A lovely book of poems from Aeolus House!

Here’s my review of Stanley Fefferman’s The Heart of All Music: Poems about Music and Musicians. Aeolus House, 2018. 52 pp. ISBN 978-1-987872-11-8. $20

Convergence is a word often used to describe the reshaping of our world by such forces as the Internet. This concept also applies to Stanley Fefferman’s latest collection, The Heart of All Music, which can be described, appropriately, as the convergence of a life-time of listening attentively to a wide range of musical genres.

It’s a treat when a poet takes a whole book to explore in depth a single subject. When the topic is music and the poet as knowledgeable as Stanley Fefferman, the result is a gift for all the senses. His work is varied in tone, mood and mode, given a perceptive ear and a gift for translating the complexities of musical experience into language. Fefferman employs a wide spectrum of forms, including prose poems that read like a possible transcription from his original review. The tone of the poems hovers between elegiac and celebratory, performative and prosaic, traditional and contemporary. This elegantly presented book is like a musical score in itself. The Heart of All Music sectioned in the four musical terms of a sonata: “Allegro, “Largo”, “Scherzo”, and the Finale, “Andante Cantabile”.

Fefferman’s preface describes the magic of listening to music. He declares “the feelings that came set off the language centres of the poet-in-me, and the music generated words.” At first I thought of searching YouTube to hear the pieces Fefferman describes. Then I realized that the poems themselves present a complicated translation that is this poet’s specific perception, “sharp as crackling bones/ that fall as feathers filling an entire hall”. The reader experiences Fefferman’s particular vision through his vivid imagery: “Debussy’s unique String Quartet unfolds a shimmer of antique silk/ embroidered with pizzicated rhythms of the new French enthusiasm”.

Metaphors translate the sometime psychedelic experience of a concert. The poet often describes one sense in terms of another, presenting the emotional range of a synaesthete. Indeed, Fefferman includes a poem to Alexander Scriabin, famous for his own synaesthetic correlations. Fefferman offers us fascinating imagery to describe specific works. His phrase, “crennellated patterns”, conjures an instant image of fortified battlements, an image immediately followed by “notes that roll/ like a silken standard in the wind”. We are thrust into a mediaeval scene to accompany Barrios’s “La Cathedral”.

Musicians play off each other; “the players spin solo threads”. Like the musicians Fefferman depicts, the instruments described in these poems have character, indeed personality. “The cello in the scherzo remains sardonic” after “jittery discourses that keen upward till they peter out /— a musical representation of life leaving the body.” Shostakovich’s final sonata is “the corvid utterance of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘Nevermore’.” The cello continues “dialogues with itself/ among mutterings of ‘es muss sein’”—Beethoven’s motto in his last quartet. The phrase, “It must be”, figures prominently in  Milan Kundera’s novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being as well, designating an acceptance of fate. A line of poetry also interprets another string quartet in a phrase from Eliot’s The Waste Land. One art is presented in terms of another, engaging both feeling and intellect.

Fefferman’s commentary is a “solo series of precision shifts between attitudes of stillness and repose [that] encode/ a lifetime of contemplation” in a veteran’s “deep acceptance of the world as it is.” Blues, jazz, traditional folk and classical works, Fefferman covers and comments on it all, from O’Carolan to David Bowie to John Hammond to Mozart and Claude Vivier. Fefferman is at his best presenting female singers like Lhasa De Sela in one of his most touching laments, as well as poems to composers cut off too soon by war. His beautiful last poem, dedicated to Dvorak’s Piano Trio in E minor, is a spiritual resolution for both Fefferman and his readers:

“the sound of peace itself
a melody so exquisitely played
the mind is overwhelmed with pleasure
and comes to rest in its own place
like the reflection of sky in lake.”

Fefferman’s epigraph announces that he associates the heart of music with the moment of happiness that he is offering in these poems. Indeed, The Heart of All Music is a paean to Music and Musicians. The cadenced rhythm of these poems will resonate long after the last note, the final phrase. To paraphrase Rumi, in this beautifully produced collection from Aeolus House, “We have fallen into the place where everything is music.”

//

Poet, performer and playwright Penn Kemp has been lauded as a trailblazer, “a poetic El Nino”, and a “one-woman literary industry”. She was  London’s inaugural Poet Laureate . Her 2018 books of poetry are Local Heroes (Insomniac), and Fox Haunts (Aeolus House). See http://www.pennkemp.weebly.com.

This review is now up on http://bywords.ca/november2018/review1.htm, thanks to Amanda Earl.

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Fox Haunts reviewed

What caught your imagination when you were young?

