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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Flag bearers to the Olympics!

This poem, “As if you are leaping in the air”, is dedicated to our spectacular local heroes and Canada’s most decorated ice dance team, Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir!

Flag bearers to the Olympics!

As if you are leaping in the air

As if you are leaping in the air
with Virtue and Moir. As if you
are running perfect simulation.

Lift and fly. Figures are skating,
whirling to wild quads like Sufis
dancing in Dervish reverence.

Perfection swirls along an unseen
slip of water that allows for glide,
ice two inches thick. Blades glint.

Fantasy hovers, floats flawlessly,
describing meticulous arcs on ice,

in air. Geometry touched by magic,
projection spun on glass surface.

Le Petit Prince and his Rose criss-
cross the ice to mirror our neurons
effortlessly after ruthless practice.

One haptic system rings in tune with
the other not by happenstance but
exquisite design, creating the perfect

illusion of romance. This pair knows
their true trick is always in landing home.

Penn Kemp

http://www.londonpubliclibrary.ca/blog/2015/04/14/rlfstaff/poetry-london-contest-winner-penn-kemp

 

Poetry and Jazz on a midSummer Night

Penn Kemp and Bill Gilliam with Daniel Kolos

Saturday, August 6, 7 pm. StoryRoomToronto, 48 Dalton Road, Toronto M5R 2Y7.

Helwa! Experiencing Ancient Egypt. Egypt is a land of the heart, and the heart of earth’s land mass. Travel with us to timeless realms.  Sample a piece from HELWA! here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QM2Jg1Xf39g….

We will also be performing poems from Penn’s forthcoming book, Barbaric Cultural Practice (Quattro Books). These pieces are on the CD, From the Lunar Plexus, which will be available for sale along with Bill’s CDs. Seating is limited. Please note that all spaces are now filled.
Contact Penn@pennkemp.ca or Bill, 416 904 2157.

Daniel Kolos and Penn will be performing “Poem for Peace in Two Voices” in English and in Daniel’s translation into Egyptian hieroglyphs!  You can hear us reading “Night Orchestra” on http://www.mytown.ca/pennkemp.

“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 world absurdities, of the vitality of the earth and its grave needs, and of community. Penn never just reads: she performs, even on the page, and we can’t help but listen. Connect with the surging circuit of her energetic and eclectic words, connect and recharge.” – Susan McMaster

Admission is free with the purchase of the chapbook, Helwa! ($6) or a CD ($20) or by donation.

Bill Gilliam is a Toronto based composer / pianist who improvises new music compositions. blending influences of contemporary harmony & jazz idioms into his unique style of playing. His recordings include Ensorcell for solo piano; Signposts with piano, percussion & spoken word; & Memory Vision, a DVD with electro-acoustic music & two poems by Penn. www.bill-gilliam.com

Performance poet and playwright Penn Kemp is the League of Canadian Poets 2015 Spoken Word Artist of the Year. She has created several CD’s of sound opera with Bill, including Night Vision. Her latest works are two anthologies: Performing Women and Women and Multimedia. Her new book of poetry, Barbaric Cultural Practice, will be out October 1.

Bill and Penn are next performing September 3 @ 2p.m, Words and Music Salon, Vino Rosso Bar & Restaurant. 995 Bay St., Toronto M5S 3C4. Free.

Helwa cover

Penn’s readings are sponsored by the League of Poets, Metro Readings in Public Places.

Helwa Nut Circle

Poem for Winter

From an Upstairs Window, Winter filmed by Dennis Siren at The Aeolian Hall, London ON, with Anne Anglin, Penn Kemp, and Brenda McMorrow.

 

All Things Considered

Pale sun on snow pulls me from a poem
to the window, lights a shaft of spinning
possibility. Now at 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 slip between stars, drawn out
beyond what we know, considering,

considere, to be with the luminary
in the void we have too long avoided.

We fall, we fail to grasp the star we
hang on, the metaphor we reach for.

We grope from dusk to dark to light
that is meant to trick, to lead us astray
en las estrellas, through this vast space.

We sleep warily, drifting far, unsecured
by orchard, by lake, by familiar bed.

Hold on!  But there is nothing to hold fast.

