Eco-Poetry: Using the Arts to Celebrate the Earth

Saturday, April 30, 1-2:30 pm EDT  Zoom

Eco-Poetry: Using the Arts to Celebrate the Earth

Please join us tomorrow for a breath of fresh air, a breath of poetry and SPRING!

Host: Jennifer Chesnut, Environmentalist-in-Residence, London Public Library.

With special guest Penn Kemp, explore poems on the theme of Earth and create your own eco-poem. This reading and workshop is open for all levels of experience zoom.

Please click this Zoom link to join the program: You should not need it, but if you do, the Meeting ID for this event is 817 8709 1382 and the Passcode is 595825. The Zoom “Room” will open 5 minutes before the program begins. This program is being recorded. A prize draw is being held for participants of the live program. You can also register with your London Library card:

These six poems are from Penn Kemp’s RIVER REVERY, Insomniac Press.
“A Dazzling Multi-Media Response to Our Changing Climate:” Thanks to Jennifer Chesnut for the invitation and the images!

Penn Kemp has been celebrated as a trailblazer since her first publication (Coach House, 1972). She was London Ontario’s inaugural Poet Laureate and Western University’s Writer-in- Residence. Chosen as the League of Canadian Poets’ Spoken Word Artist (2015), Kemp has long been a keen participant in Canada’s cultural life, with thirty books of poetry, prose and drama; seven plays and multimedia galore. See,

This event is sponsored by the City of London.

Couplets and Cupcakes for Ukraine

What is the responsibility of poets in times of crisis? The ability to respond.

On April 2 at 2pm EDT, you’re invited to attend Poets in Response to Peril, an online event in which poets offer reflections and poems on the power and limitations of poetry in times of crisis. Registration:…

Among our featured poets are Russell Thornton and Svetlana Ischenko. They will read from Poems from the Scythian Wild Field by celebrated Ukrainian poet Dmytro Kremin (Ekstasis Editions), first in Ukrainian and then in their English translation.  

We are also reaching out directly to Ukraine, at the request of an Ukrainian publisher “to inspire and give support”:

From Blackfriars Bistro & Catering: “In our commitment to support the Ukraine war relief, we will be donating 100% of the sales of our Ukraine Flag-inspired Cupcakes to the humanitarian relief efforts & fight against the Russian Occupation. You can pick-up cupcakes in our pantry/larder or pre order by calling 519-667-4930.” And they will send cupcakes too! See, 46 Blackfriars St, London, ON N6H 1K7.  

This poem was written for April’s National Poetry Month theme of “Intimacy”.

Our Kind of Intimate

What could be more intimate than
constant streaming on our screens,
images plastered on the occipital
nerve, imprinted, planted, permanent?

What more intimate than a tiny cell,
replicating green and reptilian-spiked,
one that multiplies in our bodies as
Covid spreads, as familiar Omicron?

What more intimate than a deep love
roping in family, friends, and foreign
faces on the Web to our known orbit?

In the knowledge that we are all one
multi-armed huge beast we call humanity.
backed for or against, wholly, alone.

What could be more intimate than
a marriage under siege, the bride’s
bouquet between her and him in
 camouflage, weapons at the ready?

A sharp pang of metal piercing flesh,
the rude intrusion of steel into bone.
Sounds haunting the bloodstream
linger along what once were halls

of the bombed maternity hospital,
children still under the walls, not to
speak of infants, mothers in labour.

What more intimate than the time
when thought coalesces into form
between pen and paper, text onto key
board? Before words arise and fall

in place, the sacred alphabet arranged
just so in orderly progression that never
before has taken shape, as the poem is
birthed? Its aftermath, crimson placenta

of relief, grief given way to gratitude
that something remains while entire
civilizations collapse and fall. The fall
resounding rings hollow down our ears.

In our time and beyond, throughout
the barriers of history being broken,
the current kind of intimate intimidates
us not into submission—but to action.


And let us remember and respond to the many other crises ongoing in Sudan, Syria, Somalia, Myanmar and Congo:
And then there is climate change…

Arms And The Boy

In our time all the world’s worst
clichés are actualised in stark paradox,
explosive irony.

I am swimming in happiness
rain cocooning my window pane
when TV presents unfriendly fire
dropping smart bombs far-off.

I fall through the scream as if to land
among proud and elegant peoples
divided by civil, uncivil arms.

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

City institutions crack under cloud cover.
The clans, the earth, rent in spring rain.
Shovels at a narrow grave.

The image that struck me most
was a fourteen-year-old boy,
just skin and bones. The men were
burying him when

crossed, his last gesture,
an ache up arms’ inner
two tears ran down his cheeks.

That boy survived but cannot speak.
Language is lost in war, though lies thrive.


Blackfriars Bistro

Reads for International Women’s Day

This month, recommendations of women’s writing, with comments. In a time of loss and transition and the chaos of world crises, I’m having trouble organising, so I tend to read instead of writing or editing. A sometimes necessary escape these days. A book is so contained with its beginning, middle, and end. Covers we can close with a sense of accomplishment and of completion. I love how books weave around one other, sequentially, thematically, without my conscious intent. So grateful to London Public Library for their engaging and enticing collection! The dregs of winter: a perfect time for tomes and for poems.

