Reading and Recommending Poems for National Poetry Month 2020

Both books and isolated poems, with some quotes, as they happen.  I include the publishers as well, to thank them for their insistence on publishing poetry~! And the Library for fulfilling my requests for titles!

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Margaret Atwood’s “Six Poems”, Cutting edge: new stories of mystery and crime by women writers, edited by Joyce Carol Oates
Gary Barwin, For It Is a Pleasure and a Surprise to Breathe: New and Selected Poems (Wolsak & Wynn)
Jay Bernard, Surge (Penguin Random House)
Frank Bidart, Half-light: collected poems 1965-2016  (Farrar Straus Giroux)
Heather Cadsby, Standing in the flock of connections (Brick Books)
Tina Chang, Hybrida: poems (Norton)
Leonard Cohen, The Flame
Marlene Cookshaw, Mowing (Brick Books)
Lorna Crozier, What the soul doesn’t want: poems (Freehand Books)
Carol Ann Duffy, The Bees (Picador)
Katerina Vaughan Fretwell, We Are Malala (Inanna Publications)
Matthew Gwathmey, Our latest in folktales (Brick Books)
Joy Harjo, An American sunrise: poems
Stevie Howell, I left nothing inside on purpose: poems (M & S)
Maureen Hynes, Sotto Voce (Brick Books)
Monika Hope Lee, If water breathes  (Resource Publications))
Michael Lista, Bloom: poems (House of Anansi)
Erin Moure, The Elements (House of Anansi)
Harold Rhenisch, The Spoken World (Hagios)
Jane Urquhart; photographs by Jennifer Dickson, Some other garden: The little flowers of   Madame de Montespan and I am walking in the garden of his imaginary palace (M & S)
David White, Local Haunts (Pedlar Press)
Howard White, A mysterious humming noise / new poems by Howard White (Anvil Press)
Sheri-D. Wilson, A Love Letter to Emily C. (Frontenac House)

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from Margaret Atwood’s “Spider Signatures” Six Poems in Cutting edge: new stories of mystery and crime by women writers, edited by Joyce Carol Oates

“and while you sleep
I hover, the first grandmother.
I trap your nightmares in my net,
eat the seeds of your fears for you,
suck out their ink

and scribble on your windowsill
these tiny glosses on Is, Is, Is,
white lullabies.”

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Gary Barwin, For It Is a Pleasure and a Surprise to Breathe: New and Selected Poems

About to read For It Is a Pleasure and a Surprise to Breathe! I know it will be a Pleasure and a Surprise:)!!

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Jay Bernard, Surge

The ‘New Cross Massacre’, the fire, a racist attack?

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Heather Cadsby, Standing in the flock of connections 

I spend all
this energy fending off cures when I could be enjoying boring times;
guarding my secrets and incessant thoughts. I tell you, my supply is
dwindling.”

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Tina Chang, Hybrida: poems

A terrifying, brilliant book confronting the poet’s terror

“Somewhere, glass breaks
and the one who shatters it
wears a mask of God’s many faces.

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Leonard Cohen, The Flame. Recommending the audiobook, read by Atwood, Seth Rogen, etc, a company of fine readers. Listen again and again till the rhymes chime. They already resonate.

Great to hear the exchange between Leonard and Peter Dale Scott, Frank’s son and Cohen’s mentor at McGill: “You want it darker?”

I published a book of poems called Travelling Light with Soft Press (1976), decades before Cohen’s. But his poem here is the more inspiriting, I mean inspiring.  Surprised?  I think notJ. And titles are open game.

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Lorna Crozier, What the soul doesn’t want: poems

Up to snuff.  Deeply engaged and engaging.

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Carol Ann Duffy, The Bees

My fave: the sweetest of all these books.

“alchemical, nectar-slurred, pollen-furred,
the world’s mantra us, our blurry sound
along the thousand scented miles to the hive…
the hive, alive, us—how we behave.

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Katerina Vaughan Fretwell, We Are Malala (Inanna Publications)

Some of Fretwell’s phrases will ring in your head long after you have put the book down. My favourite lines in the book link spirit and the natural world:

Once all women could talk to trees.
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I still chant to forests, seeing chi—
silvery energy—pulsing around twig,

leaf, branch, bole. The whole.

The last lines of this book are a rallying call:

United we thrive, divided we die.
All souls. All sentience.

Sentenced to prescience, We Are Malala.

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Stevie Howell’s text, I left nothing inside on purpose: poems

How I love Stevie Howell’s text, I left nothing inside on purpose: poems. Like this:

“Anonymous,
the one who sands the edges of sorrow.”

