Poetry Mini Interview

What are you working on?
My next project, LOCAL HEROES, Insomniac Press, 2018, celebrates legendary cultural heroes from London, Ontario. These poems evoke a specific city in its particular landscape and history. London’s literary and artistic heritage is documented, honouring artists in fields ranging from visual and language arts to figure skating. Presented as an overview, the collection stretches from Victoria explorer Teresa Harris to the contemporary arts scene. Local Heroes acknowledges the Indigenous peoples here, and the ongoing waves of settlers who have called the area home, as London grew from colonial outpost to vibrant cultural centre. Local Heroes spans time but remains in place.
Landscape shapes us by its distinctive atmosphere. Southwestern Ontario (Souwesto) is a peninsula bordered by two Great Lakes and by the United States. Local Heroes examines the works of artists who have been influenced by the pervading spirit of Souwesto. In classical Rome, a genius loci was the protective spirit of the local, depicted as a figure holding a libation bowl. London is situated in a bowl scraped out from receding glaciers. This bowl teems over with the productions of its arts through time. Why? What has made London a creative centre? As a mid-sized county seat set in the fertile farmland of Middlesex County, London is in the middle, entre lacs, between two metropolises, Toronto and Detroit, at the edge of the Snow Belt. Because it is so surrounded, London began as a garrison, a fiercely conservative British enclave that held tight to tradition and conventional mores. Artists who lived here could rebel, conform or leave.
The collection present three sections, in historical order. It opens with an exploration of the exploits of Teresa Harris, who escaped her corsets along with her colonial upbringing in London’s Eldon House. Like me, this explorer travelled widely for decades before returning home with memories and mementoes. The poems devoted to Teresa consist of outtakes from my play, The Triumph of Teresa Harris, that were best expressed as poetry. The middle section is What the Heart Parts, also produced as a play and a Sound Opera.When the Heart Parts is based on the life and death of her father, Jim Kemp, London artist and mentor of artists in the 1950s. In my work, poetry and drama intersect, the way two branches of the Thames meet at the Forks.
The second half of the book is a tribute to local London creators. I was lucky enough to grow up in an artistic household and so was introduced to many of London’s cultural icons. Anecdotes abound. “London Local Heroes” recognizes several of those artists who broke through conservative conventions to create and celebrate their own community. Cultural activists had to develop their own vibrant and exciting arts scene or be pulled away to the larger metropolis east or west of London. Transformation happens in the local, through the intersection of culture, art and geography that defines the regional. Local Heroes offers an empowering vision of regionalism: we are at our own centre, our own gravitational field, where activism is most effective. We are at the centre of a cultural cauldron where opposites mingle and mix. Here the arts are cultivated and emerge as rich as the farmland surrounding London. The centre not only holds but opens up to the world, rippling out in concentric circles.
Penn Kemp
For more, please see
by Thomas Whyte.



Upcoming Events with Penn

Here’s my reading schedule for the next few months: I hope to see you!
All events are free and open to the public.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018 in London: Reading with Penn Kemp and Daphne Marlatt, 3:30 to 4:20 p.m. AHB-3R07, Western University. The Arts and Humanities Building is the old Ivey Business building, directly south of University College.

Saturday, March 10, 2018 in Toronto: Words and Music Salon, 12:30 to 3:30 pm. I’m reading 2:30-3:00 pm. The Tiki Room, the Tranzac, 292 Brunswick Ave. Sponsored by the League of Poets, Metro Reading in Public Places.