Here’s my poem for IWD, “Choose to Challenge”:

Recommended Reads for International Women’s Day

Angie Abdou, This One Wild Life: A Mother-Daughter Wilderness Memoir. In her dedication, Angie Abdou hopes the reader will receive the book like a long letter from a good friend. And it is: a sweet, endearing, sometimes heart-breakingly honest memoir. But earlier, the price of being so open was a devastating social media attack: Abdou describes the effects in this memoir of healing.  We learn what it is what Abdou plans to do with her “one wild and precious life”. During the Pandemic, it’s a lovely treat to hike in the mountains vicariously with her.  And oh, I loved her cottonwood!

Brit Bennett, The Vanishing Half. Many different ways of exploring identity and choice and choice’s consequences.

Natasha Brown, Assembly. Rachel Cusk, Sheila Heti and Bernardine Evaristo walk into a bar… and meet Natasha Brown. Assembly is honed stiletto-sharp, not a hair out of place, however the protagonist feels in classist, racist England. “Unfair”, whine the various white men who confront her in this short, perfect novel.

Sharon Butala, This Strange Visible Air: Essays on Aging and the Writing Life. Always brave, honest and necessary writing on ageism.

Clare Chambers, Small pleasures: a novel. So many charming pleasures: beautiful writing, engaging characters and utterly engaging plot.  A delicious read and reprieve from current events and dystopias.

Sadiqa de Meijer, The outer wards
Sadiqa de Meijer, Alfabet / alphabet: a memoir of a first language
. “Or was there an influence of origins at work, an onomatopoeic element with ecologically ambient sounds and forms giving rise to each language?”
“I tried to contain where the words went, but there are submerged forces in writing—in the land-water realms of consonant vowel—that require our surrender.”
“a sort of sideways drift has taken place among the words”
“The untranslatable is inherent in all intercultural contact, where its particles may accumulate and become tropes of otherness.”

Junie Désil, Eat salt / gaze at the ocean: poems
“scudding back and forth through history”
“There isn’t a pastness”

Cherie Dimaline, Hunting by Stars (A Marrow Thieves Novel). Harrowing but vital reading, beyond the pale: “a new cacophony was breaking in. It was just up ahead. Rose could feel it, cresting the audible edge of tomorrow. It was coming on dark wings, making short work of time and distance. And this would be the way they resisted. This would be the reclamation. This was the girl who would be loud.” Beware pale groupies!

Esi Edugyan, Out of the sun: on race and storytelling
“In the 1800s, Black pioneers established themselves in Priceville, Ont., only to be eventually pushed out by European settlers. The only thing that remained of them was their cemetery.”

Louise Erdrich, The Sentence. Louise Erdrich herself reads the audiobook in a delicious rendition as funny as it is powerfully poignant. And the novel includes a bookseller called Louise! A ghost story that starts on Halloween 2019 and progresses through that annus horribilis till Halloween 2020: one long sentence of the present. Glorious!

Louise Gluck, Faithful and virtuous night
Louise Gluck, American Originality: Essays on Poetry. Essential and astonishing reading and re-reading for any poet and reader of poetry. “What remains is tone, the medium of the soul.”
“The silenced abandon of the gap or dash, the dramatized insufficiency of self, of language, the premonition of or visitation by immanence: in these homages to the void, the void’s majesty is reflected in the resourcefulness and intensity with which the poet is overwhelmed.”
“the use of the term ‘narrative’ means to identify a habit of mind or type of art that seeks to locate in the endless unfolding of time not a still point but an underlying pattern or implication; it finds in moving time what lyric insists on stopped time to manifest.”

Amanda Gorman, Call Us What We Carry. An astonishingly accomplished and moving collection.
The Muses, daughters of Memory inspire us.
“History and elegy are akin. The word ’history’ comes form an ancient Greek verb meaning ‘to ask.’” Anne Carson
Lumen means both the cavity
of an organ, literally an opening,
& a unit of luminous flux,
Literally, a measurement of how lit
The source is. Illuminate us.
That is, we too,
Are this bodied unit of flare,
The gap for lux to breach.”

Vivian Gornick, Taking a long look: essays on culture, literature, and feminism in our time. A good read for #InternationalWomensDay! In her memoir, Vivian Gornick, looking back on the feminist movement in which she was deeply involved, understands “what every good memoirist understands: that the writer’s own ordinary, disheveled, everyday self must give way to that of a narrating self — a self who will tell the story that needs to be told.” #IWDBell Hooks, All about love: new visions. “Love invites us to grieve for the dead as ritual of mourning and as celebration… We honor their presence by naming the legacies they leave us.”

Lauren Groff, Matrix: a novel. “Visions are not complete until they have been set down and stepped away from, turned this way and that in the hand.” Loved this celebration of mediaeval visionary abbess, Marie of France!

Joy Harjo, Poet warrior: a memoir
In these quotes, you can experience her voice directly as written:
“And the voice kept going, and Poet Warrior kept following no matter
Her restless life in the chaos of the story field.”
“Every day is a reenactment of the creation story. We emerge from
dense unspeakable material, through the shimmering power of
dreaming stuff.
This is the first world, and the last.”
“The imagining needs praise as does any living thing.
We are evidence of this praise.”
“When you talk with the dead
You can only go as far as the edge of the bank.”
“Frog in a Dry River”

Min Jin Lee, Pachinko. Fascinating depiction of a war-torn Korean family saga, now filmed. All too relevant still.