Magic!

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Maureen Hynes, Sotto Voce

“We’re always
looking backwards in galleries and books
to find women like ourselves.”

Maureen Hynes, “Keep It Dark”

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Monika Hope Lee, If water breathes

We’ve both made poetry of experiences like the Kalachakra, like Jaipur!

“Talking to the Unknown”

Tomorrow a gain or loss or truce
will alter the past

and we will reach for signs, particulars
a keyhole to the future’s largesse”

Penn Novel Idea Kingston 2018

Reading at Novel Idea, Kingston. Photo by Andrew Simms.

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On Reading the Exotic, the Other, in a Palindromic Month

Notes on Reading 02/2020

Ta-Nehisi Coates, The water dancer
Alexander McCall Smith, To the land of long lost friends
Téa Obreht, The Tiger’s Wife
Téa Obreht, Inland
Alix Ohlin, Dual Citizens
Olga Tokarczuk, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead: A Novel

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Ta-Nehisi Coates, The water dancer celebrates the power of story and lineage.

What better way to begin Black History Month than with this powerful novel! To be read along with Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad. Brilliant, immersive, majestic, magic.

“But knowing now the awesome power of memory, how it can open a blue door from one world to another, how it can move us…can fold the land like cloth… I know now that this story, this Conduction, had to begin there on that fantastic bridge between the land of the living and the land of the lost.”

“I understood Conduction, understood it as a relay of feeling, assembled from moments so striking that they become real as stone and steel”

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Alexander McCall Smith, To the land of long lost friends

Listening to Alexander McCall Smith’s To the land of long lost friends, I’m conflicted. The easy charm, the delicious accents with rolling r’s, the satisfyingly happy endings, the morality: yes. But the characters are tropes out of Little Black Sambo. When I was five, this forbidden book was my favourite; I read it to my dolls off by heart, loving the exoticism, the bright colours, the adventures… and the pancakes! How do we recognize colonialism in ourselves? I know Alexander McCall Smith was born in Africa.  Would he recognize his lightly white-washed stories in present-day Botswana?

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Téa Obreht, The Tiger’s Wife
Téa Obreht, Inland

Inland is the better novel by far, though the characters are stock in both. The landscape moves from “the former Yugoslavia” (which always suggests Serbia) to the American West of the past. Here’s Obreht has capture the feel of the land, and dialogue. Both novels rest in a mythic premise, a fascination with folkloric beasts.

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Alix Ohlin, Dual Citizens

A gentle read twinning two sisters, two countries. So refreshing to read a deeply felt story where the turmoil is internal, not political nor ecological. Though wolves are involved!

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Olga Tokarczuk, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead: A Novel

What’s not to love on a blustery winter day? Astrology! Epithets for each chapter by Blake! The unreliable narrator a madly determined old woman, as ferocious as she is tender. And does she love animals!

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Mid-Winter Poem

This poem will be published in P.S., a collaboration with beloved Sharon Thesen to be published by Kalamalka Press in the spring of 2020.

As the Initiation of Imbolc begins

My birds are ruder than yours, they
squabble a dance of dominance.  But
I offer you the scarlet of cardinals in
return for a glimpse of a red-shafted
flicker at your feeder.  Let ‘em meet.

We are in the same weather thousands
of miles apart and yet I carry an image
of you shoveling alongside the walk,
heaving snow with a cheeky grin that
by the end of the driveway is grimace.

Though we talk, I can’t quite figure out
what you’re saying.  Your mouth moves,
your lips shape words that fly like birds
on the frost breath, cartoon apparitions,
and conversation curls in upon itself.

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Response quickens into a new poem.
Exhalation is exhilaration in the cold.
Small hairs in my nostrils are spiked:
a word which leads me to mull over
Burgundy and cinnamon spiced hot.

Thought our forecast is bleak mid-winter,
snow squalls are more easily weathered
than political disruption and upheaval.
Trump addresses the state of disunion.
The blood and full blue moon eclipses.

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A phrase from a poem I read today—
“in the revolving question of a field”—
leads beyond the shoveled path to
the woods we think we know.  As if
trees belong or we to one another.

All your particulars of sheen sparkle,
snow in pale sun, the showing forth:
Candlemas, Celtic cross-quarter day.
Baby and his mother presented pure.
Bridget spreads wide her crimson cloak.

Penn Kemp, for Sharon

Penn Sharon Pyx (2)

Sharon and Penn at Caetani Cultural Centre, thanks to http://www.kalwriters.com/residency/residency.html.
Photo by Roberta Pyx  Sutherland

A poem for today’s palindrome: 02022020

Forecast for February, 2020

Today’s palindrome is 02022020,
perfect for Groundhog Day, Bill
Murray’s film of nearly eternal return!

