This poem is dedicated to London’s spectacular local heroes and Canada’s most decorated ice dance team, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. We’re celebrating their return to competition after a two…
Notes on Alice Oswald’s Memorial: a version of Homer’s Iliad
with an afterword by Eavan Boland. W.W. Norton & Company.
“Like fire with its loose hair flying rushes through a city
The look of unmasked light shocks everything to rubble”
Alice Oswald’s Memorial: a version of Homer’s Iliad is a merciless, fully compassionate and all too relevant reading of The Illiad. This short, immensely weighted book drops the unresponsive body of narrative to reveal a poetry of pure heart: “I write through the Greek, not from it— aiming for translucence rather than translation.” Memorial is heart-rending into its specificity, enumerating the names of the dead in a litany reminiscent of Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I almost wrote ‘fallen’, the word of memorialists since the Great War.
Oswald enlists “‘enargeia’, which means something like ‘bright unbearable reality’. It’s the word used when gods come to earth not in disguise but as themselves. This version, trying to retrieve the poem’s enargeia, takes away superfluous narrative. Instead, Oswald evokes through similes traditional Greek pastoral and lament. But why or why does she not use the more assuaging and mellifluous ‘as’ instead of the obstreperous ‘like’ when introducing her similes… Perhaps she prefers the bluntness of ‘like’.
I misspelled history as ‘histroy’ and Spell Checker suggested, appropriately, his Troy. “The Iliad is a vocative poem. Perhaps even (in common with lament) it is invocative. It always addresses Patroculus as ‘you’, as if speaking directly to the dead… a kind of oral cemetery”. The poem presents in a phrase or epithet a man’s whole history as well as the manner of his death. The olive tree is granted slightly more space in Oswald’s astonishing simile of life’s cycle:
“Like a man put a wand of olive in the earth
And watered it and that wand became a wave
It became a whip a spine a crown
It became a wind-dictionary
It could speak in tongues
It became a wobbling wagon-load of flowers
And then a storm came spinning by
And it became a broken tree uprooted
It became a wood pile in a lonely field.”
Another Alice Oswald was my English teacher at Medway High School: a dry stick we considered ancient. A dry stick who would burst to flame when reciting Keats’s ode. The image on the cover of PERFORMING WOMEN honours that flame as well.
Performing Women: Playwrights and Performance Poets is now for sale!
And as a copyscript for $12 from Playwrights Guild of Canada, 416-703-0201, email@example.com. http://www.playwrightsguild.ca/performing-women-playwrights-and-performance-poets
Penn Kemp, Editor
Why Ducks, Anyway?
Kelly Jo Burke
Red Dresses Hang from the Trees and Towers: Red and Rapunzel are Missing
Sounding the depth, the surface resounding
Zoomorphic Poetics (or, Why I Write So Many Poems About Wildlife)
How does collaboration enhance performance poetry? The Intimate Power of Co-Creation
Spoken Word Poetry as Political Act
Available from Quattro Books, http://quattrobooks.ca/books/barbaric-cultural-practice/
November 6, 10am. Penn Kemp and Madeline Bassnett read together for this session @ Words, London’s Literary and Creative Arts Festival, http://wordsfest.ca/. The Lecture Theatre, Museum London, 421 Ridout St N, London, ON N6A 5H4. Contact: Joshua D Lambier, Artistic Director, firstname.lastname@example.org. https://www.facebook.com/events/1136768886402917/http://wordsfest.ca/events/2016/penn-kemp-madeline-bassnett-in-conversation
Saturday, November 26, 2-4, pm. Book signing and Launch of Women & Multimedia and Performing Women: Playwrights and Performance Poets. The Living Archives Series, The Feminist Caucus, League of Canadian Poets, http://poets.ca/wordpress/programs-2/feminist-caucus. Essayist and editor of the two anthologies. AND Barbaric Cultural Practice! Brown & Dickson, 519-318-1983, email@example.com, http://www.brownanddickson.com, 609 Richmond Street, London N6A 3G3
Many of the poems in Barbaric Cultural Practice were provoked into being by political events, ongoing, so I have co-opted the hashtag, #BarbaricCulturalPractice. I’m thrilled that Quattro was able to insert QR codes to sixteen of these poems, so you can experience them off the page as audio and video. My impulse in writing hovers along a long spectrum of indignation, compassion, horror, scorn and ridicule: a multitude of response that only poetry can, for me, express. Such reactions are expressed in http://www.thelondoner.ca/2016/09/28/penn-kemp-as-barbarian and this interview: https://pacifictranquility.wordpress.com/2016/08/21/what-made-me-a-poet-curiosity-the-thrill-of-adventure-of-new-worlds-qa-with-poet-penn-kemp/.
