The Chinese Year of the Snake

2013 was a year that lived up to its rep:
Triskaidekaphobia, the fear of thirteen.
The Year of a sly and slippery Snake.

Mayoral scamps, provincial buffoons
(without any idea of consequence since
taxpayers would pay for their mistakes)
and federal about-to-be felons in office. 

2013 was the year that backpackers no
longer sported a proud Canadian flag to
distinguish themselves from Americans

abroad.  Remember when we brokered
Peace instead of breaking our word?
When neighbours trusted one another
rather than spy on friends near and far?

We supported Nelson Mandela early on.
But Apartheid learned from our treatment
of First Peoples how to apply shrouds of
secrecy, neglect and worse in the name of
transparency.  Elder Brother is watching.

Chris Hadfield had to go through Customs
coming back from Space, so the Russians
declare.  I hope he was whistling ISS (Is
Somebody Singing”.  Someone’s certainly
crying for truth and then for reconciliation.

For 2013 was the year when the very rich
became richer and the entire middle class
disappeared into the working poor while
the poor got lost in a fast shuffle of Cuts.

We’re ending this year with a sigh, not a
bang nor a whimper.  With a hope that next
year, first truth and real reconciliation will
be realized.  If we take the next step and act
for social justice, for swift democratic reform.

       PK, December 26, 2013

“Hope this inspires more public poetry projects! Thanks, Penn Kemp!” Linda Russo
“Brava!! An environmental hero for our times.  Good going, Penn! What a hero you are.”  Susan McCaslin
“This is a must read for every poet in the city (and beyond – for us country folk). Bravo Penn.”  Ron Stewart
“Love the poem!!! YES YES, should be read in Parliament!”  Katerina Fretwell
“As do you make things happen, Penn – as do all true poets.”  Mia Greene

Since July, my activism been focused on and in London, centred around historical personages and plays.  I wrote and produced a wonderfully well-received play about a marvellous character, Teresa Harris, at Eldon House.  And I’m working on What the Heart P’Arts, a play about my father.  He was instrumental in promoting the art scene here after the War and on till his death in ’83.  It will be produced at AlvegoRoot Theatre in the London Fringe in June, with dad’s paintings in the Visual Fringe.

We can look to lives well lived as inspiration for effective action in the world.  I’m thinking of Nelson Mandela world-wide and Jack Layton in Canada.  The launch of Jack Layton: Art in Action took me on tour across Canada last spring, from BC to Jack’s hometown in Hudson, Quebec.  14 participatory launches, very invigorating! with many local contributors reading their piece from the book.  Quattro Books has now released the second edition of Jack Layton: Art in Action.

“Poet Penn Kemp a force of nature… The idea of using poetry to win hearts and minds was irresistible. There were bigger stories in news value, but the sheer idealism involved in this one made it the story of the year for me.”  Mike Donachie, Metro, London
December 26, 2013.

“Trees, Please!”   A polyglot of poets read their poems to save the London woodland, as published in the PigeonBike Press pamphlet, “Trees or Jobs: It Should Not Be a Dichotomy”.  Poets include Tom Cull, Andreas Gripp, Patricia Keeney, Penn Kemp, Susan McCaslin, Susan McMaster and R L Raymond from PigeonBike. With an intro. by Joni Baechler, Councillor.  She writes: “I am so pleased that London poets have come together in a creative, collaborative project with the goal of protecting our natural environment.  Heartwarming to my creative soul.” MP Irene Mathyssen, also a creative soul, writes: “When all the empty strip malls are falling down, we will still be missing our beautiful lost trees.”  The poems are on  Audio, “Celebrating Tree”.  This poem can be read on