Altar Ego, a poem for “What is Now?

Altar Ego

“Altar Ego”, from composer Bill Gilliam’s DVD, Memory Vision (2008). Images by Arnold Wytenburg.

Delighted to perform this piece with Bill Gilliam on Sat. May 9 at 345 Gallery, Toronto.


Altar Ego

Something has happened to

the I on this passage. I is

no longer a point of view,

stuck to this emotion or that,

the site of accumulated

experience. I has shed

the necessity of self defence.

I is a floating centre of perception.

I has widened to include

you and you and you be-

cause no barrier intrudes

between us.

I has become compound,

many-faceted. Complexity

leaps to a larger simpler

system. I is surprised

the words continue even

here. I is resting in

a continuum Am.

The diphthong of pain

Aeiii ground down

to seed syllable AUM.

Have you noticed that if you stay

with an image long enough

the fear you felt dissolves

into a live love you can embrace?

Penn Kemp


Painting by Jim Kemp
Photo by Gavin Stairs

What is Now? Saturday, May 9, 8 pm. Gallery 345, Toronto,

Being in the present can be interesting if we pay attention.

Being in the now can be transcendent if we know what to do.

Exploration through performance could be the difference…

Saturday, May 9, 8 pm. What is Now? Gallery 345, 345 Sorauren Ave, Toronto, ON M6R 2G5, 416.822.9781. $10-$20.

This show explores “What is Now?” through performances by Toronto poets – spoken word artists Brent Peers and Tanya Neumeyer rooted in the poetry slam community and performance poet Penn Kemp from London, Ontario, alongside improvised music created by Bill Gilliam (piano), Glen Hall (Kyma X, electroacoustic sounds, saxophone, flutes, and bass clarinet) and Ambrose Pottie (percussion). Contact: Sponsored by the League of Canadian Poets.  Penn has just received the Spoken Word Award from the League of Canadian Poets:

“It was completely clear to me that the performers have a wonderful musical relationship because they listen so well to one another and allow for each artist to play in the spotlight and showcase their talents.  This is all done in a very subtle fashion, seamlessly weaving voices, keyboard sampled textures and percussive accents.  The effect is transporting, meditative and our audiences were completely engaged by the intimacy of their performance.
Be prepared to go on a journey into textured sound scapes, playful sound poetry and texts.  You won’t be disappointed!!” Gordon Way, Assistant Artistic Director, Distillery Jazz Festival

Notes from our April 25 performance in London:
“Penn, your passionate poetry was an inspiration to me, thank you so much! And thanks to Bill for his extraordinary piano playing!” Marion Johnson
“Bravo – Saturday’s reading exquisite Saturday’s “musical reading” was fabulously entertaining. It was truly a memorable occasion which Marion and I were happy to be a part of. Let me know when you repeat in Toronto as i want to publicize it. Bill was an awesome talent as well. Just wonderful…” Nancy Johnson

See also .

Creative Aging Readings and Writing Workshops!

What Lies Ahead: Spring Readings and Workshops in London ON!

Your imagination, your creativity: what does the crystal ball hold for you?


Readings/workshops from several of Canada’s most rousing writers at Landon Library, London, will encourage you to step into creatively aging through their inspiration. Each reading is followed by a workshop to explore your own writing in whatever form it takes. Spring is the time for new beginnings: what springs to mind for you?
Curated and introduced by Penn Kemp, Writer in Residence, Creative Age Festival London

FREE. Register by phone 519 661.5122, on-line or in person at any Library branch.
The events are downstairs @Landon Library, 167 Wortley Rd. London N6C 3P6.
Sign up now to ensure your place!  Bring lots of paper and a pen: you will be inspired!
May 9: Patricia Keeney*
May 23: Sheri-D Wilson*
May 30: Sandy Ross
June 6: Penn Kemp**

May 9 ~ 10am- noon. Patricia Keeney is a writer, critic and Professor of Creative Writing at York University, with poetry translated into many languages, and a novelist too.
Workshop Description: After discussing Pat’s process of creating. the group will consider a big change point in their lives, free-associating both feelings and a central image, and then writing to be shared and fashioned into poems.

May 23 ~ 10am- noon. Sheri-D Wilson, mama of dada, is an internationally known Spoken Word Artist who believes in social change through personal transformation.
Workshop Description:Dance of Words ~ prepare for something new in the realm of Spoken Word. We will write, think, and play. We will enter an introspective space to contemplate and curve through writing exercises, and voice our ideas.

May 30th ~ 10am- noon. Sandy Ross is a dynamic wordsmith and instructor. Among her other writing projects, she thoroughly enjoys facilitating monthly Storytelling Your Life workshops.
Workshop Description: Storytelling Your Life ~ Sandy uses her gift as a creative spark to inspire your story well told. She will work closely with workshop participants as they develop their personal writings and readings.

June 6 – 10:30- noon. Penn Kemp is an inspiring workshop presenter, poet, playwright, performer, activist and London’s inaugural poet laureate.
Workshop Description:After reading from some plays, Penn will lead us in exploring and developing characters through sound and image. In allowing our Muses to speak through us we’ll be surprised at the unfolding process of new writing.

Sponsored by Creative Aging Festival and London Public Library.
Details are  up on

*These readings are sponsored by the League of Canadian Poets,
**This reading is sponsored by



Photos: Daniela Sneppova and Stan Burfield

Wild Crafting Poems for SPRING!

 To celebrate SPRING, Toronto jazz pianist Bill Gilliam and I are performing my poems
from “Wild Crafting” and “Trance Dance Form: a Sound Opera”.

