Launch of The Dream Life of Teresa Harris, CD, with Augmented Reality!

Summer Blessings!

SUNDAY, JULY 22, 1:00 P.M.

Join local poet and playwright Penn Kemp for an afternoon of readings from The Dream Life of Teresa Harris and Local Heroes, paired with a viewing of ‘Augmented Reality’ exhibits by artist Mary McDonald.  Books and CD’s will be available for purchase.

Mary’s visual art and animation of my play will run for a week in Eldon House following the tea.

Details on and

Eldon House
481 Ridout Street North
London, Ontario




Registration required through Eldon House.

Video by Mary McDonald


Local Heroes, Insomniac Press

Here’s celebrating The London Free Press for supporting poetry and our local cultural heroes!

it’s not often a poet hits above the fold, the front page of TODAY, and a poem to Greg Curnoe on the next:)

Poet celebrates London's cultural heroes in new book

Penn Local Heroes LFP

Celebrating our champions of art: Penn Kemp pays tribute to London’s cultural heroes in her new book.

Penn Kemp invented her own word to describe London adventurer Teresa Harris.

“I call her my s/hero,” said Kemp, London’s best-known contemporary poet, performance artist, novelist, playwright and sound poet.

Kemp has written two plays about Harris, the youngest of 12 children born to John and Amelia Harris, who built what remains today as London’s oldest and most historic home, Eldon House, which the family donated to the city along with the land that is now Harris Park.

Now, Kemp has released a new book of poetry, Local Heroes (Insomniac Press, $19.95 at local book stores), that pays tribute to several of London’s cultural heroes, including Harris.

Others featured in the book include her own father, artist Jim Kemp, an advertising and publicity executive at London Life who introduced Kemp to many luminaries of the London arts scene; Nobel Prize laureate and short story writer Alice Munro; Giller Prize-winning writer Bonnie Burnard; the late artist Greg Curnoe; and, the Reaney family, including the late three-time Governor General Award winning poet, playwright and Western University English professor James Reaney, his wife and acclaimed poet Colleen Thibaudeau and their son, James Stewart Reaney, a retired Free Press journalist.

“It grieves me that so many of the poems are eulogies,” Kemp writes in her introduction.

“Their commonality is a sense of adventure and exploration. The poems of Local Heroes are dear to my heart as a response to the lifelong contributions of such champions of Southwesto, such as Greg Curnoe and James Reaney, who popularized this term.”

Just back from a tour of Western Canada where she performed at the Edmonton Poetry Festival and in Victoria and Vancouver in celebration of Poetry Month, Kemp said she was inspired to produce the book by a number of experiences, including being asked to write a poem to commemorate the retirement of Reaney, titled James Stewart Reaney, Local Hero.

“That’s what gave me the idea for a book of poetry of the same name,” said Kemp.

“It was that and other circumstances, such as working with (third-year) Western University English students on Community Engaged Learning. I grew up in London in a cultural milieu where I met many of London’s artists and writers.”

The first section of the book continues with Kemp’s celebration of Harris, who spurned the Victorian era norms, choosing a nontraditional life that saw her twice married to wealthy men (John Scott, 1859; St. George Littledale, 1877) with whom she traveled across North America, Europe, the Middle East, Russia and Asia.

“What I’ve done is included outtakes from my plays about Harris (The Dream Life of Teresa Harris and The Triumph of Teresa Harris) that didn’t fit within the play structure but extend the story about her life,” said Kemp, named London’s first poet laureate in 2010.

The middle section is a tribute to her father.

“He was sort of a bridge between the old school — he called himself a painter, not an artist — and the young Turks, such as Greg (Curnoe) and Jack (Chambers),” said Kemp.

The last section brings focus to her other cultural icons, including a section titled Dream Sequins for Alice Munro and a poem to celebrate the 40th anniversary of London-based Brick Books, which has helped launch the careers of several Canadian poets.

