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 http://www.pennkemp.wordpress.com, www.pennkemp.weebly.com.
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.
Cupcakes 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 blackfriarsbistro.com, 46 Blackfriars St, London, ON N6H 1K7.
Couplets 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.
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.
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!
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.”
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, pennkemp.wordpress.com 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 rsitoski.com/news-events 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.
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 https://creativeage.ca/beyond-building-digital-bridges/. 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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QM2Jg1Xf39g.
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.
This poem will be published in the Spring 2022 issue of SAGE-ING with Creative Spirit, Grace & Gratitude || The Journal of Creative Aging, http://www.sageing.ca. I’m delighted to appear in Sage-ing again. Ihttp://sageing.ca/sageing40.html. Yes to aging… and still creating!
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.
“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.
Superb Canadian writing highly recommended, grouped idiosyncratically
First, by women
Pairing books by Indigenous Writers: Michelle Good, FiveLittle 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.
Non-Fiction 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
Awards 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?
Anthologies 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
AND… 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.
“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, https://spokenweb.ca/events/virtual-listening-practice-guided-by-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.”
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.
<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.
“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 https://riverrevery.ca/text-of-river-revery/wishing-well/!