Poem for the Magdalene

Recall

Purple spikes rampant now. Cliché bounds
garden gnomes. We drink somewhat musty

ginger tea. Second cups await, red roobos
with mint and lemon balm I’ve just plucked.

Magdalene might know this tonic, or others
similar. Her purple turban that paintings so

proudly display as her nearly royal emblem
might bob through the fields as she gathers.

Though she would have servants harvesting,
that fine curved hand not browned by sun.

Her name day conjures presence on waves
of prayer, an iconography of purple and red.

Similars, signature. Like calls to like out
of time. Speaking harmonies. Chords lift.

A decorum wealth bestows, lush richness
suggesting florid abundance, jars of unguent.

She is always depicted wrapped, self-contained

and rapt. Cups of tea cool by her side, steam
rising like plumage, like the coils of her turban.

Twenty-two is the master number in Hebrew,
a vibration that opens time with broad strokes

beyond the moment to more universal scope.
But butterfly bush flowers in her honour now.

Echinacea flourishes, blossom and root, for her
medicinal. Wise woman of herbs, of mystery.

Sing your secret through us, Lady. We are
listening. Then and now. Now and then when

we remember. When your name day reminds.

Penn Kemp
http://hammeredoutlitzine.blogspot.ca/2007/10/penn-kemp.html
Photo: Allan Briesmaster

Penn and Tree 1

London, Ontario

Thinking of this poem on the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, April 26, 1986.
Painting by Jim Kemp.

Smog Alert

Throughout our listening areajimkemppaintingfigureblueskirtseatedbraque
light pollution. Evening haze

drifts down from some secret smelter
depending on which wind blows. Small

particulate matter fills the air, fills our lungs
with tiny lumps that hang there undetected
except we can no longer fully breathe.

Cosmic clouds descend upon us. Below
breath. Below thought. Below bellow.

Probability of precipitation. Mixed rain
and thunder showers. Severe weather

warning. War in heaven, warming
torrents into twisters. Forecast unforeseen.

The radio calls for showers.  Fog patches.
Clouds clog the mind, crowding thought.

Now calm come… clear of cloud…
I’m thinking stars. Or stars are thinking me.

Where are they? Beyond the veil, still
twinkling, emitting their own dust trails.

Sound/performance poet Penn Kemp lives in London, Ontario.  UWO has asked her to be writer-in-residence for 2009-2010.  Among her publications are more than twenty-five books of poetry and drama, ten CDs of Sound Opera and…

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Kate Roger’s Book Review: Barbaric Cultural Practice by Penn Kemp

Penn Poetry New West Barbaric

Reading Barbaric Cultural Practice at Poetry New West, BC

Book Review: Barbaric Cultural Practice by Penn Kemp

Quattro Books 2016; ISBN 978-1-988254-38-8

The title of Penn Kemp’s most recent poetry collection reflects her urgent activist response to government announcements she thought could undermine Canadian diversity.  As they campaigned to hold onto power in 2015, the Harper Conservatives vowed to create an RCMP tip line where Canadians could report suspected “barbaric cultural practices” such as honour killings and female genital mutilation. Status of Women Minister Kellie Leitch said the hotline would allow “citizens and victims” to directly reach out to authorities because such, “practices have no place in Canadian society”[i]— but the effect was to demonize new Canadians and polarize society around identity politics.

In this latest collection, peripatetic poet, and author of more than 25 books, Penn Kemp, points out the “barbaric cultural practices” of Canada and the West:  proxy wars, poverty and pollution. Her poetic critiques engage the reader with wit and word play. As an ex-patriot Canadian poet based in Hong Kong where freedom is under threat, I could relate to Penn Kemp’s broad, ironic perspective in Barbaric Cultural Practice.

In “Arms and the Boy” (p.30),  the narrator watching war coverage falls  “through the scream as if to land/among proud and elegant peoples/divided by civil, uncivil arms.//Women and men cleaving, cleft, bereft./ Dispossessed of a West they thought they knew./Dis/oriented, where do they turn?”

