Spring CorresponDance

Two new poems appear in the excellent Beliveau Review,Issue 7, published today. The issue is available for free download from the Beliveau Books website… scroll down: https://beliveaubooks.wixsite.com/home/magazines

For Mary and Her Men

Do you remember the storms
on Lake Geneva, the challenge
set out by poets, and answered

by you, Mary Shelley, yours
so easily equal in power and

It was revolutionary then to
spend a weekend dreaming 
Gothic. You chewed the era
coming into focus—new but
unrealized, science in action.

Thinking monster—this idea
alive at the same time and
huge the way the past is
thrown by a trick of light

projected onto shadow
out of all proportion into
a future to be feared, unknown.

Then the thud of approaching
golem, his wet eye unable to 
focus on anything as small 

as you, his author, his maker
and the women he yearned would
be his one true love, lost.


A Spring of CorresponDance

Oranges on the birdfeeder stand
attract orioles.

Rose-breasted grosbeaks peal
bright notes to match their light.

Purple finch pecks along the bough,
redbud blossoms.

Dandelions mirror sun rays.
Forget-me-nots reflect the sky.

A striped chipmunk dappled in light.
The brush of squirrel on bare branch.

Like calls to like across
opening air.

May’s morning glory dances between
spheres, between hear and here.


An earlier version of this poem appeared in Issue Seven.

Three Feminist Poems

Three poems, “Frida Kahlo on Exhibit”, “Invocation” and “Her Orbit of Ellipsis” are now up on Necro Productions #5, Feminism, Spring 2021.https://necroproductions.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/Fem-v3.pdf

Her Orbit of Ellipsis

My granddaughter is going as Wonder Woman
for Halloween. She’s practised swinging her
Lariat of Truth so I’m reading up on Artemis,

protectress of young girls and the archetype for
our current Wonder Woman. Arrow to hand, she
alights on the mark, drawing her bow on intruders.

Artemis herds young artoi, girls of eight or so away
from polis, the city, into wilder woods where she
reigns Queen and they her willing apprentices stay

snared till puberty. Artoi, little Bears, they follow
their Great Bear into the chase and Orion hides,
the hunter hunted and flung out to constellation.

My granddaughter will go trick or treating and
return with a gleeful sack full of eternal returns.

This poem appeared in Goddess Pages, Issue #27: Summer 2015 http://www.goddess-pages.co.uk/three-poems-from-penn-kemp

Frida Kahlo, On Exhibit

Watch me tear this painting. Watch me rip it up or paint
another, better or worse.  It matters, from my eye’s eye.

Body parts. Body parts to open the red sea of despond.
Circling upon her track, the hunted seeks the hunter out.

My body is mine to display, mine to mind. Mine to cram
in open pits of roiling, wicked pigment. Watch me dye.

Wracked without ruin, with no easy room to manoeuvre
on thin bed rack, her mind stretches beyond skin to easel.

Palette splashed in fury, cast to contain a febrile agility,
might avoid the looming void beyond fervent defiance.

Moods thicken. Tint hardens to stone. Medusa glints,
solidified, just as snared as any light caught in her eye.

Sex springing from her head glitters seduction. Form-
al ribbons of snakes coil like a Spanish Infanta’s dress

by Velasquez. Wild vein through white leaves’ ruff.
A flat surface of sheer rock powdered to outlast flesh.

Frida draws her hair as whip lacerating her throat. Such
vegetation, grown long, twists to vengeance when shorn. 

Linked chain around her neck, cadena. Monkey’s paw
protective. Then jackal’s inquisitively pointed ears, no—

just a black dog gone murky when eyes swim sea-green,
spark dashed with pain, or pills swallowed to kill pain. 


Above her ear an amorphous, androgynous couple floats
turning in amniotic thought cloud. What nostrum must
be murmured over and over tumbling through such froth? 

She-he-we. El, ella, nosotros. Confessions of mute rage
flickering phosphorescent over Sargasso’s obsessed sea.


Her heart opens like a sacred heart of Jesus to reveal Diego,
Diego Rivera. Her third eye, a bronze medallion of Maria,

gleams so curiously blind to its own reflection before that
ongoing inquisition of other eyes, eyes she sought so long.