“It’s an unusual book for me in that it is so specific to London and each poem is dedicated to a different person,” said Kemp, who will give a reading from the book May 28 at London Public Library.

“It’s a lot more narrative than my previous works.”

Kemp will give a reading from Local Heroes May 28 at London Public Library’s Stevenson Hunt Room as part of the series, Women Trailblazers: Writers and Voices for Change, a reading and lecture series celebrating Canadian women writers.

The event will include a reading by journalist, activist and feminist Judy Rebick reading from her new book, Heroes in My Head.

Kemp, who has published more than two dozens books over the years, along with recordings of her works, is already in the final stages of another book, this one titled Fox Haunts, expected to be released in the summer.

“A book is like a birth of a child for me,” said Kemp. “It’s such an enormous joy. In many way, this book, Local Heroes, brings my experiences of the London community together.”

Joe Belanger,

Many thanks to Joe Belanger, Arts Editor Barbara Taylor and photographer Mike Hensen!   

Thanks as well to a CAIP grant from London Arts Council that allowed me time to write Local Heroes! 

And to Insomniac Press for a beautiful book! 

Here’s a tribute from Local Heroes:

Travelling Lights

For Greg CurnoeNovember 9, 1936-November 14, 1992

After there’ll be no more, odd
characters invade the painting.

Lurching out of mother lode
they slide off smooth banks

to the open pond white paper makes,
cavorting seal-slick in breakers

between home and hold. Scrolled
letters sparkle currents of glyph.

Fantasy floats in layered brightness,
breathing bands in and out and then

not. The travelling light of attention
shines on disparate objects lit by his

restless, roaming curiosity even after
his own bike reflector is put out.

Polished obsessions unravel on shelves
for whoever is there where he was.

Greg would be over eighty now.

Imagine him, still holding forth,
holding on, staying put.

Eccentric, Greg created his own
centre, devoted to place, his place.

The wheels of his bike are still
spinning orange and complementary
blue onto the page, the pavement.

And pigment on canvas, vivid as
his tattered sweater, his legacy
our heritage in old deeds, in

stuff whose singularity he chose
to honor and display as serious

games of play, series whose choices
make room for us
to see here.


What remains is the reach from pen
to paper to record the procession

of cyclists, Greg riding herd, along
a field flooded in light, gray barn rising

from the mist and mesmerizing
the driver who followed the illusion

of art turned against itself

Convinced of no louder verge
beyond shaping the dark space

where sound stops hollow and
is not yet silence ringing back.
Penn Kemp

Late London artist Greg Curnoe, 1986.



National Poetry Month Readings

Celebrating with Penn Kemp

Wednesday, April 25, 8 pm. ‘ALT’ show, Victoria Poetry Project, Caffè Fantastico, 965 Kings Road, Victoria, British Columbia V8T 1W7. * Contact shayne avec i grec

Friday, April 27, 2018. 8pm, The Matrix Hotel. Feature, Wine and Wild Women Wordsmiths, The Edmonton Poetry Festival. Contact: Rayanne Haines, ED. @edmpoetryfest.  #PoFest18. *


Thursday, April 19,2018, Launch of Local Heroes (Insomniac Press) by Penn Kemp. Lecture Theatre, Museum London, 421 Ridout St
6:30-7:15. Curator Tour: Women’s Lives in Canada: 1875-2000
7:30-8:30. Penn’s reading
8:30-9 pm. Book signing

Join London poet and playwright Penn Kemp for the launch of her book
Local Heroes (Insomniac Press). Local Heroes is a celebration of regional heroes.  New poems about explorer Teresa Harris are featured.

Mary McDonald will be displaying the first Augmented Reality markers based on “The Dream Life” poems and her photos of Eldon House as qr codes.  Very exciting and innovative technology!

The evening includes an exhibition tour with curator Amber Lloydlangston, followed by Insomniac Press publisher Mike O’Connor and Penn’s reading.