The boy who survives the onslaught of smart bombs, “…cannot speak–/language lost though lies thrive.”

In ”Smog Alert” (p.26),  the air is gritty—chewable: “Clouds crowd the mind,  clogging thought.”

The city often “fills/our lungs with tiny lumps that hang there/”.

No matter the seriousness of their subject matter, the poems in this collection avoid despair. A poet’s sense of wonder is never far off. Penn Kemp plays with how the poem can come to us as reluctant visitation. In “Cogito Ergo Sum” (p.15),  Kemp jokes, “This is the poem and I/take no hand in it. I/want to write a comedy.//That’s rich. That’s fun/ny laughs the voice in/my head that keeps/right on talking the poem/down the tree and onto//the screen. “

In “Paraclete down the Street” (p.65) a “sudden poem lights/on (her) shoulder, a tameable parakeet…”.

Kemp is a jazz poet who often riffs on her subject with internal rhyme and alliteration. Reading this collection has made me want to pun! Even when she protests how computers distance us from poetry Penn Kemp is a-mused. In “Mind the Game” (p.19), she pauses and reflects that, “We are beyond the mouse.// My Spell Checker would change Cogito to Caught./For someone’s  Suggest salmon’s.”

In the poignant poem “Struck by Stroke” (p.58) the poet shows her emotional range. The narrator is gentle on the topic of love and ageing: “Those who give the brain a rest recover/quicker…His mind is air-brushed/to a whiter, more spacious landscape/reflected in such snowy waste outside.//So we sink into sweet reverie fireside,/unthinking, unburdened…”.

In “For the Trip” (p.82), the narrator offers her ageing mother, who is searching for a butterfly, a “beaded purse with its butterfly motif as substitute/more lasting than real…”.

As a lover of birds and wilderness I especially appreciate Kemp’s poems penned in praise of nature. They are as ominous as they are playful about the consequences of the Anthropocene. In “Bass on the Grass” (p.95) the narrator warns that “We have been fluid mercury/in a mess of water weed/swimming cross-current.//We know to elude the net, a web’s small intricacy.”

The narrator concludes, “We scry so little, under water or on this/unnatural resting place where up and down/dissolves. Long lines no longer connect us.”

In “Grazing the Face of Climate Change” (p.97), birds migrate and “Envy emulates flight,/lights desire, douses/doubt in fiercer certainty.”

Icarus is evoked in the same poem as warning about global warming, “Bright implausible wings dim/before a brighter sun, too close.” The narrator warns, “Reflect, refract, reflect/again and loss a gain.//Free to fail only/once and then no/longer. He arrives//dead last. Death lasts/for/ever.//No longer/boy but/myth.”

In Barbaric Cultural Practice Penn Kemp challenges us to reflect the way only she can. Trudeau may be at the helm, but Canada’s own Trump, henchmen and women are waiting in the wings. This collection remains relevant. In the final poem of the book, “Ongoing Cultural Practice” (p.108), Kemp advises those of us who love humanity and the natural world to “Bear down hard./The time is come.”

[i] http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/canada-election-2015-barbaric-cultural-practices-law-1.3254118

Reviewed by Kate Rogers

 

 

Here’s to Spring, and the Spring Tour!

If you are in BC, I hope you can come and be with dear friends and me!

At each event, I’ll read my poem, ‘The Stand of Oak” in honor of the Vimy centenary,
http://www.vimyfoundation.ca/vimy-100/vimy-oaks-poetry/the-stand-of-oak/.
I will be reading from Quattro Books’ BARBARIC CULTUAL PRACTICE (http://quattrobooks.ca/books/barbaric-cultural-practice/) at events sponsored by The League of Canadian Poets and pieces from Sound Opera and my new play (https://teresaharrisdreamlife.wordpress.com/) at events sponsored by the Playwrights’ Guild of Canada.

