The latest book of poetry by Penn Kemp, forthcoming October 1, 2016 from Quattro Books.
In praise and rant, the poems in Barbaric Cultural Practice pay tribute to our dear Mother World’s enchantments as well as her upheavals. They confront the stresses of urban life as juxtaposed to nature’s round, and deal, for example, with the effect of computers on our psyche and with the imprint of electronic media upon perception, consciousness and dream life. They are a response to the need for action against climate change and a humorous protest against overwhelming technology.
“… quirky, witty, funny, deep, wise & full of surprises.”
– Di Brandt, author of Walking to Mojácar
“Barbaric Cultural Practice is an urgent set of makings, of remarkable and dramatic word-acts, that reminds us that language – the hallmark of civilization – also enables barbaric, human imposition on Nature and the eternal. The inaugural Poet Laureate of London ON, Penn Kemp is an expert tool-and-die versifier. Proof? Well, that very pun you’ve just read is indebted to her, for she employs every poetry technique available – every tool in the toolbox – to stress the stubborn connection between concrete reality and supposedly abstract words. Nor does Kemp flinch from pondering how our distancing embrace (that’s not an oxymoron) of electronica interferes with our relationships to the earth, each other, and to Art. Barbaric Cultural Practice is so timely, it is an alarm clock, shocking us awake to our drowsy, Eloi circumstances.”
– George Elliott Clarke, Parliamentary Poet Laureate
“Penn Kemp, a poet at the peak of her powers, casts a loving gaze at poetry’s purpose, at our planet and all sentient beings. Through loving attention, wordplay, whimsy and wit, dream and prophecy, Kemp transforms the ineffable into an elegant expression of life deeply envisioned. Through metaphoric shape-shifting, Kemp shows us that “My work is the translator’s, to move one/ sense into another’s realm.”(“Blow by Blow”). This gift of synaesthesia heightens her calling for us to take our earthly stewardship to heart: These are poems to meditate on, to incorporate into the interstices of our layered lives. In the book’s title, Kemp transforms a political gaffe, “barbaric cultural practices”, into an elegy for earth and heart-song for each other. Above all, Love is this exceptionally talented and seasoned poet’s guiding light.”
– Katerina Fretwell, author of Dancing on a Pin
“In Barbaric Cultural Practice we are treated to some of the most clear-eyed, keenly felt articulations of the present moment, as well as Penn Kemp’s boundless capacity for play: the simmering, tangling, rocketing, warbling, wooing, cooing, and joyful boogieing of her poems working themselves onto the page. Kemp’s feet are so sure, dancing on that lip. Through this book we learn all that’s at stake between the poem’s lines. ”
– Laurie D. Graham, author of Settler Education
“Penn Kemp’s work is profoundly mystical, a tour into otherworldly realms but informed by this world’s concerns, the depth of poetry, and the ability of her language to cross borders into metaphysical realism.”
– Leona Graham, author of Cloudbank Across the Fens
“Kemp walks the line, exploring a new syntax of language, whether celebrating the goddess or the dance between voice and machine, hand to iPad, to transmit this map of her mind and dreams.”
– Dennis Maloney, author of Listening to Tao Yuan Ming
“Penn Kemp’s Barbaric Cultural Practice brings together etymological, sonic, and cultural layerings of the words “barbaric,’ “cultural,” and “practice.” This electric new volume distinguishes the truly creative and evolutionary from what impedes a fuller engagement with each other and with planet earth. In these poems, the source of true wildness (wilderness) calls heart to heart: “I has widened to include/ you and you and you.”