Thursday, April 19, 2018 in London: The launch of Local Heroes (Insomniac Press 2018) by Penn Kemp. The evening includes an exhibition tour with curator Amber Lloydlangston, followed by Penn’s reading @ 7:30 pm. The theatre will show several short videos on Local Heroes by Dennis Siren, Mary McDonald and Western’s Community Engaged Learning students.
6:30 to 7:15 p.m. – Curator Tour: Women’s Lives in Canada: A History, 1875-2000;          7:30 to 8:30 p.m. – Penn’s reading; and 8:30 to 9 p.m. – book signing.
Lecture Theatre, Museum London, 421 Ridout St N.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018, 8 pm: ‘ALT’ show, Victoria Poetry Project Caffè Fantastico, 965 Kings Road, Victoria, British Columbia V8T 1W7. Contact shayne avec i grec vegabard@gmail.comhttps://www.facebook.com/vicslam/.

Friday, April 27, 2018 in Edmonton, Alberta:  Featured reader, “Wine and Wild Women Wordsmiths”, The Edmonton Poetry Festival. They match a wine to the poet. I’ve offered to be a full-bodied Red! https://edmontonpoetryfestival.com

Monday, May 28, 2018 in London, 7 to 8:30 pm: Women Trailblazers: Writers and Voices for Change: Heroes. A reading and lecture series celebrating Canadian women writers.
Featured guests: Judy Rebick and Penn Kemp, Stevenson & Hunt Room, Central Library, 251 Dundas StreetJudy is reading from Heroes in My Head (Anansi) and Penn from Local Heroes (Insomniac).

Penn Kemp and Daphne Marlatt Reading 2018

With thanks to Debbie Okun Hill for her profile and updates:


Review, Barbaric Cultural Practice

Adebe deRango Adem, Quill & Quire, December, 2016.

“Down the paths of most resistance”!

This review truly gets the book, I’m grateful to say!  It’s available for $18 from

quattrobooks.ca/books/barbaricculturalpractice/.Quill & Quire.p40.review column December 2016.jpgbarbaric-cultural-practice_front-cover

Ode for the Feast of Words

WORDSFEST is happening all weekend long at Museum London: see http://www.wordsfest.com/

Send your responses about the Festival to http://www.wordsfestzine.com/. Work for this zine will be collected from Festival-goers on Friday and Saturday, then published and launched at the Rhino Lounge in Museum London Sunday, Nov. 6, at 5pm. Whew! Here’s my poem for the zine:

Ode for the Feast of Words

Our London Muses, amused, proclaim:

Come join our Museum feast in joy

of joining, reading, weaving a way,

riding a wave, waving a welcome,

well, come in then. Here. Hear!

Attendance’s high, attention is close.

Words are our vocation, invoking

the vocative, pro vocative, calling us,

calling on us, call sure, culture, meeting

our many cultures, collected. Whatever

the weather, we conjure com pose

words worth envisioned, inclusive in

terms of the other, for all our sakes.

Describing the arc, friends collect and

meet new, gathering poets in harmony |

with other authors.  Rhythm rhymes us.

Creating community, fusion delights

this spacious collective, call elect if

held in the London community bowl.

The Graces are present, spirits high.

Lift the cup and dance, sing, speak, tell

the tale told, win, write welcome.

O may the best manifest

fest if all festivity

Cheer and exult.

Hail and salute!

Here, here!
Penn Kemp





Photo: Toban Black




Fall Events with Penn Kemp

See you at these Upcoming Events!

November 6, 10am. Penn Kemp and Madeline Bassnett read together for this session @Words, Words, London’s Literary and Creative Arts Festival, http://wordsfest.ca/. The Lecture Theatre, Museum London, 421 Ridout St N, London, ON N6A 5H4. Contact: Joshua D Lambier, Artistic Director, jlambie2@uwo.ca.

Saturday, November 26, 2-4, pm. Book signing of Barbaric Cultural Practice and Launch of Women & Multimedia and Performing Women: Playwrights and Performance Poets from The Living Archives Series, The Feminist Caucus, League of Canadian Poets: Penn is essayist and editor of the two anthologies.Brown & Dickson, 609 Richmond Street, London  N6A 3G3. Contact: 519-318-1983, books@brownanddickson.com, http://www.brownanddickson.com


Thanks for a grand couple of years to the London Arts Council!