Come celebrate with us!

Tall Poppies 481948_10151091650089402_1953963330_nThese poems I’ll be performing with Bill Gilliam​ at East Village Coffeehouse​ this Saturday, 7-9!

Wild Crafting

Kore, Ostara, Flora, sing slight intimacy
of air, flights imagination will lilt with.

Goldfinches float above the daffodils,
hang upside-down on the stalk of old
sunflower to catch last fall’s last seed.


A flash of cardinal lilts down
to settle in a cloud of Creeping
Charlie, Gill-over-the-Ground
and sky-blue Forget-Me-Knot.


My daily bouquet of dandelion
satisfies the neighbour’s need

for desert of green grass and mine
for wild.

The yellow vibrant heads last
just a day, and then plunge sodden
into compost, to rot and feed more

flowers, not to go to seed and
propagate as they are raised to do.

Daily, the flowers bloom closer
and closer to the ground, as if
to speed the cycle, to seed before

the lawn mower lops off their
vibrant unmistakeable heads.

In thwarting their will to reproduce,
I celebrate their evanescent charm
and serve their leaves for lunch.

Stirring Not Stirring

Honey drips from my nose, coats
my hair in blond stiff strands.

I am standing very still calling
bees by scent.  Pheromones draw

them to collect on me, hiving off
to a giant new temporary queen,

spun down from my chin in a grand
pharaoh’s beard.  My eyes, my ears

are bee-shut, open only to their buzz.


What I don’t know is that I’m here
in front of a bear’s cave on the first
warm day of summer, attending

emergence, as the swarm births
from entrails of bull and bear.

Bee goddess, bear goddess, mid-
wife, be with us mid-life and beyond.

Homing to the Given

I am moving into old time
Fire embraces my shadow,
absorbs darkness into heat.

Friends linger, huddle under
our circular warmth.  10,000
years melt away in the current

climate shift.  There goes snow.
Too late for comfort, too late to
reverse trends toward entropy.

Decades, centuries speed past
future possibles into the past as
currencies of passable presents.

How to turn this tendency around.
Rapidly, rapidly.  Restraint is not
enough.  Constraint does not serve.

That’s not the story.  I’m drifting.
The ceremony commenced while
attention was off in is own helium.

I am standing before the entrance
of deep cave, a cave I recognize
only by the dark its shadow casts.

Fire gleams.  Fire climbs the walls.
Shapes dance into consistent form.
The sense of bear emerges into three

dimensions.  Someone from behind
must be holding up the bearskin for
Orsel, Artemis, Bear Woman, shape

shifter.  There is no one there but
this bear shape is now my contour.
Bear shape becomes me.  Becomes

my own, new comfort large enough
to roam back, large enough to call home.

Recurring Dream Theme

Night rustles outside our window, murmurs
and squeaks.  Whimpers follow outraged
raccoon yowl.  Orange and black streak

across the dark pane I can’t see through
into night creatures’ world, conjuring
interlaced smells of skunk, mouse, bat

disturbing our neighbour hound’s nose.
Scent leads a trail to territorial war, deep
enmities nurtured throughout the long wee

hours before dawn lifts that velvet cloth to
reveal grey, seeping shade back to clarity.
Daylight cicada notions begin threading a

brightening air.  Dragonflies wing-web
the pond.  Inside I still dream of prowling
tigress, White Goddess stalking the dark.


A first taste of London’s Creative Aging Festival!


The“Wild Crafting” poems were first published in

My reading is sponsored by the League of Canadian Poets and the Canada Council for the Arts.
The last reading in London ON for National Poetry Month 2015!

Painting by Jim Kemp.

Paean to Spring! Light Eats! Light Sounds! on April 25

Toronto jazz musician Bill Gilliam and I will be performing poems for SPRING from my “Wild Crafting” and “Trance Dance Form: a Sound Opera”.

April 25, 7-9 p.m. East Village Coffee House

754 Dundas at English, London ON. 226-271-6141.

$5.00 donation at the door. Delicious refreshments.

Get an early taste of the Creative Age Festival London with a National Poetry Month performance by Penn Kemp and Bill Gilliam with Light Eats! Light Sounds!

Bill Gilliam is a Toronto based composer/pianist who improvises new music compositions blending influences of contemporary harmony and jazz idioms into his unique style of playing. His recordings include many with Penn.

Bill performs with Toronto Improviser’s Orchestra

I’m Creative Age Festival London’s writer-in-residence and the League of Canadian Poet’s 2015 spoken word artist, This reading is sponsored by the League and the Canada Council for the Arts.



…follow a lady

into echo of eloquence

a shine on the laurel bush

she hides to hear

her own

& other


she seeks the small but authentic


from form thru form

she hedges

into earth

rooting taking hold of place

lapsing to silence

that her knowledge might


against the power of



she has tapped

no running away – this to



when she looks she peers

pushing back the thicket

long white hand

long white strand

out of the web

she weaves by day

frenetic &


on the clearing loom of words

stories rustle

hover at the corner of



a thing


at water’s edge


a central flow

form is apparent

in the moving   out

& down   thru fact

black teeming muck


(   wing

presences rustle

their story

a torrent

of sound streams round this

ring we intuit, dancing

into its power

it continues/

telling the steps

to continue its falling/




over forty years

For Daphne Marlatt, adapted from Trance Form

by Penn Kemp

A poem may be the most natural form for a poet writing about another poet…what better way to write an appreciation of one of my favourite Canadian poets? This piece was published in an earlier version in my book, Trance Form, Soft Press, in 1976, reprinted by Pendas Productions.

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