Thursday, April 6, 2017, 7-9 pm. “After Cézanne”: Ekphrastic reading: Fort Langley Art Gallery with Susan McCaslin. Contact: Edith Krause. http://www.fortgallery.ca/first-thursday-arts-evenings. http://www.langleytimes.com/entertainment/416981724.html. Sponsored by Playwrights Guild of Canada.

Poster Fort Callery April 17

Sunday, April 9, 2-4 pm, 2017. Poetry New West, Heritage Grill Backstage Room, 447 Columbia Avenue, New Westminster BC. Contact: Alan Hill, afjhill@hotmail.com, @poetrynewwest. Reading “A Stand of Oak”, http://www.vimyfoundation.ca/vimy-100/vimy-oaks-poetry/the-stand-of-oak/. Sponsored by League of Canadian Poets. https://www.facebook.com/events/1755788391312780/

Vimy flute 2017

Penn April 9 2017

@poetrynewwest Photo: Creighton Studios

Tuesday, April 11, 2017, 2:00 4:00 pm. “An Afternoon of Performance and Paper Works”, with Terry Ann Carter and Penn Kemp. Free. Oak Bay Library, Greater Victoria Public Library, 1442 Monterey Ave. Victoria, BC V8S 4W1. Contact: terryanncarter3@gmail.com or Carl Cavanagh, Public Service Librarian, 250-382-7241 ext. 381ccavanagh@gvpl.ca. Writers Readers & Storytellers. For Adults. Ontario-based poet and playwright Penn Kemp will kick off this program with a performance of her play sponsored by Playwrights Guild of Canada, followed by a paper craft led by artist Terry Ann Carter. Fold paper into a concertina-style, accordion book, using hand-written letters, words and text to decorate the interior pages. Use water colour pencil crayons to add embellishments to your keepsake book. Register at gvpl.ca or email Joy, jhuebert@gvpl.ca. Call 250-940-GVPL (4875) for more information.

Poem On Light Terry Ann CarterSaturday, April 15, 3pm: Reading with Mona Fertig. Salt Spring Island Public Library, 129 McPhillips, Salt Spring Island BC V8K 2T6. Contact: Karen Hudson, Chief Librarian. 250-537-4666, ext. 223, khudson@saltspringlibrary.com. http://saltspring.bc.libraries.coop/. http://saltspring.bc.libraries.coop/event/mona-fertig-and-penn-kemp/?instance_id=96840. Sponsored by League of Canadian Poets.  https://www.facebook.com/events/231320154008905/

SSI Poster 2016 MonaApril 16, 11:30-1:30pm. Reading with Sharon Thesen, Poetic Justice, Boston Pizza, 1045 Columbia St, New Westminster BC V3M 1C4. “two writers who have not been carving but excavating literary history in Canada. Their reputations have already made it to the top-most bookshelf. It’s likely this will be a poetry reading you’ll remember for a while.” Contact: James Felton, james@PoeticJusticeNewWest.org, 604-767-6908. Sponsored by League of Canadian Poets. http://poeticjusticenewwest.org/uncategorized/april-poetry-reading/.

APRIL 2017 Kemp Thesen

James Felton writes;
A Reunion of Sorts

Back in the 70s and early 80s, Vancouver boasted a vibrant poetry scene and next month’s featured poets were no small part of the ‘happening’. Good friends Penn Kemp and Sharon Thesen have sustained a friendship and their prolific writing paths ever since.

Though both now live elsewhere, Poetic Justice is honoured to bring these two exceptional writers back together for our special Easter Sunday reading.  Read more about our fabulous April featured poets on our website.

Happy spring, whenever it arrives! Bring on the Magnolias. Bring on the Cherry Blossoms!

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1/1/17 Re:Solution

May your 2017 writing be inspired!

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

Re:Solution

we

weir

Virgo

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

fin grr

finger tip

finger tip on

finger tip off

onoffonoffonoff

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

maybe

Penn Kemp

penn-sound-performing-women-2016-monique-renaud

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

Poem for Solstice Night

All Things Considered

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, Lyrical Myrical Press, with drawings by the brilliant Steven McCabe. See his gorgeous https://poemimage.wordpress.com/.

