaw peninsula winter snows had melted. during my “first dawn” hiking, i enjoyed several new early morning colors – light cyan and soft salmon – original hues not like other colors on the artist’s palette.

after renewing the “poet tree’s” materials – art cards, poems, and a prayer flag – while trekking back down the CLIFFS path to retrieve my tranny, i enjoyed the spring love song of wild birds trilling their poor hearts dry.

these frequent splake visits to the “poet tree” and CLIFFS sanctuary take me away from the routines of human experience and civilization for a short moment in time. the surprise of many new wilderness colors and musical sounds gives me a quiet reminder that my time on earth is short and the words for a new poem are waiting.

RECENT WORKS by t. kilgore splake: THE WINTER NOTEBOOK (2009), THE WINTER DIARY (2009), Angst Productions, P.O. Box 508 Calumet, Michigan 49913. splakeatchartermidotnet

t. kilgore splake | early am existentials

3 10 2007


Poetry Dispatch No. 19 | October 26, 2005

early am existentials by t. kilgore splake

one more morning awake, alive during the soul’s darkest hours, hangover tremors threatening, fiery raw nerve ends throbbing, slept in cloths stench, aftermath of “fuck it” drinking alone in early afternoon into late night shadows, old “poor-it” pondering early morning starter to maybe clean, clear the senses, on the way to writing a poem, scalding black coffee wasting kitchen sink silverfish population, ethers awakening a yeti, skulking somewhere in sewer labyrinth, hot caffeine fine vapors cooling chilly whispers, hem, brautigan, jack, abbey chorus declaring it “muzzle in the mouth morning,” purring, “come on over,” trying to decipher voice, message from sink’s drain, ominous “chugs and glugs,” weighing possible results of drano flush, wondering if time to reinvent new literary game plan, try again to define spirituality, or attack the old canon typer and make creative smoke,
maybe just lay back and hope for one more day.

from TAILINGS by t. k. splake, Thunder Sandwich Publishing