Maggie Nelson, On Freedom. I’m listening to Maggie Nelson ON FREEDOM ironically, given Canada’s situation and the loss of innocence in that word’s current associations.

Molly Peacock, Mary Hiester Reid Paints, Travels, Marries & Opens a Door.
A lovely study of painters and painting. Tonalists “connected light both to emotions—and to the sounds of emotions. Using musical vocabulary, like nocturne or symphony, they suggested that emotions could be heard through paint”. “tap into childhood to find the ‘transitional object;” as D.W. Winnictott calls it: “‘Our first adventures into reality are through the objects” with “vitality or reality of [their] own.”

Ruth Ozeki, The Book of Form and Emptiness by one of my favourite writers.

Charlie Petch, Why I Was Late
To be performed with dulcimer.”
“Things You Didn’t Know about Me”
Self-referential and fun. Performative poems, as in The nerves centre but stronger.

Angela Szczepaniak, The nerves centre. A ten-act cast of characters: poetry in performance, poet performing! A study of anxiety, her titles from self-help with dramatis personae. My fave: Mime Heckler. Utterly uttered!

Lisa Taddeo, Animal: a novel is a ferocious diatribe against male sexual violence. Since the book is dedicated to her parents and she lives with her husband and daughter, I wondered about the story behind the novel.

Hanya Yanagihara, To Paradise. Nicely structured fin de siècle tome, over three centuries, based on Washington Square and similarly named characters not to mention Hawaiian royalty. Deja vu, David Mitchell!

Zoe Whittal, The Spectacular. Three generations of women negotiating current, changing times.  It’s complicated, very. Spectacular, if you’re 21.  I’d have liked much more from the oldest woman but it’s a long novel as is. Reminiscent of David Mitchell’s Utopia Avenue.

Joy Williams, Harrow. Harrowing indeed, and disjointed.
“a sacred grove, a temenos. It had once meant asylum and within it was asulos—the inviolable. It protected what was within and excluded that which was without.”
Kafka’s hunter, “Gracchus, the literal expression in a concrete image of an abstraction.”

The Matrilineal Lineage. Photo: Amanda Chalmers

To remind us of spring…

PIERCING HEARTS. Poets ‘are talking tough’ and their words make a difference

By Joe Belanger, The London Free Press. March 5, 2022

Poets across Canada and around the world are contributing thoughts, voices and poems about the war in Ukraine to London poet Penn Kemp’s blog. Kemp, who has written two poems about the conflict in Ukraine, said she believes that poetry can make a difference because it’s a sharing of community. 

Photograph taken on Friday, March 4, 2022. (Mike Hensen/The London Free Press). March FORTH!

Lately, I can’t seem to get this classic Tragically Hip tune out of my head, nor the words of the late singer-poet Gord Downie:

Don’t tell me what the poets are doing

Don’t tell me that they’re talking tough . . .

Well, Gord, they are.

I’ve been humming that tune ever since an email arrived from Penn Kemp, London’s first poet laureate and a renowned poet, playwright and author.

The email advised that poets across the country and around the world are contributing their thoughts, voices and poems about the war in Ukraine to her blog, and will be sharing their words live on teleconference on April 2 at 2 p.m. Details on that gathering will be posted on the website to kick off National Poetry Month.

Kemp’s Friday blog post is titled A Gathering of Poets in Response to Peril.

She offers up two new poems inspired by the horrors of war in Ukraine.

In The Honorable, the Diss-, Kemp expresses her — and our — shock, anger, fears, outrage and determination to do something. It reads in part:

The Doomsday Clock counts down a

hundred seconds till midnight strikes.

May Kyiv keep safe beneath the holy

mantle of Maty Zemlya, Mother Earth

as if prayers are enough. Send money.

“Prove that you are with us. “Prove

that you will not let us go,” demands

President Volodymyr Zelensky of us.

We all can let our government know how we feel; we can donate cash or goods. It’s clear the government of Justin Trudeau shares our feelings and expresses them through donations of military and civilian aid to Ukraine along with condemnation of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As citizens, we also can support Ukraine with donations.

What can a poet donate? Seriously. Show me a rich poet.

But they have words, which can pierce, perhaps not armour, but certainly hearts. Can they have an impact?

“Yes, yes, yes,” Kemp declares.

“It makes a difference because it’s a sharing of community, of heart space. It creates empathy. It’s an outlet for our feelings of despair and helps us become activists, the writer and the reader. Poetry encompasses the entirety of human emotions.”

On Kemp’s blog, someone posted an anonymous quote found on a headstone where American artist Jackson Pollock and other artists are buried: “Artists and poets are the raw nerve ends of humanity. By themselves they can do little to save humanity. Without them there would be little worth saving.”

“That’s why I turn to poetry,” Kemp said. “It makes nothing happen, but it makes us feel empathetic; it expresses our sorrow and communicates it to our community and it reaches across languages to the heart.”

On Kemp’s blog, I find a contribution from one of her pals, award-winning Romanian-born American poet Andrei Codrescu.