Endorsements for Barbaric Cultural Practice

The latest book of poetry by Penn Kemp, forthcoming October 1, 2016 from Quattro Books.

In praise and rant, the poems in Barbaric Cultural Practice pay tribute to our dear Mother World’s enchantments as well as her upheavals. They confront the stresses of urban life as juxtaposed to nature’s round, and deal, for example, with the effect of computers on our psyche and with the imprint of electronic media upon perception, consciousness and dream life. They are a response to the need for action against climate change and a humorous protest against overwhelming technology.
https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/barbaric-cultural-practice/9781988254388-item.html

“… quirky, witty, funny, deep, wise & full of surprises.”
– Di Brandt, author of Walking to Mojácar

Barbaric Cultural Practice is an urgent set of makings, of remarkable and dramatic word-acts, that reminds us that language – the hallmark of civilization – also enables barbaric, human imposition on Nature and the eternal. The inaugural Poet Laureate of London ON, Penn Kemp is an expert tool-and-die versifier. Proof? Well, that very pun you’ve just read is indebted to her, for she employs every poetry technique available – every tool in the toolbox – to stress the stubborn connection between concrete reality and supposedly abstract words. Nor does Kemp flinch from pondering how our distancing embrace (that’s not an oxymoron) of electronica interferes with our relationships to the earth, each other, and to Art. Barbaric Cultural Practice is so timely, it is an alarm clock, shocking us awake to our drowsy, Eloi circumstances.”
– George Elliott Clarke, Parliamentary Poet Laureate

“Penn Kemp, a poet at the peak of her powers, casts a loving gaze at poetry’s purpose, at our planet and all sentient beings. Through loving attention, wordplay, whimsy and wit, dream and prophecy, Kemp transforms the ineffable into an elegant expression of life deeply envisioned. Through metaphoric shape-shifting, Kemp shows us that “My work is the translator’s, to move one/ sense into another’s realm.”(“Blow by Blow”). This gift of synaesthesia heightens her calling for us to take our earthly stewardship to heart: These are poems to meditate on, to incorporate into the interstices of our layered lives. In the book’s title, Kemp transforms a political gaffe, “barbaric cultural practices”, into an elegy for earth and heart-song for each other. Above all, Love is this exceptionally talented and seasoned poet’s guiding light.”
– Katerina Fretwell, author of Dancing on a Pin

“In Barbaric Cultural Practice we are treated to some of the most clear-eyed, keenly felt articulations of the present moment, as well as Penn Kemp’s boundless capacity for play: the simmering, tangling, rocketing, warbling, wooing, cooing, and joyful boogieing of her poems working themselves onto the page. Kemp’s feet are so sure, dancing on that lip. Through this book we learn all that’s at stake between the poem’s lines. ”
– Laurie D. Graham, author of Settler Education

“Penn Kemp’s work is profoundly mystical, a tour into otherworldly realms but informed by this world’s concerns, the depth of poetry, and the ability of her language to cross borders into metaphysical realism.”
– Leona Graham, author of Cloudbank Across the Fens

“Kemp walks the line, exploring a new syntax of language, whether celebrating the goddess or the dance between voice and machine, hand to iPad, to transmit this map of her mind and dreams.”
– Dennis Maloney, author of Listening to Tao Yuan Ming

“Penn Kemp’s Barbaric Cultural Practice brings together etymological, sonic, and cultural layerings of the words “barbaric,’ “cultural,” and “practice.” This electric new volume distinguishes the truly creative and evolutionary from what impedes a fuller engagement with each other and with planet earth. In these poems, the source of true wildness (wilderness) calls heart to heart: “I has widened to include/ you and you and you.”
– Susan McCaslin, author of Painter, Poet, Mountain: After Cézanne

