The Call of the Forest

Here’s to the Creative Aging Festival!  I’m delighted to be opening this showcase tonight with a paean of praise to an elder who most exemplifies creative aging!

Diana Beresford Krueger lives on a farm near Lanark, Ontario, but she grew up in Ireland. Diana is a seventy-two year old Leo, appropriately born in the Year of the Wood Monkey, and a proponent/gardener of native species par excellence. Her film, The Call of the Forest, exudes an astute vitality and a whole-hearted commitment to environmental activism. The glory of the film is its in-depth appreciation of trees: a documentary “driven by beauty”*! It is showing at The Hyland Cinema till June 1, and I truly recommend it.

In this film, The Call of the Forest, and in her books like The Global Forest, Diana interprets the nature of trees from both profoundly scientific and spiritual perspectives. Certainly, she emphasizes the healing benefits of specific trees as well as the forest as a whole. Care to go forest bathing to enhance your immune system? Try wandering among the deodar pines of Elsie Perrin Williams estate. Open your lungs and breathe in the powerful antioxidants that will lift your spirits for days.

How to articulate the invisible, the spirit of tree, for example… why, that’s my aim as a poet.  My childhood desire was to understand the language of trees, plants and birds. Diana translates for me, even in this dream poem:

Visit In Tune, In Time

Diana Beresford Kroeger benignly surveys my wild garden.
As I explain that I like to let things grow naturally, to pop up
where they will, she sniffs. “This garden needs more tending,”

she proclaims. Singing along, I set to work weeding. Waving
a hand, she encourages my rhythm to tune in with the plants’
own. So the cardinal colours deepen, burnished lilies bronze

exuberant in sunlight. Impossible Echinacea record no clash
of purple/orange but blare triumph. Songbirds gather, a lilt of
goldfinch, a trill of Carolina wren. Cardinals respond in chords.

Brilliance resounds all around. Redbud, mock-orange boughs
bow in the heightened breeze. Resonance ripples and whirls
to restore, re-story this walled garden, her flowers telling, told.

How do plants communicate to each other… and to us? As botanist and biochemist raised in Ireland’s woodland lore, Diana bridges the false gap between science and the arts, between science and spirituality. Her roots are manifold, both as botanical researcher with a doctorate in medical biochemistry, and as hereditary lineage-holder, steeped in the Celtic tradition that has revered woodlands for centuries. Diana vividly and empathetically expresses the urgency in protecting the forest, especially our northern boreal forest that is so essential for global carbon storage.

She continues to beam a sense of wonder, joy and curiosity grounded in intellectual acuity. And in those traits alone, Diana Beresford Krueger is a triumphantly engaged guide to very creative aging. We can only aspire to learn from such an inspirational mentor. Her message is simple: go plant a native tree every year, and watch it grow! Let’s create our Forest City in reality as well as name!

*A quote in a email from the film’s director, Jeff McKay. Thanks to him for exquisite photography, editing and commentary.
Diana 2017

Hear Diana’s CBC interview about the benefits of forest bathing!

Call of the Forest
248 Princess Street, Winnipeg, MB, Canada
Winnipeg, MB R3B Canada
Twitter @DBKTrees

Creative Aging Wolf Hall 2017


1/1/17 Re:Solution

May your 2017 writing be inspired!

This poem is in my book, INCREMENTALS, Pendas Productions.





weird gong

we’re going too

we’re going to be

we’re going to begin

we’re going to begin right

we’re going to begin writing and

we’re going to begin writing and purr

we’re going to begin writing and purr form

we’re going to begin writing and performing

we’re going to begin writing and performing some

we’re going to begin writing and performing some time

we’re going to begin writing and performing some diamond

we’re going to begin writing and performing some time whinney

we’re going to begin writing and performing some time whinney lick

we’re going to begin writing and performing some time whinney lick trick

we’re going to begin writing and performing some time whinney lick trick light

we’re going to begin writing and performing some time whinney lick trick light D

we’re going to begin writing and performing some time when electric light decent

we’re going to begin writing and performing some time when electric light descend through

we’re going to begin writing and performing some time when electric light descend through


fin grr

finger tip

finger tip on

finger tip off


finger tip om

finger tip onto

finger tip onto calm

finger tip onto calm phew

finger tip onto calm pew tore

finger tip onto calm pew turkey

finger tip onto calm pew turkey bored

finger tip onto calm pew turkey bord and

finger tip onto computer board hand set

finger tip onto computer board and set us

finger tip onto computer board and set us free

we’re going to begin writing some time when electric light descend through finger tip onto computer board and set us free