For me it was Foxes:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E58HtvVZQXs*

Two beautiful reviews Fox Haunts came in this evening
one after the other
on little fox feet from the Okanagan.

How could I not share them with you?

FoxHaunts-Cover

 

Fox Haunts. Poems by Penn Kemp. Aeolus House, 2018. 97 pages. $20.

Review by Bill Arnott

First time I saw a fox I was atop an open-air double decker, trundling along rugged coast, intermittently thrashed by leafy birch as though in a weaving Finnish sauna. I was compelled to shield my eyes – the same reaction as when something’s beyond comprehension, 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, danced a gleeful jig, as I carried a newly signed Fox Haunts to my semi-detached lair.

Adaptation runs through this London Laureate’s new 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 into 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.”

poetscorner.ca/team/

Image result for fox glyph

Review by Fern G. Z. Carr

Penn Kemp’s Fox Haunts (Aeolus House, 2018) is an intriguing exploration of all that is vulpine – a quest to define the quintessential nature of the fox. In keeping with its elusive nature, her portrayal of this creature is fluid and dynamic.

The title, Fox Haunts, is an apt play on words.  This is not only a work of place but a work that is indeed haunting – whether by its mastery of surreal imagery such as the reverie of miniature firefly-like foxes or the cruel reality of rabies.

Poems are contrasting yet complementary: predation vs. elegance (“sharp white teeth” / “Vixen slips off her black gloves”) and science vs. folklore (“The earth’s magnetic field serves as a reference guide for our Fox” / “foxglove holds the power of opposites”).

After having examined the vicissitudes and psyche of the fox, Kemp ultimately concludes that a fox is but a fox.  Her final poem in this collection is essentially a benediction with a proviso that the species will be fine as long it can be freed from pejorative mythologies and human interference – a caveat reflecting the sensibilities of the enchanting poems in this book.

www.ferngzcarr.com

 

Stanley Fefferman‘s review is up on http://poets.ca/2018/08/10/review-fox-haunts-by-penn-kemp/ and http://opusonereview.com/?p=4786.

FOX HAUNTS is available from pennkemp@gmail.com for $20 plus shipping, signed.

*Video of my reading by Dennis Siren.

Published Works by Penn Kemp

PoemforPeaceVol2BerniceVincentpainting

Publication History

 

BEARING DOWN (1972) poetry.  Coach House Press, 401 Huron St. Toronto ON

TRANCEFORM  (1976) poetry.  Soft Press, Victoria BC. Reprinted 2006, Pendas

THE EPIC OF TOAD AND HERON (1977) play.  Black Moss Press, Windsor ON

Reprinted 1985 by Playwrights Union, Toronto

CLEARING (1977) poetry. B.C. Monthly, Vancouver  BC

CHANGING PLACE (1978) poetry/prose.  Fiddlehead, U.N.B., Fredericton NB

ANGEL MAKERS (1978) play. Playwrights Union, Toronto

TOAD TALES(1981) poetry. White Pine Press 76 Center St. Fredonia NY 14063

CVii: Spiritual Poetry in Canada (1982), ed. Box 3062, Winnipeg R3C 4E5

ANIMUS (1984) poetry.  Caitlin Press. Reprinted, 2005, Pendas Productions, London