Just try to forget me now. I dare you, double dare. Already
my art has outlived all you onlookers of this ostensible life.

The Samhain Invocation 

The Samhain Invocation

Come and say hello, women. The veils are still
thin and we welcome your presence. We recall
you and all those disappeared you stand for.

Welcome into our realm for a moment, held.

As if you were now in the prime of life. As if
your daughters bloomed full-grown around you.
As if your mothers were crying delighted tears.

And if you were here to see what has changed
and what has not. Would you hide your eyes in
shame for what has been done and what has not?

Come into the light and tell us how you are. As
if you have life beyond what we recall, remember
before this dark November claims its own again.

Penn Kemp

Resistance: an Anthology

Resistance Anthology: Righteous Rage in the Age of  #METOO. Sue Goyette, editor. University of Regina Press, spring 2021, https://uofrpress.ca/Books/R/Resistance. “

“Writers across the globe speak out against sexual assault and abuse in this powerful new poetry anthology, edited by Sue Goyette. These collected poems from writers across the globe declare one common theme: resistance. By exploring sexual assault and violence in their work, each writer resists the patriarchal systems of power that continue to support a misogynist justice system that supports abusers. In doing so, they reclaim their power and their voice…  
The collection could not be more timely. The work adds a new layer to the ever-growing #MeToo movement.   
 Resistance underscores the validity of all women’s experiences, and the importance of dignifying such experiences in voice, however that may sound. Because once survivors speak out and disrupt their pain, there is no telling what else they can do.”

“What we did not know in 1972. What has changed.”

It’s too late. He has jumped me, fallen on me, almost as
in love, catching his weight in his hands as they smack
against the grungy linoleum tiles I’ve wanted to replace.

The kitchen wall is rippling. The chalky ceiling bulges
as if it needs new plastering; as if something is trying
to pound through, something that can’t be contained.

A flash flood, a fire? My spine slams against the door.
My skull is permeable. I know what’s going to happen.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. Time expands to
include all the random possibilities of thought, of world.

Tectonic plates collide. I know that he erupts explosively,
a system under great pressure from without, from below.

His face balloons massively through the mist. I know him.
I know that drawn-down mouth, mask of Greek tragedy.

How often I have traced the dimple in his chin, a line from
nose to mouth where God pressed His finger: the philtrum.

His fingers close, blunt tips touching, the heels of palms
meeting as if in prayer. Relentless hands ring my throat.

Gold wedding ring presses deep into my gullet. Even in
absolute panic, my body responds to his closeness, dearly

familiar and almost kind. My breath stops, is stopped. My
breath holds itself, forgets itself under his thumbs, then

gasps. And is forced quiescent.

I have already disappeared up the smoky trail, out the top
of head into wide blue sky. A buzz as of bees in the cool

expanse of air. Strange croaks seem to start in my gullet
and travel up with me into the vast and empty. I am flying.

Mewling, I hover, open my new eyes to glimpse our roof, so
puny from this height. Beyond him, beyond myself, above.


Violent shaking startles me out of freedom: a sudden updraft.
I’m being pulled down the vortex of consciousness back into

a body I thought I’d surrendered. The sound in my ear, carol,
carol, and no song but choking, roaring. Nothing but his voice,
loud as Poseidon in a seashell in my ear. He’s really done it now.

I swim in an ocean of blood. Swirling red currents fill each cranny
of consciousness and this time I go under, diving, divining down.

When I emerge, he is gone but the room is swirling around me
in colours of other travels. Turkish scarlet cushions. Moroccan

striped curtains dance a jig of molecules that confuse my senses.
I am lying on the couch. I shut my eyes again, not to see. Not

to hear. His footsteps, running closer. Water, soaking my head.
I look at him. A yellow cast of fear lies over last red flares of rage

on his face. But the hands that hold the basin barely tremble. “If
you’ve quite recovered,” he announces, his voice oddly strangled.

“I’m off to town. Just take it easy. You’ll be all right!” He commands.
Irony of statement, concern of question or relief: it doesn’t matter.