“Tyrants hate poets: Ovid was exiled by Augustus, Mandelstam was killed by Stalin, Neruda banished by Pinochet, Hikmet imprisoned in Turkey. When I hear the word ‘Putin,’ I reach for my sonnet!”

Kemp had a similar reaction.

“What prompted me was Putin’s threat of nuclear bombs, which would annihilate the world,” she said. “He’s a madman, one man wreaking havoc throughout the world.”

Perhaps there’s no more immediate proof of the impact arts and poetry can have on people than pop-rock’s Twisted Sister and its anthem, We’re Not Gonna Take It, which the Ukrainian people seem to have adopted as a resistance anthem.

And I love a tweet from Twisted Sister’s lead singer Dee Snider that brings into perspective the difference between the two issues dominating news today: the pandemic and the Ukrainian war.

“People are asking me why I endorsed the use of We’re Not Gonna Take It for the Ukrainian people and did not for the anti-maskers. Well, one use is for a righteous battle against oppression; the other is infantile feet stomping against an inconvenience.”

Yes, the arts, including poetry — words — can have an impact, piercing hearts and minds and the balloons of fools.

Yeah, the poets are talking tough.


Fast Poem for Ukraine

The dark day we saw
coming. We heard it
coming. But we thought

we could for-
stall war.

Is Putin unhinged at
last? “Russia’s response
will be unlike any in history.”

Disbelief and shock there.
Disbelief and shock here.

“Each citizen of Ukraine
will decide the future of
the country.”

Will new and expanded
sanctions work? Tears
are never enough. As if
poems could help. As
if words would work.

“We now have war in Europe
that is of a scale and type
unparalleled in history.”

“This will not shake Europe.”

But it already has.

The Honorable, the Diss-

We learn to pronounce Ke-ev, not
a single syllable spelt, not caving in
to the Russian Kiev, but keeping Kyiv.

How Chrystia Freeland pronounces
Putin’s name with an emphasis on
Pew, ew!, a diphthong of disgust.

As if an explosive P could repulse
this errant madman, could in a huff
and puff blow down that house of

cards, his arsenal now on high alert.
The Doomsday Clock counts down a
hundred seconds till midnight strikes.

May Kyiv keep safe beneath the holy
mantle of Maty Zemlya, Mother Earth
as if prayers are enough. Send money.

“Prove that you are with us. “Prove
that you will not let us go,” demands
President Volodymyr Zelensky of us.

Video: ‘Shock and disbelief’: A London poet’s odes to Ukraine. Photo/video: Mike Hensen

A Poem Beyond Building Digital Bridges.

Host Kathy Smith of Creative Age London asked me to write a poem to open Beyond Building Digital Bridges, the online conference that she has organized with many participants. The events take place on Zoom, February 15–18, 2022, sponsored by Museum London and hosted by Creative Age London. These presentations share “experiences about online life enrichment programs and meaningful community engagement strategies for older adults 50+, caregivers and service providers. See Free registration for Tuesday, Feb 15th 9:30am: Beyond Building Digital Bridges.

I am honoured to present this poem as an invocation to finding creativity through new media. My video poem, “On the Other Hand of Time”, airs at the summation of the conference. You can view it on

An Invocation Beyond Building Digital Bridges

Invoking “The Decade of Healthy Aging”, we applaud
elders who have so much to teach and more to learn as
we enter the digital forum for ways to connect with our
beloveds across space and time. We can do this, because
we so want to be with them by hook or by zoom, Skype
and Facetime. That yearning pulls us to learn what we
need to explore this new realm of digital reach. How?

We watch our grandkids approach new modes, prompted
by curiosity, unafraid to fail and fail again until gleefully
they triumph. We too try and have fun trying, unabashed,
if we adopt that attitude of play, and adapt to new ways of
reaching out. Minds stretched and limber, we go beyond
building digital bridges to engage with the other side of
the screen, unknown and tantalizing with possibility. We

bridge the gap, we continue to grow, and so by definition
young in flexibility, on novel ground, our neighbourhood
wider and us wiser. Resources abound, as we expand into
creativity, that dance between self and others, beyond age
and aging. The necessary tension of creativity is excitement—
the pull between solitude and the community, between what
we’ve learnt over decades and what we continue to absorb.

I’ll end with this poem, “Believe”, written watching my granddaughter try something new. We need to create communities in which elders, like children, fly in the new directions that digital technologies offer. We believe that the power of art and culture can effect change.


In the space of a year she has learned to sit,
to stand, to walk, to totter forward in a run.

She has seen one full round of the seasons.
She wraps her family round her little finger.

Now just before dusk we stroll hand in hand
to witness the evening ritual of geese return.

Gliding along the Thames in formation, they skim
just overhead, flapping slow time in synch.

She studies their procedure, dropping my hand
to edge forward, neck outstretched, arms aero-

dynamically angled.  She flaps and flaps along
the bank, following their flight, ready for that

sudden lift.  Again, again, till the last goose has
flown.  Dragging her heels home, disconcerted,

she braces her body against the rising breeze,
bewildered that she too can’t take off to sky

but game to try again tomorrow.

Penn Kemp

This poem will be published in the Spring 2022 issue of SAGE-ING with Creative Spirit, Grace & Gratitude || The Journal of Creative Aging, I’m delighted to appear in Sage-ing again. I Yes to aging… and still creating!