BINDING TWINE (1984) poetry. Ragweed Press, Charlottetown PEI

SOME TALK MAGIC (1986) Ergo Productions, Box 4460 London ON N5W 5J2

TRAVELLING LIGHT (1986) poetry. Moonstone Press, London ON

EIDOLONS (1988) poetry. White Pine Press, 76 Center St. Fredonia NY 14063

THROO (1989) poetry.  Moonstone Press, Book. CD, Pendas Productions, London

THE UNIVERSE IS ONE POEM; FOUR POETS TALK POETRY (1990) Simon & Pierre

WHAT WHAT THE EAR HEARS LAST (1994) play. Playwrights Union, Toronto

FOUR WOMEN (1999) poetry. Red Kite Press, Guelph ON

INCREMENTALLY (2000) poetry Pendas Productions, London.  Book and CD combo

TIME LESS TIME (2000) poetry. Pendas Productions

SUITE ANCIENT EGYPT (2001) poetry. Mothertongue Press, BC

VOCAL BRAIDINGS (2001) with Patricia Keeney, poetry. Pendas Productions

WHAT SPRINGS TO MIND (2001), Pendas Productions

Poem for Peace in Many Voices, ed., Vol. 1 & 2 (2002), book and CD

SARASVATI SCAPES (2002) with Angela Hryniuk, Pendas Productions

C’LOUD (2003) poetry, Pendas Productions. Book and CD combo

SARASVATI SCAPES: a sound opera, CD, Pendas Productions

MELISMA, CD (2002) with Angela Hryniuk and Penn Kemp

GATHERING VOICES (2002) with Gloria Mulcahy, Pendas. Book and CD combo

POEMAS ESCOLHIDOS DE PENN KEMP/ Selected Poems (2004) ABECAN, Brazil

PINCELADAS (2005, 2011) with Gloria Mulcahy, Pendas Productions

RE:ANIMATING ANIMUS (2006) Pendas Productions.  Book and CD combo.  London ON

HELWA1 (2011), PigeonBike Press. London ON. CD forthcoming with Light of East Ensemble

FROM DREAM SEQUINS (2012), Lyrical Myrical Press, Toronto ON
THE EPIC OF TOAD AND HERON (2012), reprint. Pendas Productions, London ON
JACK LAYTON: ART IN ACTION (2013), editor, Quattro Books, Toronto

WHAT SPRINGS TO MIND (2016), second edition, forthcoming. Pendas Productions
WOMEN & MEDIA, editor and contributor, Living Archive Series, Feminist Caucus, League of Canadian Poets, http://poets.ca/feministcaucus/. Launched June 17, 2016.
WOMEN & PERFORMANCE, editor and contributor, Living Archive Series. June 18, 2016.

BARBARIC CULTURAL PRACTICE (2016), Quattro Books, Toronto
THE TRIUMPH OF TERESA HARRIS (2017), Playwrights Guild of Canada, Toronto
LOCAL HEROES (2018), Insomniac Press
FOX HAUNTS (2018), Aeolus House

FoxHaunts-CoverPenn Local Heroes LFP

FOX HAUNTS is ready to trot!

FOX HAUNTS isn’t officially out till September, but foxes are sly and appear unexpectedly, those tricksters. Here’s a delicious first review by poet Stanley Fefferman: http://opusonereview.com/?p=4769!

Penn Kemp’s FOX HAUNTS reviewed by Stanley Fefferman

Penn Kemp. Fox Haunts. Aeolus House, 2018. 97 pp.

The way suburban garden fences are a line the fox crosses from the countryside to steal our chickens, is like the line fox, since time immemorial, has crossed from the countryside into our myths, into our dreams, into our literature and our language. Shenanigans is derived from the Gaelic word for fox. A skulk of foxes is the collective noun. Jimmie Hendrix sang of his “Foxy Lady.” And here is a stanza from Penn Kemp’s poem to Inari, the Shinto fox-god deity:

Fox girls dance beneath the twisted maple

calling their sister to tranform from mist

as beguiling women with red in their hair.

Fox Haunts, Penn Kemp’s 24th collection, is a meditation in 90 poems on a predator who is our closest neighbour, one who is getting closer all the time as it’s habitat yields to subdivisions. The longest section of Fox Haunts, entitled “Urban Fox,” consists of poems about foxes Kemp might have encountered: her writing can be elegant.

It’s true you walk on toes like cats

like a ballerina of the wildwood.

Kemp empathizes with the drama of the hunt, the inside as well as the outside of it.

 

Fox circles her prey, closing in

on her victim in ever tightening

gyres. Her fixed glare freezes

poor rabbit into terror so pure it

dissolves to acceptance, suspended

acquiescence, adrenalin overload.

Almost like peace. Soft as comfort,

this compliance in the fox’s grasp.

Just a single shriek before the

neck snaps.

At her best, Kemp’s narrative and poetry are transparent. She has variance in her voice: sometimes she addresses her images directly to the fox:” I come upon your prints on/muddy path, neatly, deliberately splayed.” Sometimes, she drops into a journalistic mode and addresses the reader directly in what sounds to me like chopped prose: “Like Canada Geese, Fox may/be adopting city life to avoid/ hunters, the tough slog of/country life. Clever fellow.” Only to follow that with a passage of the most startlingly direct poetry:

 

They look upon the easy prey of pets, soft

and vulnerable bichon frisés left outside

by themselves in the yard, those with no

defense but a petulant, startled bark —

before they are meat, carried off dangling

in the soft jaw of a mother triumphantly keen

on feeding her kits.