Penn Kemp

 

 

What is Now? Saturday, May 9, 8 pm. Gallery 345, Toronto,

What is Now? Saturday, May 9, 8 pm. Gallery 345, Toronto

Bill Gilliam and Penn Kemp

“It was completely clear to me that the performers have a wonderful musical relationship because they listen so well to one another and allow for each artist to play in the spotlight and showcase their talents.  This is all done in a very subtle fashion, seamlessly weaving voices, keyboard sampled textures and percussive accents.  The effect is transporting, meditative and our audiences were completely engaged by the intimacy of their performance.
Be prepared to go on a journey into textured sound scapes, playful sound poetry and texts.  You won’t be disappointed!!” Gordon Way, Assistant Artistic Director, Distillery Jazz Festival

Notes from our April 25 performance in London:
“Penn, your passionate poetry was an inspiration to me, thank you so much! And thanks to Bill for his extraordinary piano playing!” Marion Johnson
“Bravo – Saturday’s reading exquisite Saturday’s “musical reading” was fabulously entertaining. It was truly a memorable occasion which Marion and I were happy to be a part of. Let me know when you repeat in Toronto as i want to publicize it. Bill was an awesome talent as well. Just wonderful…” Nancy Johnson

Altar Ego, a poem for “What is Now?

Altar Ego

“Altar Ego”, from composer Bill Gilliam’s DVD, Memory Vision (2008). Images by Arnold Wytenburg. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLHrRn98w4w

Delighted to perform this piece with Bill Gilliam on Sat. May 9 at 345 Gallery, Toronto. https://pennkemp.wordpress.com/2015/04/29/what-is-now-saturday-may-9-8-pm-gallery-345-toronto/

JimkempMoth1967

Altar Ego

Something has happened to

the I on this passage. I is

no longer a point of view,

stuck to this emotion or that,

the site of accumulated

experience. I has shed

the necessity of self defence.

I is a floating centre of perception.

I has widened to include

you and you and you be-

cause no barrier intrudes

between us.

I has become compound,

many-faceted. Complexity

leaps to a larger simpler

system. I is surprised

the words continue even

here. I is resting in

a continuum Am.

The diphthong of pain

Aeiii ground down

to seed syllable AUM.

Have you noticed that if you stay

with an image long enough

the fear you felt dissolves

into a live love you can embrace?

Penn Kemp

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Painting by Jim Kemp
Photo by Gavin Stairs

What is Now? Saturday, May 9, 8 pm. Gallery 345, Toronto,

Being in the present can be interesting if we pay attention.

Being in the now can be transcendent if we know what to do.

Exploration through performance could be the difference…

Saturday, May 9, 8 pm. What is Now? Gallery 345, 345 Sorauren Ave, Toronto, ON M6R 2G5, 416.822.9781. $10-$20.

This show explores “What is Now?” through performances by Toronto poets – spoken word artists Brent Peers and Tanya Neumeyer rooted in the poetry slam community and performance poet Penn Kemp from London, Ontario, alongside improvised music created by Bill Gilliam (piano), Glen Hall (Kyma X, electroacoustic sounds, saxophone, flutes, and bass clarinet) and Ambrose Pottie (percussion). Contact: info@gallery345.com. Sponsored by the League of Canadian Poets.  Penn has just received the Spoken Word Award from the League of Canadian Poets: http://poets.ca/2015/04/01/golden-beret-2015-penn-kemp.

Bill_Gilliam_HeadShot_Colour5849_247140045251_426613_n
“It was completely clear to me that the performers have a wonderful musical relationship because they listen so well to one another and allow for each artist to play in the spotlight and showcase their talents.  This is all done in a very subtle fashion, seamlessly weaving voices, keyboard sampled textures and percussive accents.  The effect is transporting, meditative and our audiences were completely engaged by the intimacy of their performance.
Be prepared to go on a journey into textured sound scapes, playful sound poetry and texts.  You won’t be disappointed!!” Gordon Way, Assistant Artistic Director, Distillery Jazz Festival

Notes from our April 25 performance in London:
“Penn, your passionate poetry was an inspiration to me, thank you so much! And thanks to Bill for his extraordinary piano playing!” Marion Johnson
“Bravo – Saturday’s reading exquisite Saturday’s “musical reading” was fabulously entertaining. It was truly a memorable occasion which Marion and I were happy to be a part of. Let me know when you repeat in Toronto as i want to publicize it. Bill was an awesome talent as well. Just wonderful…” Nancy Johnson

See also .https://www.facebook.com/events/1467388050218167/