Penn, sounding at Canadian Writers’ Summit at Toronto’s Harbourfront, June 2016.  Photo: Monique Renaud for Playwrights Guild of Canada



Wednesday, October 5, 2016; doors open 7:00 pm; start time 7:30 p.m. Quattro Book Launch, Toronto, Supermarket Restaurant, 268 Augusta Ave. (event room at rear of dining area) Free. Contact: info@quattrobooks.ca, http://www.supermarketto.ca/
Six authors: Sanita Fejzić, from Ottawa, with her novella Psychomachia
Penn Kemp, from London ON, with her book of poetry Barbaric Cultural Practice
Susan McCaslin, from Victoria, BC, with her book of poetry Painter, Poet, Mountain
Richard Osler, from Duncan, BC, with his book of poetry Hyaena Season
Cora Siré, from Montreal, with her novella The Other Oscar
Laura Swart, from Calgary, with her novella Blackbird Calling

Friday, October 7, 2016, 7:30- 8:30pm. Tributes + Tributaries, 1971-1989, AGO Friday Nights in October, Signy Eaton Gallery, Art Gallery of Ontario, 317 Dundas Street West, Toronto  M5T 1G4. Call 1-877-225-4246 or 416-979-6648. AGO features Penn Kemp and Paul Dutton, sound poets. The topic is streaming influences from the ’70’s: http://www.ago.net/new-ago-exhibition-explores-the-experimental-energy-of-the-toronto-art-scene-in-the-70s-and-80s.  More details, including a schedule of performances, will be posted on http://www.ago.net. Host Lillian Allen. Toronto: Tributes + Tributaries, 1971-1989 is included with the price of general admission and is free to AGO members.
“I am wanting to feature some of the roots of the aesthetic influence on our city. I am thinking about the important and artistically liberating roles your  (mostly) sound works played. The fact that you were a woman inspired me so much. Your sound explorations and experimentations always make me feel so happy and empowered. The power of your art has never left me. So I am paying tribute to you by asking you to read/perform in this series.” Lillian Allen. https://www.ago.net/toronto-tributes-tributaries-1971-1989

Tuesday, October 11, 7 pm. London launch of Penn’s poetry book, Barbaric Cultural Practice (Quattro Books). Oxford Book Shop, 262 Piccadilly Street, London N6A 1S4.
Contact: Hilary bookorderprocessing@oxfordbookshop.com. Tel: 519-438-8336.

Saturday, October 15, 2016, 2 pm. Penn reading from her play “The Triumph of Teresa Harris” and Barbaric Cultural Practice. With Daniel Kolos, Antony Christie. The Garafraxa Café, 131 Garafraxa Street South (Highway 6), Durham ON. Contact: danielkolos123@gmail.com or Michelle and Kevin Bossi, 226-432-2175, garafraxacafe@gmail.com. Sponsored by Playwrights Guild of Canada.













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.

“… 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?


                                                            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

Poetry from Quattro Books:

Barbaric Cultural Practice

Paperback | October 1, 2016

by Penn Kemp

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.

Quattro Book Launch, Wednesday, October 5, 2016; doors open 7:00 pm; start time 7:30. Toronto, Supermarket Restaurant, 268 Augusta Ave. (event room at rear of dining area) Free. Contact: info@quattrobooks.ca, http://www.supermarketto.ca/


Barbaric Cultural Practice Transporting.jpg

Cover Painting, “Transporting” by Anne Anglin

Q&A: https://pacifictranquility.wordpress.com/2016/08/21/what-made-me-a-poet-curiosity-the-thrill-of-adventure-of-new-worlds-qa-with-poet-penn-kemp/

Sample poems: “Tip Line”, “The Nature of Food”, Tuck Magazine,


“Synaesthetics”, “Filling the Cart” and “Giving Your Word”,  Tuck Magazine, http://tuckmagazine.com/2016/09/05/poetry-512/