 

Kemp is ‘entranced’ with the world of “Wily wiry trickster tales,” and devotes a section to ‘Fox’ references in the writings of Taliesin, Ovid, in the legend of Samson, in other Hebrew Scriptures relating to Solomon and Ezekiel, in Aesop, W.B Yeats and St. Exupéry, Akiro Kurosawa and Alice Munro whose father raised foxes for fur on a farm where he also kept ” Old horses in the barn waiting/their turn to be fed, to be feed.” As for the night sky, Kemp puts fox in the constellation Canis Major and Canis Minor, These bits of Fox arcana bring into close focus the mythical resonance of that beast in the human imagination.

 

After having the pleasure of reading Fox Haunts, and of writing down these few thoughts, I look forward to more hours with the book, looking into the stories behind lines like:

 

Fetch Laelaps, a bitch commanded to catch all

she chases. Let her seize that Teumessian fox!

 

Fox Haunts is one those rare books that can become a companion.

ABOUT PENN KEMP.  She has been dubbed “a one-woman literary industry” as London, Ontario’s inaugural Poet Laureate and Western University’s Writer-in-Residence. Kemp was the League of Canadian Poets’ Spoken Word Artist, 2015. Her website is www.pennkemp.weebly.com

https://www.stanleyfefferman.com/blog/fox-haunts-by-penn-kemp-a-review-by-stanley-fefferman

This poem is in my forthcoming FOX HAUNTS which can now be ordered! https://www.amazon.com/Fox-Haunts-Penn-Kemp/dp/1987872142/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1525695775&sr=1-5

I’ll be launching FOX HAUNTS on September 9, 2018, 4-6 pm. Launch, Aeolus House poets: Ariane Blackman, Brian Cameron, Stanley Fefferman, Tom Hamilton, Penn Kemp and Colin Morton. Pressed (waffle house), 750 Gladstone Ave, Ottawa, ON K1R 6X5. (613) 680-9294. Contact: Allan, abriesmaster@outlook.com.

Sunday, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 7-9 pm. Launch, Aeolus House poets: Ariane Blackman, Brian Cameron, Tom Hamilton, Penn Kemp and Sydney White. Supermarket Restaurant, 268 Augusta Ave., Toronto. Contact: Allan, abriesmaster@outlook.com.

 

Launch of The Dream Life of Teresa Harris, CD, with Augmented Reality!

Summer Blessings!

SUNDAY, JULY 22, 1:00 P.M.

Join local poet and playwright Penn Kemp for an afternoon of readings from The Dream Life of Teresa Harris and Local Heroes, paired with a viewing of ‘Augmented Reality’ exhibits by artist Mary McDonald.  Books and CD’s will be available for purchase.

Mary’s visual art and animation of my play will run for a week in Eldon House following the tea.

Details on http://www.eldonhouse.ca/events/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/2111776722426553/.

Eldon House
481 Ridout Street North
London, Ontario
519.661.5169
info@eldonhouse.ca

ELDON HOUSE INTERPRETIVE CENTRE
(AND GROUNDS FOR TEA OPTION)

COST: $6.00 + HST IN ADVANCE OR $8.00 AT THE DOOR (FOR ADMISSION ONLY)

OR $30.00 + HST FOR ADMISSION PLUS AFTERNOON TEA WITH THE AUTHOR AND ARTIST! THIS OPTION INCLUDES OUR REGULAR SUMMER TEA MENU.

Registration required through Eldon House.

Video by Mary McDonald

Poem for Solstice Night

All Things Considered

q. altered mss
On the shelf inside the storm, an empty
pitcher of light awaits sage and summer
savory.  All puns are planted to present

these things as if saying were enough
to conjure the perfect illusion illuminated.

Now.  At the turning of the year after
nadir of deepest darkness, the small
Moon of Long Night turns to beam
over the orchard above the frozen lake.

The sun stands Solstice still, holding
its breath, biding its time until released
to start once more in utter clarity of cold.

In that perilous moment before cycles
start up again, we all can fall through
cracks.  Interstices of ice drag us down.

We grope from dusk to dark to light.
We slip between stars, drawn out
beyond what we know, considering,
considere, to be with the luminary.

Night rustles outside our window, murmurs
and squeaks.  Whimpers follow outraged
raccoon yowl.  Orange and black streak

across the dark pane I can’t see through
conjuring night creatures’ obscured world,

Scent leads a trail to territorial war, deep
enmities nurtured throughout the long wee

hours before dawn lifts that velvet cloth to
reveal grey, seeping shade back to clarity.

Penn Kemp

*

The last lines of this poem were first published in “from Dream Sequins” with drawings by the brilliant Steven McCabe. See his gorgeous https://poemimage.wordpress.com/.

http://tuckmagazine.com/2017/09/22/scuffed-efaced-erased

No automatic alt text available.