Penn Kemp


Photo credit: Playwrights Guild, at our Women and Media panel, Harbourfront,
Canadian Writers’ Summit, June 2016

On Tradition


May 2017 SHINE!

For a rebel like me, what do I know about tradition? In my youth, along with the rest of my 60’s generation, I cast off all tradition as old hat. I scorned as false the sense of security that tradition offers. We vowed to create everything new! But this year especially, after such world-wide disruption, tradition gives comfort and joy, as the carol’s refrain has it. The old hat fits just right. Nostalgia offers a familiar past that is safer than the unpredictable future. Tradition is a way of handing down a swirling legacy to children and grandchildren, establishing the implant of warm memories. Here’s to plum pudding lit with brandy flame for New Year’s dinner! Christmas cake soaked in rum since early November… eggnog and Handel’s Messiah!

Icelanders have a tradition of giving each other books and then quietly reading at home all through Christmas Eve. I’d be too antsy to read on a night so redolent with anticipation. But I’m ready to establish a new tradition of peacefully reading through New Year’s Day. Reading quietly, very quietly, after the excess of New Year’s Eve. Sinking into the contained comfort of the latest Louise Penny novel. And poetry, luxuriating in the slow process of reading poetry, where not even eyes move fast. My only Resolutions on New Year’s are to eat less, exercise more: sound familiar? By the last Saturday in January, I’m ready for another feast….The clan collects annually for Robbie Burns and a reading of the “Address to the Haggis” before we feast on haggis and tatties. I still resolve to exercise more… later. My feeble rendition of the “Address to the Haggis” is up on


1952, reading Tom Sawyer (I think…)


A typical New Year’s Eve pic in the Kemp household: New Year’s Baby Clare Bice and Father Time Jim Kemp en route to the Beaux Arts Ball!

Coda: If you’ve been raised on English Literature, you can’t escape the T.S. Eliot essay, “Tradition and the Individual Talent”.  How we fit into the wide embrace of all that has been already written.

Intimations of becoming all that already has been, is, and will be.

Janus: the two-headed month, looking back and looking forward. May your memories be dear, your present fulfilled and your future shining!

Celebrating Brighid

Celebrating Imbolc in Brighid‘s three day festival at the end of January!
This year, it’s a time of quiet incubation, retreat, reflection.
But here’s my interview of celebrations past at The Circle:

and an invitation for Jan. 31, 7 pm : “An Inclusive, Participatory & Accessible Ritual of Transformation & Celebration of Brighid in the Time of Imbolc. Free Will Offering. Fragrance Free Event. Everyone Welcome.” Unitarian Fellowship of London 557 Clarke Road, London, Ontario N5V 2E1


Painting by my father, James Kemp

Brighid, the ancient Celtic goddess of Poetry, Healing, Smithcraft… and transformation:


Moth by Jim Kemp


From—january-2016.html  Jan. 23, Saturday:

First day of the Goddess month of Bridhe, sacred to the Celtic and Britannic Goddess variously called Brigit, Bridhe, Brigantia and later, St. Bridget. As shown here, she is also called the Triple Brighids, and is one of the most widely-revered manifestations of the Triple Goddess. She is the protector of the eternal creative flame that maintains the vitality of the natural world, and is the patron of warriors and of all practitioners of feminine arts and crafts, most notably the occult disciplines of divination, witchcraft, herb and star lore, and prophecy. She is also represented by the spirals that appear constantly in Celtic art. Her totemic animals are the ram and the ox, her sacred plant the blackberry.

Leaping Poem for the Year of the Goat

Chinese New Year inspires London poet | The London Free Press.

