Poetry Mini Interview

What are you working on?
My next project, LOCAL HEROES, Insomniac Press, 2018, celebrates legendary cultural heroes from London, Ontario. These poems evoke a specific city in its particular landscape and history. London’s literary and artistic heritage is documented, honouring artists in fields ranging from visual and language arts to figure skating. Presented as an overview, the collection stretches from Victoria explorer Teresa Harris to the contemporary arts scene. Local Heroes acknowledges the Indigenous peoples here, and the ongoing waves of settlers who have called the area home, as London grew from colonial outpost to vibrant cultural centre. Local Heroes spans time but remains in place.
Landscape shapes us by its distinctive atmosphere. Southwestern Ontario (Souwesto) is a peninsula bordered by two Great Lakes and by the United States. Local Heroes examines the works of artists who have been influenced by the pervading spirit of Souwesto. In classical Rome, a genius loci was the protective spirit of the local, depicted as a figure holding a libation bowl. London is situated in a bowl scraped out from receding glaciers. This bowl teems over with the productions of its arts through time. Why? What has made London a creative centre? As a mid-sized county seat set in the fertile farmland of Middlesex County, London is in the middle, entre lacs, between two metropolises, Toronto and Detroit, at the edge of the Snow Belt. Because it is so surrounded, London began as a garrison, a fiercely conservative British enclave that held tight to tradition and conventional mores. Artists who lived here could rebel, conform or leave.
The collection present three sections, in historical order. It opens with an exploration of the exploits of Teresa Harris, who escaped her corsets along with her colonial upbringing in London’s Eldon House. Like me, this explorer travelled widely for decades before returning home with memories and mementoes. The poems devoted to Teresa consist of outtakes from my play, The Triumph of Teresa Harris, that were best expressed as poetry. The middle section is What the Heart Parts, also produced as a play and a Sound Opera.When the Heart Parts is based on the life and death of her father, Jim Kemp, London artist and mentor of artists in the 1950s. In my work, poetry and drama intersect, the way two branches of the Thames meet at the Forks.
The second half of the book is a tribute to local London creators. I was lucky enough to grow up in an artistic household and so was introduced to many of London’s cultural icons. Anecdotes abound. “London Local Heroes” recognizes several of those artists who broke through conservative conventions to create and celebrate their own community. Cultural activists had to develop their own vibrant and exciting arts scene or be pulled away to the larger metropolis east or west of London. Transformation happens in the local, through the intersection of culture, art and geography that defines the regional. Local Heroes offers an empowering vision of regionalism: we are at our own centre, our own gravitational field, where activism is most effective. We are at the centre of a cultural cauldron where opposites mingle and mix. Here the arts are cultivated and emerge as rich as the farmland surrounding London. The centre not only holds but opens up to the world, rippling out in concentric circles.
Penn Kemp
For more, please see
by Thomas Whyte.



Upcoming Events with Penn

Here’s my reading schedule for the next few months: I hope to see you!
All events are free and open to the public.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018 in London: Reading with Penn Kemp and Daphne Marlatt, 3:30 to 4:20 p.m. AHB-3R07, Western University. The Arts and Humanities Building is the old Ivey Business building, directly south of University College.

Saturday, March 10, 2018 in Toronto: Words and Music Salon, 12:30 to 3:30 pm. I’m reading 2:30-3:00 pm. The Tiki Room, the Tranzac, 292 Brunswick Ave. Sponsored by the League of Poets, Metro Reading in Public Places.

Thursday, April 19, 2018 in London: The launch of Local Heroes (Insomniac Press 2018) by Penn Kemp. The evening includes an exhibition tour with curator Amber Lloydlangston, followed by Penn’s reading @ 7:30 pm. The theatre will show several short videos on Local Heroes by Dennis Siren, Mary McDonald and Western’s Community Engaged Learning students.
6:30 to 7:15 p.m. – Curator Tour: Women’s Lives in Canada: A History, 1875-2000;          7:30 to 8:30 p.m. – Penn’s reading; and 8:30 to 9 p.m. – book signing.
Lecture Theatre, Museum London, 421 Ridout St N.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018, 8 pm: ‘ALT’ show, Victoria Poetry Project Caffè Fantastico, 965 Kings Road, Victoria, British Columbia V8T 1W7. Contact shayne avec i grec vegabard@gmail.comhttps://www.facebook.com/vicslam/.

Friday, April 27, 2018 in Edmonton, Alberta:  Featured reader, “Wine and Wild Women Wordsmiths”, The Edmonton Poetry Festival. They match a wine to the poet. I’ve offered to be a full-bodied Red! https://edmontonpoetryfestival.com

Monday, May 28, 2018 in London, 7 to 8:30 pm: Women Trailblazers: Writers and Voices for Change: Heroes. A reading and lecture series celebrating Canadian women writers.
Featured guests: Judy Rebick and Penn Kemp, Stevenson & Hunt Room, Central Library, 251 Dundas StreetJudy is reading from Heroes in My Head (Anansi) and Penn from Local Heroes (Insomniac).

Penn Kemp and Daphne Marlatt Reading 2018

With thanks to Debbie Okun Hill for her profile and updates:


Poet Profile – Penn Kemp and Barbaric Cultural Practice

Kites Without Strings

“But our/yearning to hear fills our ears the way seashells will imitate real//roar of ocean wave, appearing/disappearing.”* – Penn Kemp

Canadian poetPenn Kemploves ‘sound’ and her book Barbaric Cultural Practice(Quattro Books, 2016) astounds me with her word play, her vocalized chords, and the musical rhythms of her poetic stanzas. She is the barbaric activist riding her horse at full tilt and the experienced voice “in the yellow cornfield of your mind.” (p. 39) The key is to listen carefully to catch each nuance before the next line appears.

BLOG IMAGE Barbaric-Cultural-Practice_front-cover Barbaric Cultural Practice (Quattro Books, 2016) features 72 poems by Penn Kemp.

Divided into five sections (Electrical Events, Light Eats, Heart and Stroke Foundation, In Dream Sequins, and Wild Crafting), her recent 112-page book includes 72 poems that challenge the status quo of the world. Her interest in nature, dreams, and Goddesses plus the way politics, technology, and global…

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Poet Profile – Penn Kemp and Barbaric Cultural Practice

via Poet Profile – Penn Kemp and Barbaric Cultural Practice


Flag bearers to the Olympics!

via Flag bearers to the Olympics!


Poem for Local Heroes, Virtue & Moir

via Poem for Local Heroes, Virtue & Moir


Penn Kemp & Marta Croll-Baehre ~ Literally…or Litter Ally

You can hear us read “Litter Ally” on
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKiUCHy_Hjs&feature=youtu.be (video by Dennis Siren)
This collaboration was created for our reading in Couplets #15, London ON. coupletsreadingseries.wordpress.com

DM du Jour

Split the littoral between liminal
and lore along the shore and you,

with perse blue lids, flutter
as water expels salt in winter.

Purse your lips in the very cold
and exhale the breath to warm in

to this undulation. Your head turns
to watch crepe terns litter the stern landscape

with their offal. Their piercing screech
hits the wave with its own momentum,

cilium echoes in interstitial spray
as the cotillion of migrants shrill overhead

on their way warm, leaving beneath
all impetus of movement throughout

range mountains. You close your lids
and ruminate the smell of imminent storm,

sturm and drang, might it be, as the drag
of probability weighs you down along

the Atlantic line, you sift between currents
in destructive permanence as gyres of plastics

creep unholy expanse over the surface,
riding the surf like tiny demonic dolphins

or Martian buoys. You whirl in oceanic decay

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