The poem is up here:

“We’re starting the event Beyond Building Digital Bridges with a heartfelt invocation by poet, performer, activist @pennkemp.” The poem is up here:

The Symposium ends with an open chat and a replay of my videopoem, “On The Other Hand of Time”, performed with music by Brenda McMorrow, piano by Bill Gilliam with a visual interpretation by Dennis Siren. This song-poem is a part of a Sound Opera called Dream Sequins, performed at Aeolian Hall, London.

Resistance: an Anthology

Resistance Anthology: Righteous Rage in the Age of  #METOO. Sue Goyette, editor. University of Regina Press, spring 2021, “

“Writers across the globe speak out against sexual assault and abuse in this powerful new poetry anthology, edited by Sue Goyette. These collected poems from writers across the globe declare one common theme: resistance. By exploring sexual assault and violence in their work, each writer resists the patriarchal systems of power that continue to support a misogynist justice system that supports abusers. In doing so, they reclaim their power and their voice…  
The collection could not be more timely. The work adds a new layer to the ever-growing #MeToo movement.   
 Resistance underscores the validity of all women’s experiences, and the importance of dignifying such experiences in voice, however that may sound. Because once survivors speak out and disrupt their pain, there is no telling what else they can do.”

“What we did not know in 1972. What has changed.”

It’s too late. He has jumped me, fallen on me, almost as
in love, catching his weight in his hands as they smack
against the grungy linoleum tiles I’ve wanted to replace.

The kitchen wall is rippling. The chalky ceiling bulges
as if it needs new plastering; as if something is trying
to pound through, something that can’t be contained.

A flash flood, a fire? My spine slams against the door.
My skull is permeable. I know what’s going to happen.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. Time expands to
include all the random possibilities of thought, of world.

Tectonic plates collide. I know that he erupts explosively,
a system under great pressure from without, from below.

His face balloons massively through the mist. I know him.
I know that drawn-down mouth, mask of Greek tragedy.

How often I have traced the dimple in his chin, a line from
nose to mouth where God pressed His finger: the philtrum.

His fingers close, blunt tips touching, the heels of palms
meeting as if in prayer. Relentless hands ring my throat.

Gold wedding ring presses deep into my gullet. Even in
absolute panic, my body responds to his closeness, dearly

familiar and almost kind. My breath stops, is stopped. My
breath holds itself, forgets itself under his thumbs, then

gasps. And is forced quiescent.

I have already disappeared up the smoky trail, out the top
of head into wide blue sky. A buzz as of bees in the cool

expanse of air. Strange croaks seem to start in my gullet
and travel up with me into the vast and empty. I am flying.

Mewling, I hover, open my new eyes to glimpse our roof, so
puny from this height. Beyond him, beyond myself, above.


Violent shaking startles me out of freedom: a sudden updraft.
I’m being pulled down the vortex of consciousness back into

a body I thought I’d surrendered. The sound in my ear, carol,
carol, and no song but choking, roaring. Nothing but his voice,
loud as Poseidon in a seashell in my ear. He’s really done it now.

I swim in an ocean of blood. Swirling red currents fill each cranny
of consciousness and this time I go under, diving, divining down.

When I emerge, he is gone but the room is swirling around me
in colours of other travels. Turkish scarlet cushions. Moroccan

striped curtains dance a jig of molecules that confuse my senses.
I am lying on the couch. I shut my eyes again, not to see. Not

to hear. His footsteps, running closer. Water, soaking my head.
I look at him. A yellow cast of fear lies over last red flares of rage

on his face. But the hands that hold the basin barely tremble. “If
you’ve quite recovered,” he announces, his voice oddly strangled.

“I’m off to town. Just take it easy. You’ll be all right!” He commands.
Irony of statement, concern of question or relief: it doesn’t matter.

Pain neatly divides head from shoulders. Voice creaks like something
inanimate outside its box. Words, the ability to make words— gone.

Phrases flutter and dissolve. “I’ll be all right.” Something automatic,
something ancient in me, is attempting re-entry. “All right. Just go.”

He is already gone, a flash of yellow bike. Silence except for
that buzz of wasps in my head. Wasp-words ring in my ears.


Can either of us remember what it had been about this time?
His jealousy of my phantom lover, the one that got away…

Who knew for sure what happened. What is this complicity
between us?  Already it’s as if nothing at all had happened.

We can talk to no one, certainly not each other, about
the sudden black holes, the mine-fields in ordinary
conversation that suddenly erupt. Because most often,

they are not there. The house is simply a house, the scene
domestic with cat and kids, and cauliflower on the stove.

I can talk to no one. I cannot talk. When I tried—family or
friends—all told me that it was none of their business. Not
to interfere. Not to know. I made my bed. Now lie in it. Lie.

When I did call the police, they listened intently to my story.
“Is the perpetrator your husband, ma’am?” “Yes.” “I’m sorry.

We do not interfere in cases of domestic assault. Thank you
for calling the Precinct.” The dial tone still rings in my ears.

And where could I go anyway, on my own with two kids
and no money and a body that will not move. Shame— I

wrap it around me to keep warm as if it were my own,
protecting me from the eyes of neighbours, hiding black

and yellowing bruises under sleeves and stockings. What
have I done? Dishes, drying in the sink. What has he done?