– Susan McCaslin, author of Painter, Poet, Mountain: After Cézanne
“What happens when the lyric power of a highly experienced and galvanically charged poet dances in the electron stream? Barbaric Cultural Practice collects a decade’s poetic exploration of digital absurdities, of earth’s vitality and grave needs, and of community. Penn never just reads: she performs, even on the page; we can’t help but listen. Connect with the surging circuit of her energetic and eclectic words, connect and recharge.” – Susan McMaster, editor of Waging Peace: Poetry and Political Action
“Penn Kemp’s Barbaric Cultural Practice is a stunning and magical tribute of travel wisdom of vision of longing of voices and of Goddess ways of seeing into and circumnavigating the heart of old ways of ancient catapulting into futures of tech-knowledge-able dancing back and forth of swaying of seeds of truth gardening matter of otherworldly mantras singing of the everyday made extraordinary. what movement in stillness what stillness in motion. what beauty what love!”
– Sheri-D Wilson, author of Open Letter: Woman Against Violence Against Women
“What is it like, writing a poem? Penn Kemp knows. She has spent her life performing poetry, publishing poetry, being poet-in-residence, Poet Laureate, poster-person for other poets. Now she stows her yellow pencil, fingers the keys of her computer, opens a new window and waits for a poem to find its way onto the desktop.
This is the poem and I
take no hand in it. I
want to write a comedy.
That’s rich. That’s fun-
ny laughs the voice in
my head that keeps
right on talking the poem
down the tree and onto
That is from “Cogito Ergo Sum” in the first part of Penn Kemp’s new collection of poems, Barbaric Cultural Practices. Penn likes to play jokes with words, but it’s no fun finding familiar words playing silly tricks under the direction of the electronic impersonal:
How have I come to man-
ipulate this trackball
with fingers on a keyboard?
We are beyond the mouse.
My Spell Checker would change Cogito to Caught.
For someone’s Suggest salmon’s.
For trackball Suggest traceable
For Change all Ignore
For Add For Options
For Delete Close.
After you push the “Page Down” button, you can move to other sections, less high-tech, dealing with topics like “House – Hold – Man – Age – Meant.” Or with hearts, and strokes:
His mind is air-brushed
to a whiter, more spacious landscape
reflected in such snowy waste outside.
So we sink into sweet reverie fireside,
unthinking, unburdened, cuddled and
coddled warm by flame and the scarlet
beauty of this moment in flower here
only once but all the more present in
daring our ambivalent future dissipate
fear for now. Say it straight. For now.
Happier moments flower in poems like “Dream Visit, in Tune, In Time.” The rhythms, the internal rhymes, the spaces, work against logical walls:
Brilliance resounds all around. Redbud, mock-orange boughs
bow in the heightened breeze. Resonance ripples and whirls
to restore, re-story this walled garden.
But against the whimsical sequence of “Dream Sequins” Penn Kemp sets TV realities
I fall through the screams . . .
Women and men cleaving, cleft, bereft.
Dispossessed of a West they thought they knew.
Dis/oriented, where do they turn?. . .
Then another twist, and Penn Kemp launches a final fantastic essential plea for light:
Let us eat light like
plants. Let us chew
the bright air till we can
swallow light like
fire-eaters. Let us
assimilate light . . . .”
– Elizabeth Waterston, author of Readying Rilla: L. M. Montgomery Reworks her Manuscript
“Penn Kemp is an icon in the cultural landscape. Her biography page on her blog states she has over 25 books of poetry and drama published, plus six plays and numerous works recorded on different electronic means. But this new work is brilliant in its form… Kemp has done something enlightening for readers by using the term for this collection of poetry. She has crafted her personal thoughts and views in this work and given all of us something to consider about our own actions… Literature should cause a reader to consider their world and their actions in the world around them. Penn Kemp has done that for me with her collection Barbaric Cultural Practice. No doubt I will be reading it again and quoting it here.”
– Steven Buechler, https://pacifictranquility.wordpress.com/2016/08/02/making-us-consider-our-actions-discussion-of-penn-kemps-barbaric-cultural-practicequattro-books-to-be-launched-autumn-2016/
Cover Painting of Barbaric Cultural Practice by Anne Anglin