All the groundhogs agree on early
spring, their vision 20/20 in new snow.
We mark the myth with earth magic.

O whistling pig! Spot this quarter turn.
Persephone, goddess of flowers, returns
today in Greece. Here, she wears thick

brown fur and burrows up through feet
of snow to determine with a nod whether
winter will soon surrender to spring or

not. A quick survey and she ducks back
down the cold tunnel of time into long
distant mythic dream. We don’t know

what the groundhog dreams when she
scurries home to her warm, hushed den.
Edible flowers from my garden, I bet.

Or the security in curling round herself
as her squirming pile of pups blindly
snuffles, eyes unnecessary in the dark.

Mary now purified, free of confinement
shows forth her babe. Forty days respite
in temenos, in shelter, and they call that

impure. The labour in giving birth impure!
Longer light at last starts to awaken her.
Goddess has recovered to hold her child.

Persephone in Hades eats the pomegranate
that ensures her return: red, translucent and
succulent fruit seeds, cased in possibility.

She changes from Crone to Maiden once
more and always, grieving Mother consoled,
together to celebrate the Feast of Torches.

We lay out scarves for Brighid’s blessing on
outer evergreen boughs. We retrieve white
cloths next morning from beneath topknots of

soft snow that fell all night, consecrated when
Brighid passed over. Her snowdrops here are
snowflakes dropped one by one into many.

Imbolc in the Mother’s belly when ewes lie
near to lambing, drawing milk for a wan sun
on the grand cross: eagle, lion, human, calf.

Initiatory dreams score a long night’s rest.
We celebrate Imbolc, fire festival between
solstice and equinox on the year’s wheel.

Penn Kemp

Some Talk Magic coverAmandaUlasnowhill2014

​Mothers and Daughters and Mothers and Daughters

My poem for you, in the beauty of new snow…

Poems for Sale: a wish list for you

Books are the best gift for upcoming holidays… a respite from the rush.

Here are my recent offerings to share with poetry- and play-loving pals.

If you order from me, I’ll sign them as you wish!
Penn Kemp
525 Canterbury Road
London Ontario N6G 2N5
pennkemp@gmail.com

Or order from Amazon*. Details below.

From Insomniac Press*, $2O + tax + postage:

River Revery front back cover

Local Heroes cover good

From Quattro Books*, $2O + tax + postage:

FoxHaunts-Cover

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Also, prose to celebrate Jack Layton: Love, Hope and Optimism, Ongoing!*

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Travel to Ancient Egypt with me for $6 + tax +postage!

Helwa cover

Or this fabulous hand-made chapbook from Mother Tongue Books for $50 + tax +postage!

Suite Ancient Egypt

If you love plays and local history, two of my plays about Victorian explorer Teresa Harris are available: https://www.canadianplayoutlet.com/products/the-dream-life-of-teresa-harris and https://www.canadianplayoutlet.com/products/the-triumph-of-teresa-harris.

And this anthology,  available only from me. $20 in this format.  But for $12, without the colour, order from https://www.canadianplayoutlet.com/products/performing-women.

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* Find my books on https://www.amazon.ca/s?k=Penn+Kemp&ref=nb_sb_noss.

Blessings for a Joyous Holiday!
Penn

Presenting RIVER REVERY

My new collection of poems is available from https://insomniacpress.com/new-releases.

RIVER REVERY

Rivers are often used in mythology to represent boundaries; to cross the river is to transform. The poems in RIVER REVERY reflect the river Thames as it winds through the city of London, Ontario. Because the Thames forks into two streams at the city’s core, it was called Askunessippi, “the antlered river,” by the original Algonquin inhabitants. For Indigenous communities, it is “Deshkan Ziibiing.” In re-naming the river the Thames, English settlers colonized forbidding new territory as an imitation of ‘home,’ rather than embracing the vibrancy of the river as it is. A distillation of ecological concern is a current necessity in RIVER REVERY. Such inspiration in poetry is one source for right action since the Thames waters our gardens, real and imaginary.