The theatre will show several short videos on Local Heroes by Dennis Siren, Mary McDonald and Western’s Community Engaged Learning. The poet will then sign books.

Contact: Museum London, 519 661-0333,
promo video:

For more about LOCAL HEROES, please see  

Five of Jim Kemp’s paintings from the Museum Collection will be exhibited. Here’s one:

'82 Museum Blue shot RedThe cover of Local Heroes:Local Heroes cover

*Penn’s readings are sponsored by the League of Canadian Poets.


Launch of Local Heroes (Insomniac Press) by Penn Kemp

April 19,2018, Lecture Theatre
Museum London, 421 Ridout St N.

6:30-7:15. Curator Tour: Women’s Lives in Canada: A History, 1875-2000
7:30-8:30. Penn’s reading
8:30-9 pm. Book signing

Join London poet and playwright Penn Kemp for the launch of her book
Local Heroes (Insomniac Press). Local Heroes is a celebration of regional artists from Greg Curnoe and James Kemp to writers Alice Munro, Colleen Thibaudeau and Bonnie Burnard.  New poems about explorer Teresa Harris are featured.

The evening includes an exhibition tour with curator Amber Lloydlangston, followed by Insomniac Press publisher Mike O’Connor and Penn’s reading.

The theatre will show several short videos on Local Heroes by Dennis Siren, Mary McDonald and Western’s Community Engaged Learning. The poet will then sign books.

Contact: Museum London, 519 661-0333,
promo video:

For more about LOCAL HEROES, please see

B1458pl8620file203 (2)

Cover photo courtesy Harris Fonds, Western Archives, Western University

Poetry Mini Interview

What are you working on?
My next project, LOCAL HEROES, Insomniac Press, 2018, celebrates legendary cultural heroes from London, Ontario. These poems evoke a specific city in its particular landscape and history. London’s literary and artistic heritage is documented, honouring artists in fields ranging from visual and language arts to figure skating. Presented as an overview, the collection stretches from Victoria explorer Teresa Harris to the contemporary arts scene. Local Heroes acknowledges the Indigenous peoples here, and the ongoing waves of settlers who have called the area home, as London grew from colonial outpost to vibrant cultural centre. Local Heroes spans time but remains in place.
Landscape shapes us by its distinctive atmosphere. Southwestern Ontario (Souwesto) is a peninsula bordered by two Great Lakes and by the United States. Local Heroes examines the works of artists who have been influenced by the pervading spirit of Souwesto. In classical Rome, a genius loci was the protective spirit of the local, depicted as a figure holding a libation bowl. London is situated in a bowl scraped out from receding glaciers. This bowl teems over with the productions of its arts through time. Why? What has made London a creative centre? As a mid-sized county seat set in the fertile farmland of Middlesex County, London is in the middle, entre lacs, between two metropolises, Toronto and Detroit, at the edge of the Snow Belt. Because it is so surrounded, London began as a garrison, a fiercely conservative British enclave that held tight to tradition and conventional mores. Artists who lived here could rebel, conform or leave.
The collection present three sections, in historical order. It opens with an exploration of the exploits of Teresa Harris, who escaped her corsets along with her colonial upbringing in London’s Eldon House. Like me, this explorer travelled widely for decades before returning home with memories and mementoes. The poems devoted to Teresa consist of outtakes from my play, The Triumph of Teresa Harris, that were best expressed as poetry. The middle section is What the Heart Parts, also produced as a play and a Sound Opera.When the Heart Parts is based on the life and death of her father, Jim Kemp, London artist and mentor of artists in the 1950s. In my work, poetry and drama intersect, the way two branches of the Thames meet at the Forks.
The second half of the book is a tribute to local London creators. I was lucky enough to grow up in an artistic household and so was introduced to many of London’s cultural icons. Anecdotes abound. “London Local Heroes” recognizes several of those artists who broke through conservative conventions to create and celebrate their own community. Cultural activists had to develop their own vibrant and exciting arts scene or be pulled away to the larger metropolis east or west of London. Transformation happens in the local, through the intersection of culture, art and geography that defines the regional. Local Heroes offers an empowering vision of regionalism: we are at our own centre, our own gravitational field, where activism is most effective. We are at the centre of a cultural cauldron where opposites mingle and mix. Here the arts are cultivated and emerge as rich as the farmland surrounding London. The centre not only holds but opens up to the world, rippling out in concentric circles.
Penn Kemp
For more, please see
by Thomas Whyte.


