I bet you’ll love this review of Fox Haunts: Poems on ReWilding by Bill Arnott as much as I do! SO much fun.
Available from me for $20 plus mailing. 525 Canterbury Road, London ON N6G 2N5.
Fox Haunts. Poems by Penn Kemp. Aeolus House, 2018. 97 pages.
First time I saw a fox I was atop an open-air double decker, trundling along Cornish coast, intermittently thrashed by leafy birch as though in a weaving Finnish sauna. I was compelled to shield my eyes – what was there beyond my grasp, available only to the worthy. In fact it was present for everyone. Laid bare, unabashedly rich in beauty and lore. A slender, russet blonde animal, taller than I imagined. Regal. Same as when I met Penn Kemp. Somewhere a fellow trickster – Loki, Kokopelli perhaps, grinned as I carried a newly signed Fox Haunts to my semi-detached lair.
Adaptation runs through this London Laureate’s poems in darting twists, flight from imagined hunter’s horn. At times furtive, dreamily camouflaged, or bounding in plain sight, Kemp’s artistry enraptures. We join Penn in childhood, parents fused to fox memories with “A Child’s Garden Fox.”
“Sleepy, sleeping in my mother’s lap. Nestled. / When. A fox ran in front of the car. And / was transfixed by the headlights. Ran and / ran in front of the car but could not escape”
In red hued monochrome we glimpse dead fur and living banshees in “Steal, Stole, Stun.”
“The dried heads of black fox hung / from my grandmother’s stole as if / ready to strike. Dead flat button jet / eyes shut tight to their own secret”
And with fireside ease we move through seasons, geography and myth, playful “Glow” perching us parrot-like on the writer’s shoulder, experiencing evolving words while peering real-time into her thoughts.
“That narrow snout surfaces to / figure your next ploy, asking / curiously: ‘Who do you serve?’ // The essential question mocks / my reply. The whole, of course.”
Reading Kemp’s work I feel nestled in a sidecar affixed to the master’s motorbike, confident in her route, at times in conversation, storytelling, or akin to a lie-down on a therapist’s sofa. This book can leave one simultaneously inspired and intimidated, seeing genius expand exponentially with time.
Writing this I’m at Penn’s desk, at least the one she left for me to use in Vernon, BC. Beside me Fox Haunts lies curled and content, in its rightful place atop the rest. Through a broad bay window a few last leaves cling in vixen colours and from “Entertaining the Fox” the author’s words linger.
“May you be translated. And remain / entirely your own.”
Vancouver author, poet, songwriter Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of Dromomania and Gone Viking: A Travel Saga. His articles and reviews are published in Canada, the US, UK, Europe and Asia. Bill has a poetry prize from Pandora’s Collective and is a finalist for the Whistler Independent Book Awards 2019 with Gone Viking: A Travel Saga.
This review appeared in the latest (and, sadly, last) issue of Sharon Berg’ s Big Pond Rumours (Page 79) and online at Vancouver’s Pandora’s Collective.
I was also delighted by kind words on Fox Haunts in Goodreads:
Be wild. Be unruly. Be inspired by this delightful book of poems.”
“Fox Haunts by Penn Kemp is a fascinating investigation of both the real animal and the figure of literature and myth. Kemp’s wordplay, wit and humour are on full display (for example, the whimsical suggestions for keeping foxes out of the yard in How To Repel the Urban Fox), but there are serious streams concerning adaptation, the collision of our civilisation with nature, and what Kemp terms rewilding. This is a captivating, multi-layered work”.