Pain neatly divides head from shoulders. Voice creaks like something
inanimate outside its box. Words, the ability to make words— gone.

Phrases flutter and dissolve. “I’ll be all right.” Something automatic,
something ancient in me, is attempting re-entry. “All right. Just go.”

He is already gone, a flash of yellow bike. Silence except for
that buzz of wasps in my head. Wasp-words ring in my ears.


Can either of us remember what it had been about this time?
His jealousy of my phantom lover, the one that got away…

Who knew for sure what happened. What is this complicity
between us?  Already it’s as if nothing at all had happened.

We can talk to no one, certainly not each other, about
the sudden black holes, the mine-fields in ordinary
conversation that suddenly erupt. Because most often,

they are not there. The house is simply a house, the scene
domestic with cat and kids, and cauliflower on the stove.

I can talk to no one. I cannot talk. When I tried—family or
friends—all told me that it was none of their business. Not
to interfere. Not to know. I made my bed. Now lie in it. Lie.

When I did call the police, they listened intently to my story.
“Is the perpetrator your husband, ma’am?” “Yes.” “I’m sorry.

We do not interfere in cases of domestic assault. Thank you
for calling the Precinct.” The dial tone still rings in my ears.

And where could I go anyway, on my own with two kids
and no money and a body that will not move. Shame— I

wrap it around me to keep warm as if it were my own,
protecting me from the eyes of neighbours, hiding black

and yellowing bruises under sleeves and stockings. What
have I done? Dishes, drying in the sink. What has he done?

The fingers I’ve studied so closely, bald sentinels drumming
action. Beating to their own rhythm, the jazz that syncopates

sudden movement. My glasses hang by a wire arm, frame twisted.
Retribution, then contrition. Pain is finite after all. He comes back

begging. I pride myself on the ability to forgive that’s been bred
into me. A flip of power and I get whatever I want; he does what-
ever I want. Until resentment steams over again. Next time. No.


There will be no next time. There’s never going to be a next time.
This I believe on faith. This he believes on faith. When he returns

after the kids are asleep, he knows he has changed, knows his ire
has disappeared forever, as if it never was. I know there is no more

fear. I pray there is no more fear. We hold onto each other all night.
without a word. Stealthily, while his breathing deepens, I practice

opening and closing my throat for when the words come. If I could
speak. For when I will speak. My jaw creaks on its wrenched hinge.


His thumbs are imprinted on either side of my windpipe like black
sentinels. For days, I wear a long turquoise scarf and go around

pretending I am Isadora Duncan. Pretending I could fly. Secretly,
unwinding my scarf, I inspect the delicate progression of bruises.

A circle of yellow surrounds the thumbprint. I think I can make out
the actual whorls that are the perimeter. Black fades to purple, then

softens to a yellowish centre. In the mirror, that face that is not mine
looks out at me from the telescoped distance of time, wrinkled thin

with the patience of years. Her eyes clear and almost wise, assuring—
she is somebody I will become, the face I will grow into someday.



Delighted to celebrate @MuseumLondon at 80, and on in this virtual show! http://80ml.museumlondon.ca/exhibition 80mL 

What a grand collection, what marvellous company and innovative programming… and what interesting pairings!

Here’s mine:”Becoming”, matched with James Kemp’s painting:


Foxfire in the marsh leads viewers further
within, deep into mires of mixed illusion, to
the texture of coats applied layer upon layer.

Fairy lights float through bright tangle, tempting
me to follow those flames through impossible koan:

“What is your original face before you were born?”
Faux-fire, fool’s ghost among darkening shades—

how I wish I could meet you on that other side
beyond saturated green in gathering tints of paint —
Turner’s red daub lighting your masterful flourish.


“Becoming” was written in response to my father Jim Kemp’s painting in Museum London holdings.
The poem had to be exactly 80 words in length and it is.

My response to dad’s work is visceral, tinged with grief and an appreciation of his depths of texture.
Turner was a great influence on his paintings.

May, 2021.

Painting by Jim Kemp, Untitled, 1963