I’m deeply grateful for family and friends’ encouragement en route and ongoing during the evolution of these poems. The list is long and extends back decades. Special thanks to Allan Briesmaster, my editor and publisher of Barbaric Cultural Practice. A fine poet himself, he is the ideal editor, encouraging, engaging, and always astute. Thanks as well to my dear poet friends, Katerina Fretwell, Susan McCaslin, and most especially to Susan McMaster, for their keen eyes and ears and discerning comments. I’m grateful to all who wrote such enthusiastic endorsements: Di Brandt, George Elliot Clarke, Katerina Fretwell, Laurie D. Graham, Leona Graham, Dennis Maloney, Susan McCaslin, Susan McMaster, Elizabeth Waterston and Sheri-D Wilson! See https://pennkemp.wordpress.com/2016/09/18/endorsements-for-barbaric-cultural-practice/. Thanks to J. R. (Tim) Struthers, for suggesting the title, “The Hart of London.” And to Catherine Ross, my literary executrix!
The cover painting, Transporting, is by my beloved friend, Anne Anglin. It is her vivid
interpretation of an equally vivid dream I had. Gavin Stairs included some of these poems in artbooks, republishing earlier works through our little company, Pendas Productions. I have posted poems on www.pennkemp.wordpress.com. Several of these poems or lines therein have been published in my books: Binding Twine (Ragweed Press), Trance Form (Soft Press), Some Talk Magic (Ergo Productions), Throo (Moonstone Press), ANIMUS (Caitlin Press), as well as two chapbooks: Eidolons (White Pine Press) and from Dream Sequins, (Lyrical Myrical Press).
Poetry needs to be heard as well as read, so I have concentrated in recent years on audio renditions and videopoems in collaboration with Bill Gilliam, John Magyar, Dennis Siren, and Gavin Stairs: available from Pendas Productions, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Several of the poems in Barbaric Cultural Practice were commissioned by activist organizations. Versions of most of the poems were first published in magazines, literary journals and newspapers. I would like to thank the editors of all the literary magazines that support Canadian writing. The London Free Press and Metro News (London) have been most supportive in publishing occasional poems over the last decade. I would like to thank all those editors who support and promote Canadian writing. The League of Canadian Poets has supported most of the readings where these poems were performed. A Toronto Arts Council grant gave me much appreciated time to write
Where you may have read these poems, in other incarnations or reprinted:
“Celebrating Tree in Souwesto,” “The Hart of London.” Another London Anthology, harmonia press, September 2016
Tuck Magazine in Britain recently reprinted the following poems: “Arms and the Boy”, “Demeter’s Exclusion Sector” and “May Day, 1945”, http://tuckmagazine.com/2016/10/06/poetry-558/. “Smog Alert” and “Gender Bias Even Among the Elements”, http://tuckmagazine.com/2016/09/19/poetry-532/. “Synaesthetics”, “Filling the Cart” and “Giving Your Word”, http://tuckmagazine.com/2016/09/05/poetry-512/.
“Tip Line”, “The Nature of Food”, Tuck Magazine, http://tuckmagazine.com/2016/08/23/poetry-493/
Seven poems are in Danse Macabre: An Online Literary Magazine #99, Pictures of Life, Eletkepek, July 2016. The poem “Solstice” was chosen as Danse Macabre du Jour, https://dmdujour.wordpress.com/2016/07/12/penn-kemp-solstice/ “Reflecting Mimesis” and “All things Considered”, https://dmdujour.wordpress.com/2012/04/16/penn-kemp-two-poems/ and http://dansemacabre.art.officelive.com/DanseMacabreDuJour.aspx.
“Given a Line.”CV2. Contemporary Verse 2.V.38.3, Winter 2016. http://www.contemporaryverse2.ca/en/store/issue/the-open-issue3
“Walking on the Moon.” Cordite/Arc. http://cordite.org.au/content/poetry/ohcanada/, http://cordite.org.au/newsblog/walking-on-the-moon/
“Grazing the Face of Climate Change,” “Gender Bias Even Among the Elements,” “Middle March and Beyond.” Canadian Woman Studies: Women and Water, Vol. 30, Nos. 2, 3. Inanna Publications, http://inanna.ca/index.php/catalog/women-and-water/
“Heart to Art,” “Too Close for Comfort.” Goddess Pages, Issue #27: Summer 2015. http://www.goddess-pages.co.uk/three-poems-from-penn-kemp/#more-2890 https://pennkemp.wordpress.com/2015/07/17/goddess-poems-2015/
16 QR Codes will lead you to audio and video poems!
In praise and rant, the poems in Barbaric Cultural Practice pay tribute to our dear MotherWorld’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.
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 of Canada
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
A witty tongue-wrestle with the mechanics and metaphors of the poet’s new tools, in a techno-unbounded universe where the only limitations are the electrical conduits from brain through fingers to glaring screen. What happens when the lyric power of a highly experienced and galvanically charged poet dances in the electron stream? Connect with a surging circuit of Penn Kemp’s energetic and eclectic words, connect and recharge.
– Susan McMaster