The fingers I’ve studied so closely, bald sentinels drumming
action. Beating to their own rhythm, the jazz that syncopates

sudden movement. My glasses hang by a wire arm, frame twisted.
Retribution, then contrition. Pain is finite after all. He comes back

begging. I pride myself on the ability to forgive that’s been bred
into me. A flip of power and I get whatever I want; he does what-
ever I want. Until resentment steams over again. Next time. No.


There will be no next time. There’s never going to be a next time.
This I believe on faith. This he believes on faith. When he returns

after the kids are asleep, he knows he has changed, knows his ire
has disappeared forever, as if it never was. I know there is no more

fear. I pray there is no more fear. We hold onto each other all night.
without a word. Stealthily, while his breathing deepens, I practice

opening and closing my throat for when the words come. If I could
speak. For when I will speak. My jaw creaks on its wrenched hinge.


His thumbs are imprinted on either side of my windpipe like black
sentinels. For days, I wear a long turquoise scarf and go around

pretending I am Isadora Duncan. Pretending I could fly. Secretly,
unwinding my scarf, I inspect the delicate progression of bruises.

A circle of yellow surrounds the thumbprint. I think I can make out
the actual whorls that are the perimeter. Black fades to purple, then

softens to a yellowish centre. In the mirror, that face that is not mine
looks out at me from the telescoped distance of time, wrinkled thin

with the patience of years. Her eyes clear and almost wise, assuring—
she is somebody I will become, the face I will grow into someday.


2020 Holiday Recommendations

Curling Up

with a Great Book!

Superb Canadian writing highly recommended, grouped idiosyncratically

First, by women

Pairing books by Indigenous Writers: Michelle Good, Five Little Indians; Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, This Accident of Being Lost, Islands of Decolonial Love and Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies.

Pairing pandemic novels: Emma Donoghue’s The Pull of the Stars; Saleema Nawaz’s Songs for the End of the World and Larissa Lai’s The Tiger Flu.

Pairing BC novelists: Shaena Lambert’s Petra Maria Reva; Good Citizens Need Not Fear; Caroline Adderson’s A Russian Sister and Anakana Schofield’s Bina.

Pairing books on relationship: Christy Ann Conlon’s Watermark; Annabel Lyon, Consent; Lynn Coady, Watching You Without Me; Shani Mootoo, Polar Vortex; Vivek Shraya, The Subtweet; Frances Itani, The Company We Keep.

Pairing Westerns: Gil Adamson’s Ridgerunner; Emily St. John Mandel’s The Glass Hotel; Helen Humphreys’s Rabbit Foot Bill and Kate Pullinger’s Forest Green.

Pairing fiction set abroad:  Aislinn Hunter’s The Certainties. Janie Chang’s The Library of Legends; Sarah Leipciger’s Coming Up For Air; Marianne Micros’s Eye; Louise Penny’s All the Devils Are Here; Lisa Robertson’s Baudelaire Fractals. Anne Simpson’s Speechless AND Farzana Doctor’s magnificent Seven.

Carol Bishop-Gwyn, Art and Rivalry: The Marriage of Mary and Christopher Pratt
Lorna Crozier, Through the Garden: A Love Story (with Cats)
Naomi Klein, On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal
Theresa Kishkan, Euclid’s Orchard & Other Essays
Amanda Leduc, Disfigured
Susan McCaslin & J.S. Porter, Superabundantly Alive: Thomas Merton’s Dance with the Feminine
Catherine Sheldrick Ross, Lynne (E.F.) McKechnie, and Paulette M. Rothbauer, Reading still matters: what the research reveals about reading, libraries, and community
Susan Vande Griek and Mark Hoffmann, Hawks Kettle, Puffins Wheel
Elizabeth Waterston, Railway Ties 1888-1920
Jody Wilson-Raybould, From where I stand: rebuilding Indigenous Nations for a stronger Canada

The Writers’ Trust Award goes to Gil Adamson for Ridgerunner!
The Giller goes to Souvankham Thammavongsa for How to Pronounce Knife
The Latner Writers’ Trust Poetry Prize goes to Armand Garnet Ruffo

Reading Canadian men
Billy-Ray Belcourt, A history of my brief body
Dennis Bock, The Good German
Michael Christie, Greenwood: A Novel of a Family Tree in a Dying Forest
Desmond Cole, The Skin We’re In
David Frum, Trumpocalypse
William Gibson, Agency
Rawi Hage, Beirut Hellfire Society
Thomas King, Indians on Vacation
Thomas King, Obsidian: A DreadfulWater Mystery
Kurt Palka, The hour of the fox: a novel
Andrew Pyper, The residence
Iain Reid, I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Robin Robertson, The long take: a Noir Narrative
Jesse Thistle, From the Ashes
Clive Thompson, Coders
Richard Wagamese, Keeper’n Me