City’s former poet laureate urges Londoners to ‘butt our heads against the powers that be’

Chinese New Year inspires London poet Penn Kemp

“Poet Lionizes goats– no kidding”

By Dan Brown, The London Free Press

London writer, poet, playwright, performance artist and author Penn Kemp. (Free Press file photo)

London writer, poet, playwright, performance artist and author Penn Kemp. (Free Press file photo)

“I’m making a very political point,” she said of the 12-line work that she put together Thursday morning. “We want to butt our heads against the powers-that-be.”

Although she typically works from sounds, this particular poem came to her through the imagery of the Chinese zodiac.

There has been some discrepancy over whether this is the year of the goat or the sheep, but Kemp thinks we should emulate the former — known as a stubborn, ornery animal that can stomach almost anything.

Kemp — London’s poet laureate from 2010 to 2012 — grants that sheep are cuddly and cute, making for a more pleasant image. However, she thinks “the goat is a really more intelligent, aware animal than the sheep.”

She intends to collect the poem into a forthcoming manuscript of political poetry. “I try to be clear and that’s tricky,” she said of her process. “Metaphors can often be read and interpreted on many levels and in many ways.”

– – –

Butting In The Year of Yang, 2015

Christians may separate sheep from goats but
Chinese does not distinguish between Caprinae.
Yang, ‘a hoofed animal that eats grass and bleats’.

Any ruminating mammal. That Hong Kong leader
claims it’s the Year of the Sheep so unruly subjects
will fall meekly into line. His nickname: the Wolf.

Specific qualifiers Green and Wood lead me to Goat,
not so cuddly or kind, but knowing his own mind—
wild dancing Pan clacking his hooves in a clearing.

Sound the horns! Let Pan pipes start trilling reels!
May the play commence and whirl wind up again.
Light slanting in long through green scent of cedar.


Barbara Taylor, London Free Press Entertainment & Life editor, tweets: favpoet marks New Year w praising goat prose Words & why RuttanPic

James Reaney, London Free Press, tweets: Poetry on Page 2 MT : Chinese New Year inspires


This poem is for all activist art and activist artists!

May the Wood Goat upset Harper’s applecart with a big BUT…!

No need to be sheepish.  Don’t let him get your goat.
Ram his agenda!

How many goats would a wood goat goad
if a wood goat could goad Harper?

Celebrate on,


Photo: Derek Ruttan, London Free Press

Skating, anyone? On “Shooting the duck”

Skating, anyone?

Shooting the Duck

During the snowy winter of 1952, when I was eight, Mom drove me every week to Carling Arena for a figure skating class. She outfitted me just right, in a navy blue velvet skirt that just covered my bum, a white rabbit muff that kept my mittened fingers warm, and a pompom wool cap.

But those nasty nicks on the skate blades would confoundedly trip me up just as  I pushed forward. Even when I learned not to topple over, I could never figure out how to shoot the duck. The ideal was to hunker down till you were nearly sitting on your sates and then to shoot one leg out like the barrel of a gun as you coasted along the ice. Not me. I would invariably end up on my bottom, my gangly colt legs galumphing out in front of me.

Barbara Shuttleworth was held up as a perfect example beyond any accomplishment the rest of us could ever manage: she was beautiful, blond, and a year or two older, skating graceful rings around us all in a swirl of perfection. Meanwhile, we watched and shivered glumly, the wet wool of our leggings entering the crisp air of the arena like an unwelcome, embarrassed dog.

But I had been given a dime and a nickel. My reward after class was a soggy and savoured cone of chips, the best chips ever, the paper cone soaked in salted vinegar, well worth taking mittens off for, and enduring my mother’s encouragement on the wet-bottomed ride home. She’d been an avid skater on outdoor ponds, and had unwarranted hopes for me.


/Some Talk Magic cover.AmandaUlasnowhill2014

Amanda and me, Toronto Island, 1976, from the cover of my book, “Some Talk Magic”, Ergo Productions.  Photo by Elizabeth Cunningham.

And then… Amanda and her children, 2014! Through the generations…