“What happens when the lyric power of a highly experienced and galvanically charged poet dances in the electron stream? Barbaric Cultural Practice collects a decade’s poetic exploration of digital absurdities, of earth’s vitality and grave needs, and of community. Penn never just reads: she performs, even on the page; we can’t help but listen. Connect with the surging circuit of her energetic and eclectic words, connect and recharge.”                – Susan McMaster, editor of Waging Peace: Poetry and Political Action

“Penn Kemp’s Barbaric Cultural Practice is a stunning and magical tribute of travel wisdom of vision of longing of voices and of Goddess ways of seeing into and circumnavigating the heart of old ways of ancient catapulting into futures of tech-knowledge-able dancing back and forth of swaying of seeds of truth gardening matter of otherworldly mantras singing of the everyday made extraordinary. what movement in stillness what stillness in motion. what beauty what love!”
– Sheri-D Wilson, author of Open Letter: Woman Against Violence Against Women

“What is it like, writing a poem? Penn Kemp knows. She has spent her life performing poetry, publishing poetry, being poet-in-residence, Poet Laureate, poster-person for other poets. Now she stows her yellow pencil, fingers the keys of her computer, opens a new window and waits for a poem to find its way onto the desktop.

This is the poem and I

take no hand in it. I

want to write a comedy.

That’s rich. That’s fun-

ny laughs the voice in

my head that keeps

right on talking the poem

down the tree and onto

the screen.

That is from “Cogito Ergo Sum” in the first part of Penn Kemp’s new collection of poems, Barbaric Cultural Practices.  Penn likes to play jokes with words, but it’s no fun finding familiar words playing silly tricks under the direction of the electronic impersonal:

How have I come to man-

ipulate this trackball

with fingers on a keyboard?

Pause.

                                                            We are beyond the mouse.

My Spell Checker would change Cogito to Caught.

For someone’s        Suggest salmon’s.

For trackball               Suggest traceable

For Change all            Ignore

For Add                       For Options

For Delete                                                                        Close.

After you push the “Page Down” button, you can move to other sections, less high-tech, dealing with topics like “House – Hold – Man – Age – Meant.” Or with hearts, and strokes:

His mind is air-brushed
to a whiter, more spacious landscape
reflected in such snowy waste outside.
So we sink into sweet reverie fireside,
unthinking, unburdened, cuddled and
coddled warm by flame and the scarlet

beauty of this moment in flower here
only once but all the more present in
daring our ambivalent future dissipate

fear for now. Say it straight. For now.

Happier moments flower in poems like “Dream Visit, in Tune, In Time.” The rhythms, the internal rhymes, the spaces, work against logical walls:

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

But against the whimsical sequence of “Dream Sequins” Penn Kemp sets TV realities

I fall through the screams . . .

Women and men cleaving, cleft, bereft.
Dispossessed of a West they thought they knew.
Dis/oriented, where do they turn?. . .

Then another twist, and Penn Kemp launches a final fantastic essential plea for light:

Let us eat light like
plants. Let us chew
the bright air till we can

swallow light like
fire-eaters. Let us
assimilate light . . . .”

– Elizabeth Waterston, author of Readying Rilla: L. M. Montgomery Reworks her Manuscript

“Penn Kemp is an icon in the cultural landscape. Her biography page on her blog states she has over 25 books of poetry and drama published, plus six plays and numerous works recorded on different electronic means. But this new work is brilliant in its form… Kemp has done something enlightening for readers by using the term for this collection of poetry. She has crafted her personal thoughts and views in this work and given all of us something to consider about our own actions… Literature should cause a reader to consider their world and their actions in the world around them. Penn Kemp has done that for me with her collection Barbaric Cultural Practice. No doubt I will be reading it again and quoting it here.”
– Steven Buechler, https://pacifictranquility.wordpress.com/2016/08/02/making-us-consider-our-actions-discussion-of-penn-kemps-barbaric-cultural-practicequattro-books-to-be-launched-autumn-2016/

Cover Painting of Barbaric Cultural Practice by Anne Anglin

barbaric-cultural-practice-transporting

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