Back to Poetry, Canadian and Beyond
Madhur Anand, A new index for predicting catastrophes: poems
Margaret Atwood, Dearly
Adèle Barclay, Renaissance normcore
Gary Barwin, For it is a PLEASURE and a SURPRISE to Breathe: new & selected Poems
Heather Birrell, Float and scurry
Jericho Brown, The Tradition 
Lucas Crawford, The high line scavenger hunt
Amber Dawn, My Art is Killing Me
Dom Domanski, Bite down little whisper
Klara du Plessis, Ekke
Nathan Dueck, A very special episode / brought to you by Nathan Dueck
Chantal Gibson, How She Read
Julie Hartley, Deboning a dragon
Karen Houle, The Grand River Watershed: a folk ecology
Patricia Keeney, Orpheus in Our World
Kaie Kellough, Magnetic equator 
Canisia Lubrin, The Dyzgraph*st
Daphne Marlatt, Intertidal: The Collected Earlier Poems, 1968 – 2008
Jane Munro, Glass Float
Harold Rhenisch, The Spoken World 
Robin Richardson, Knife throwing through self-hypnosis: poems
Anne Simpson, Strange attractor: poems
John Elizabeth Stintzi, Junebat
Moez Surani, Are the Rivers in Your Poems Real?

See more recommendations on , and reading new work by Canadian women novelists.

Best Canadian poetry 2019   
Measures of astonishment: poets on poetry / presented by the League of Canadian Poets
Caroline Adderson, editor. The Journey prize stories: the best of Canada’s new writers
Nyla Matuk, editor. Resisting Canada: an anthology of poetry
Adam Sol, How a poem moves: a field guide for readers of poetry

Beloved Books on Spiritual Ecology
Tim Dee, Landfill: Notes on Gull Watching and Trash Picking in the Anthropocene
Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
Diana Beresford-Kroeger, To Speak for the Trees: My Life’s Journey from Ancient Celtic Wisdom to a Healing Vision of the Forest
Robert Macfarlane, Underland
Richard Powers, The Overstory
Merlin Sheldrake, Entangled Life

Deepest, Longest and most Transformative Read of 2020
Peter Kingsley, Reality, Catafalque Press, 2020
(and Peter Kingsley, In the Dark Places of Wisdom)

International Reads
John Banville, Snow
Neil Gaiman, American Gods: The moment of the storm. 3
Sue Monk Kidd, The Book of Longings
Lily King, Writers and Lovers
Natsuo Kirino, The goddess chronicle
E. J Koh, The magical language of others: A memoir
Raven Leilani, Luster
Helen Macdonald, Vesper Flights
William Maxwell, So long, see you tomorrow
Ian McEwan, Machines like me: and people like you
Ian McEwan, Cockroach
Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles
Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter, Hamilton: the revolution
David Mitchell, Utopia
Maggie Nelson, The Argonauts
Celeste Ng, Little Fires Everywhere
Naomi Shihab Nye, Cast away: poems for our time
Maggie O’Farrell, Hamnet and Judith
Tommy Pico, Feed
Samantha Power, The Education of an Idealist
Omid Safi, Radical love: teachings from the Islamic mystical tradition
Jake Skeets, Eyes bottle dark with a mouthful of flowers / poems by Jake Skeets
Mirabai Starr, Wild mercy: living the fierce and tender wisdom of the women mystics
Natasha Trethewey, Memorial Drive
Mary L. Trump, Too Much and Never Enough
Ruth Ware, The Turn of the Key
Jennifer Weiner, Big Summer
Niall Williams, This is Happiness
Bob Woodward, Rage

About to read (sometime, soon-ish)
Madhur Anand, This Red Line Goes Straight to Your Heart
Marianne Apostolides, I can’t get you out of my mind: a novel
Nina Berkhout, Why Birds Sing
Carol Bruneau, Brighten the Corner Where You Are: A Novel Inspired by the Life of Maud Lewis
Cathy Marie Buchanan, Daughter of Black Lake
Catherine Bush, Blaze Island
Louise Carson, The Cat Possessed
Dede Crane, Madder Woman
Lorna Crozier, The House the Spirit Builds
Francesca Ekwuyasi, Butter Honey Pig Bread
Heather Haley, Skookum Raven
Catherine Hernandez, Crosshairs
Natalie Jenner, The Jane Austen Society
Shari Lapena, The End of Her
Jessica J. Lee, Two trees make a forest: travels among Taiwan’s mountains & coasts in search of my family’s past
Tanis MacDonald, Mobile
Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Mexican Gothic
Noor Naga, Washes, Prays
C.L. Polk, The Midnight Bargain
Damian Rogers, An Alphabet for Joanna: A Portrait of My Mother in 26 Fragments
Johanna Skibsrud, Island
Susan Swan, The Dead Celebrities Club
Emily Urquhart, The Age of Creativity: Art, Memory, My Father, and Me
Natalie Zina Walschots, Hench: a novel

Jordan Abel, Nishga
André Alexis, The Night Piece: Collected Short Fiction
Bill Arnott, Gone Viking
John Barton, Lost Family 
David Bergen, Here the Dark
Wade Davis, Magdalena: river of dreams 
Cory Doctorow, Radicalized
Cory Doctorow, Attack Surface
Gary Geddes, Out of the ordinary: politics, poetry and narrative
Steven Heighton, Reaching Mithymna: among the volunteers and refugees on Lesvos
Kaie Kellough, Dominoes at the Crossroads
David A. Robertson, Black Water
Mark Sampson, All the Animals on Earth
J.R. (Tim) Struthers (Editor), Alice Munro Everlasting: Essays on Her Works II
Mark Truscott, Branches
Ian Williams, Reproduction

Most of these books have come to me through London Public Library, now celebrating 125 years! Thank you!
Others came from Indie bookstores and friends. None from Amazon.