Upcoming Events with Penn

Here’s my reading schedule for the next few months: I hope to see you!
All events are free and open to the public.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018 in London: Reading with Penn Kemp and Daphne Marlatt, 3:30 to 4:20 p.m. AHB-3R07, Western University. The Arts and Humanities Building is the old Ivey Business building, directly south of University College.

Saturday, March 10, 2018 in Toronto: Words and Music Salon, 12:30 to 3:30 pm. I’m reading 2:30-3:00 pm. The Tiki Room, the Tranzac, 292 Brunswick Ave. Sponsored by the League of Poets, Metro Reading in Public Places.

Thursday, April 19, 2018 in London: The launch of Local Heroes (Insomniac Press 2018) by Penn Kemp. The evening includes an exhibition tour with curator Amber Lloydlangston, followed by Penn’s reading @ 7:30 pm. The theatre will show several short videos on Local Heroes by Dennis Siren, Mary McDonald and Western’s Community Engaged Learning students.
6:30 to 7:15 p.m. – Curator Tour: Women’s Lives in Canada: A History, 1875-2000;          7:30 to 8:30 p.m. – Penn’s reading; and 8:30 to 9 p.m. – book signing.
Lecture Theatre, Museum London, 421 Ridout St N.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018, 8 pm: ‘ALT’ show, Victoria Poetry Project Caffè Fantastico, 965 Kings Road, Victoria, British Columbia V8T 1W7. Contact shayne avec i grec vegabard@gmail.com

Friday, April 27, 2018 in Edmonton, Alberta:  Featured reader, “Wine and Wild Women Wordsmiths”, The Edmonton Poetry Festival. They match a wine to the poet. I’ve offered to be a full-bodied Red!

Monday, May 28, 2018 in London, 7 to 8:30 pm: Women Trailblazers: Writers and Voices for Change: Heroes. A reading and lecture series celebrating Canadian women writers.
Featured guests: Judy Rebick and Penn Kemp, Stevenson & Hunt Room, Central Library, 251 Dundas StreetJudy is reading from Heroes in My Head (Anansi) and Penn from Local Heroes (Insomniac).

Penn Kemp and Daphne Marlatt Reading 2018

With thanks to Debbie Okun Hill for her profile and updates:

Poet Profile – Penn Kemp and Barbaric Cultural Practice

Kites Without Strings

“But our/yearning to hear fills our ears the way seashells will imitate real//roar of ocean wave, appearing/disappearing.”* – Penn Kemp

Canadian poetPenn Kemploves ‘sound’ and her book Barbaric Cultural Practice(Quattro Books, 2016) astounds me with her word play, her vocalized chords, and the musical rhythms of her poetic stanzas. She is the barbaric activist riding her horse at full tilt and the experienced voice “in the yellow cornfield of your mind.” (p. 39) The key is to listen carefully to catch each nuance before the next line appears.

BLOG IMAGE Barbaric-Cultural-Practice_front-cover Barbaric Cultural Practice (Quattro Books, 2016) features 72 poems by Penn Kemp.

Divided into five sections (Electrical Events, Light Eats, Heart and Stroke Foundation, In Dream Sequins, and Wild Crafting), her recent 112-page book includes 72 poems that challenge the status quo of the world. Her interest in nature, dreams, and Goddesses plus the way politics, technology, and global…

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