Photos of the poem by {poetry in Cobourg spaces} .

An Exercise in Erasure

Scuffed! Effaced!

a Poem without Posterity, a Poem in Pics

Cuz Fuzz As lovely (and acceptable) and welcome as Penn Kemp‘s words are … someone found them unpalatable (for some unknown and impossible to discern reason). Sometime between Noon and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 17, 2017, someone had defaced the lines.

They scuffed many of the words away, plus they employed the little bit of water from a small bowl left out front of Meet at 66 King East for dogs to drink as they pass-by. That was used to wash away certain words — no one could make rhyme nor reason about why they picked certain words instead of others; in addition, they wrote and drew there what were taken to be words and symbols of a religious zealot. Was this the work of an actual religious zealot’s mind, or, was someone was pulling some sort of “performance art” put-on against against the purple rectangle … hoping we would give them a reaction, etc. … as if “trolls” emerged from online existence into the real life of King Street, Cobourg?

It is impossible to think of anything about the lines from Penn Kemp that would produce this response.

People can be odd.

The rectangle was washed clean. The first things removed by sweeping and with water were the add-ons of zealot-nature. It was only then that the thought occurred, “Oh, we should get photos of how it was defaced before washing it all away.” So, the slogans and drawings do not show in these photos. (That is probably just as well. Why broadcast the zealotry?) One of the photos shows outlined in red the spots where the drawings and religious sayings were shown.

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Jf Pickersgill

Jf Pickersgill Thank you, Penn Kemp. Thank you to Wally Keeler for taking (and sharing) the photos.

The defacing is bizarre. I believe it has little to do with Penn (zero to do with her, actually) or anything in her words. There have been other recent instances on two or three occasions, where someone has spit on a word and then scuffed it with the sole of their shoe, and, where someone spilled the full contents of a slushie (purple and red in colour — grape & strawberry flavour, perhaps) all over Stanza Room Only when there were no words there at all. This purple rectangle of sidewalk may have become the focus of someone’s mental obsession (for whatever reason) … through no fault of Stanza Room Only’s own.

I saw the expressions of zealotry in the couple of hours that they showed before they were erased.

One was a drawing of a church with a Cross on the steeple.

Another proclaimed that “The end is near!”

Another was a hard-to-figure drawing that might have been a poorly drawn attempt at the ichthys (“Jesus fish”) — which ended up looking more like a shark circling around on itself to bite its own tail (now that I write that description, I think, “Hmmm. Maybe the best ichthys ever”).

There was something else there, too, that I cannot remember right now.

It was weird, not eerie in the context of every day life but strange in the context of some beautiful words of poetry presented for the public to read. Not an overly provocative act, even in comparison to some of the words people have chalked in Stanza Room Only during the past 3 years.

Because I am fascinated by the workings of human minds, I thought some clues might arise from examining which individual words were the target of the attempt to not-only-scuff the chalk but also to wash letters away with the tiny amount of water available in the bowl-for-passing-dogs.

“fare” “unjaded” “beans” “Three” and “thrive.” If there are clues there, I cannot uncover the meaning of the clues. It might be that there was no focus on specific words but a late dawning about the fact that the water was not going to go as far as was thought.

Penn Kemp
Penn Kemp Anti-feminist?Anti- Indigenous? (“The Three Sisters thrive”). Or random…Odd they left my name unscathed. I’m grateful for the documentation, visual and verbal! And for the opportunity to be inscribed on your sidewalk, momentarily:)!
Jf Pickersgill

Jf Pickersgill Well, your words were there for more than 24 hours. That is good, actually. Sometimes weather conspires to rinse away words earlier than that with rain or to erode the chalk with wind and non-deliberate scuffing from the shoes of passers-by can be the cause of early erasure, too.

Someone else with whom I had this discussion immediately came up with similar thoughts, Penn … “Is it because the words are pro-woman? Is it the call-out to First Nations traditions?”

Nina Grigg

Nina Grigg Well at least Facebook allows evidence of the original work to be preserved. The emotional impact of the words combined with the setting may be what led to its defacement. I wonder if the offender had any clue about the meaning of the poetry? It’s feels like a violent act, makes me feel a little nauseous. I think it is directed towards both the feminine and the indigenous (which are impossible to separate, I think.)

Jf Pickersgill
Jf Pickersgill Yes. That is an important point. It did cause distress to see this deliberate defacing activity. It did come across as deliberate aggression. Penn‘s words appearing in Stanza Room Only had strong impact, no doubt about that. It is difficult to conceptualize anyone taking these lines as having negative impact, though. Clearly that view might be naive.

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