Check out my own books on

Read on ! Read often:)

Poem for the Fourteen

Invocation: for all those missing and murdered

Come say hello, women. While the veils are still

thin, we welcome your presence, no longer missed

but present, with all the disappeared you stand for.

As if you were in the prime of life now. As if

your daughters bloomed full-grown around you.

As if your mothers were crying delighted tears.

And if you were here to see what has changed

and what has not, would you hide your eyes in

shame for what has been done, what has not?

Come into the light and tell us how you are. As

if you have life beyond what we recall or remember

before this dark December claims its own again.

Sounds of Trance Formation

“For Penn Kemp, poetry is magic made manifest. While her subjects are varied, and her interests and approaches have evolved over the years, Kemp has always understood the power of spoken word to evoke emotion, shift consciousness, and shape the world. Drawing on a syncretic blend of spiritual philosophy informed by Alchemy, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other wisdom traditions, Kemp’s work is imminent and transcendent, embodied and cerebral. The words on the page produce certain effects, while the voices in the air produce others altogether.”
The Sounds of Trance Formation: An Interview with Penn Kemp”
Nick Beauchesne, Spoken Web Canada. To be podcast in December 2020.

“Refining the Alchemical Ear: Adept Listening Practices and the Poetry of George Bowering, Margaret Atwood, and Penn Kemp”
Nick Beauchesne,
This workshop is a brief foray toward an “adept” listening practice; that is, to listen to poetry from the perspective of an aspiring adept, a seeker of spiritual and poetic truths. What can we learn about the seeker’s path, and about poetry, from the Masters? What is the relationship between magic, word, and sound? How does the experience change when encountering these verses visually vs. orally? Analog vs. digital? This week, Nick Beauchesne curates three poems selected from the University of Alberta’s SpokenWeb collection. These poems have been digitized from reel-to-reel recordings of poetry readings captured at the U of A in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, and delivered by some heavy-hitters of Canadian literature. These readings touch on themes and practices derived from Alchemy, Spiritualism, Theosophy, Buddhism, Hinduism, and New Age philosophy. George Bowering, Margaret Atwood, and Penn Kemp (formerly Penny Chalmers) are the magical Masters from whom we will learn some new “tricks” of the poetic (and magical) trade. Research project with an interest in the study, preservation and creative use of literary and humanities-oriented audio recordings.”

Penn Letter for October 2020

How to reach out in these pandemic times? Poetry will see us through.
I’ve been publishing, perhaps in compensation for social isolation.

New Published Work

Choice, for Harold Rhenish, Train Poetry Journal.

For bpNichol

Shaking his mane,
holding his pain, he
roars with yellow
toothed laughter so
large it spills over
into song; birds

catch the drift and
carry on all measure
beyond any known
syntax into currents
contemporary all

Echolocations Magazine #18, October 2020.  And for the strangest tribute to bpNichol ever: @ 52.15.

A Short History of Epiphany            

And what might the difference have been
if Three Queens came bearing gifts…“An
evolutionary epiphany,” Susan declares.

Imagine if the Queens came first, only to be
superseded by three patriarchs bearing gold
(the capitalists); frankincense (down a long
church history of swinging censors); sticky
myrrh (more generally used in embalming.)

Imagine what the Queens would deliver.
Hot water, hot soup, clean clothes, diapers.
Compassion, blankets, a room key to the Inn.

for Susan McCaslin and Katerina Fretwell

The Choice to Take… or to Receive: Bounty

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">                                <em> For Lynne and for our beloved Elders</em>                                 For Lynne and for our beloved Elders

Having found the elderberry bush at the time of ripening berries, you
and I return with buckets and scissors, even a step ladder. Round and
round the bush we go, stripping the tendrils of the tender black globes.

What jelly or cordial or jam they’ll make! I pull down higher branches
for you, till one lashes you in the face. Berries at the crown are the most
luscious, gleaming inaccessibly in full sun. How to reach the unreachable?

In our haste to collect as many umbels as we can, we trample surrounding
Jerusalem artichokes, goldenrod and jewelweed despite their sweet blooms.
Transgressing, we snatch the fruit rather than asking the bush’s permission.

That night, we spend hours separating poisonous stems and leaves from precious
fruit. You make jelly; I an elderberry crumble, both exquisite. But when we meet
next day, we realize our greed in grabbing rather than receiving such abundance.

So we return with sage and sweetgrass to smudge the bush and recite Green Tara
mantras, asking forgiveness. Elder has recovered overnight from our ravishment—
unripe umbrellas are fully ripe. The bush appears to offer them freely this time.

“List List”, Sad Girl Review, Issue 5,


“Wishing Well” has been selected from nearly 2000 submissions by the programme commission to be a part of the ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival. The ZEBRA Poetry Film Festival will be taking place from 19 to 22 November 2020 in the Kino in der KulturBrauerei in Berlin. You can see Mary McDonald’s animation and my text on!


Here’s the update of my work of Playwright Biography Project:, August  2020.

I invite you to my Page, Please do join my Facebook groups, Support & Promote Canadian Arts & Culture, where you can post Canadian events! & Gathering Voices, Also we can connect on and