Poetry  ·   $19.95  ·  Trade paperback  ·  ISBN 978-1-55483-238-5 ·  122 pages  ·  5″ x 8”

River Revery

The London Free Press is marvellous at supporting local arts. Check out this interview on RIVER REVERY at Killaly Meadow! https://lfpress.com/entertainment/books/london-poet-helps-explore-identity-at-wordsfest?fbclid=IwAR0KU-ArMTmBwAmQ5IhMXix-Lm-QhSrlOCEWMBLF3_gywQS3uFy3gtk8p88

RIVER REVERY was launched at the glorious WORDS: The Literary and Creative Arts Festival Museum London!  I was honoured to be “In Conversation” with Diana Beresford-Kroeger. An indomitable visionary, Diana was launching her essential new book:

To Speak for the Trees: My Life’s Journey from Ancient Celtic Wisdom to a Healing Vision of the Forest  

Our conversation was moderated by beloved rogue psychiatrist, Nina Desjardins to a full house, with lively audience participation.

All fired up! A triad of women offer the courage and resilience of heart, imagination and action to face climate change and tip the balance towards recovery.

Penn Nina Diana Jake Wordsfest by PatriciaWith Nina Desjardins, Diana Beresford-Kroeger, me and my son Jake Chalmers at the book signing after our Wordsfest “In Conversation”! FUN! Thanks, everyone for filling the hall… and THANKS, Wordsfest! My reading from RIVER REVERY  was sponsored by The League of Canadian Poets. https://pennkemp.wordpress.com/2019/09/15/river-revery/

The video of “In Conversation” with Diana Beresford-Kroeger was recorded by the ever-brilliant Dennis Siren: https://youtu.be/lf_apKTzpgQ, for all those needing inspiration!
A poem from RIVER REVERY is in the 2019 http://wordsfest.ca/zine.

My reading was funded by Canada Poetry Tours, The League of Canadian Poets @canadianpoets and the Canada Council for the Arts,

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RIVER REVERY features photographs by Mary McDonald and QR codes linking to poetry films by Mary McDonald and by Dennis Siren.

Animations and sound explorations of several of the poems by media artist extraordinaire Mary McDonald are up on RiverRevery.ca as well as news about the poetry films: they are shown in festivals everywhere! You can add to this community project on #RiverReveryLdn. An Augmented Reality, multimedia animation collaboration, with thanks to @LdnArtsCouncil #CommunityArtsInvestmentProgram

RIVER REVERY is dedicated to my grandchildren, Ula and Kai… and to all the grand children who will carry on!

Shall we rename the Thames? The Antler River!

Yours in the current’s flow,
Penn

Pendas Productions

Pendas Pan            Since our first production of Penn Kemp’s play in 1977, Pendas Productions has been developing multimedia works, often in collaboration with other artists and art forms. Our micro publishing company in London ON has produced plays, CDs, DVDs of sound opera, as well as hand-made art books of poetry, art and drama, often in combination with CDs. The company started in 1977 with the production and publication of Kemp’s first play, The Epic of Toad and Heron (Black Moss Press), a drama written to save Toronto Island homes. Pendas continued with poetry/cd combination books, featuring more than twenty authors and producing anthologies in several languages.

Pendas published 136 translations of Penn’s “poem for peace” in two volumes, with CDs. Our literary magazine, Twelfth Key, begun through London publisher Applegarth Follies, continued from 1976 in twenty issues, often of Penn’s workshops and students’ writing. Twelfth Key culminated in 2005 with an anthology and CD of Pendas Poets.

For the last decade, Pendas Productions has collaborated with Saby Siren Productions in producing several videopoems for Penn Kemp’s poetry as well as documentation of numerous live performances of her larger works. Our collaborations have been generously supported by the London Arts Council.

“Translation”, a videopoem with Dennis Siren, 2019:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMqzgfLJtws&t=22s

“Among the Parasols”, with Dennis Siren, 2019, q.r. code in RIVER REVERY. https://youtu.be/uomD6YEVkLo

“Heart P’Art”, with Dennis Siren, 2019, https://youtu.be/tqnwecUmSHI

“Between Between”, with Dennis Siren, 2019, https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=rm#sent?projector=1

April 2018. Launch of Local Heroes: video by Dennis Siren: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-zCVUjonwk

Video by Dennis Siren: Couplets#15: November 2017, London. Featuring Penn Kemp & Marta Croll-Baehre. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKiUCHy_Hjs&feature=youtu.be

PennandDenn Collection #1, 2016: Five Eerie Pieces
“On the Other Hand of Time”
“From Dream Sequins”
“Heart P’Arts”
“Between Between”
“For Me It Was Foxes”

“In the Words of Penn Kemp”, 2012

Dennis Siren’s Arts Doc Compilation. Penn: 20.46-26.25, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDa2HF6YDAM

Luminous Entrance: a Sound Opera performed at Aeolian Hall in 2009 with Anne AnglinRuth DouthwrightBrenda McMorrowRobert Menegonini, video by Dennis Siren

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