Fare Trade

Sustenance cover 2017

Sustenance: Writers from BC and Beyond on the Subject of Food. Rachel Rose, editor. Anvil Press Publishers, October, 2017. https://alllitup.ca/books/S/Sustenance#overview,

The anthology is launching October 22 in Vancouver! Wish I could be there but my poem will have to sustain:) http://writersfest.bc.ca/festival-events/sustenance-a-feast-of-voices/

Sustenance anthology 2017

Here’s my contribution to the feast:

“Fare Trade”

I would eat local food only were it not for temptation.
A green invitation of open avocado in emerald halves.
An alluring variety of mango hot to eye, cool to tongue.

The seduction of dark chocolate.
The slurped fulfilment in oyster.
The simple necessity of rice.

Otherwise, I would be content with my yard’s fall produce.
But having tasted the world’s fare, how to return unjaded
to simple pleasures that this ground offers?  Beans.

Corn.  Squash.  Corn.  Beans.  The three sisters thrive.

Yes, I will eat local food mostly.  Except for.   Except for…
Accept.  Chocolate.  No chicory compares to caf頡u lait.
Ole!  Import coffee; import tea!  Import taunt.

On to political rant: our food too cheap, our farmers ruined.

Our eyes closed, we rest easy, spoiled ripe fruit in the docks,
turning sleepy to sun-rotten.  Given so much, we reach for more

even when over full.  And poems break off as the lunch bell rings.

Penn Kemp
from Luminous Entrance: a sound opera for climate change action

“Fare Trade” is published in Barbaric Cultural Practice, Quattro Books.


Poem for an Awful Inauguration

January 20, 2017

This Awful Inauguration day augurs so
dimly for us all, and we aren’t even in
the United States. The world awaits

uncertain of outcome, certain only that
meanness prevails of heart and intent.
We’ve dropped into the well of offal.

An Awful Inauguration day augurs well
for the unduly rich but poorly for poor
and dispossessed, for poor middle class.

This Awful Inauguration day augurs ill
for Obamacare, for the health of a nation,
for all illegal aliens and for alienated arts.

This Awful Inauguration day augurs dimly
for us all, and we aren’t even in the Year
of the vain Fire Rooster till January 28.

O weather vane, you parade your lies as
truth. You spin with the wind. You turn.
You twitter and trumpet trust topsy-turvy.

This Awful Inauguration day crows triumph
for the cock of the walk, king for a day, or
another four years. We withhold, withstand

his very dangerous flash in a very wide pan.
But we don’t withdraw. We march, we hold
on, hold to, truth as we know it. We refuse.

We are other. We are alien. We protest: these
Auguries of Inauguration are not innocent.

Penn Kemp

Love Hope Opt 11779840_10152952905252051_2078125788695655817_o

Poem for a Sweet ’16’

 January 1, 2016

Happy to celebrate Sweet ’16’ with a poem here!

“An Ounce of Essential”, http://www.byandbylit.org/penn-kemp/
By&By Poetry. January 1, 2016: http://www.byandbylit.org/issue-two/.

An Ounce of Essential


My sweet oils implode upon his sinus as cough.
Red-rimmed eyes implore me to come clean.
Stripped of perfume, I’m a layer naked, still
aggrieved to lose those ancient pleasures I
was so accustomed to wrap myself around.

What’s noxious to one is humdrum to another’s
sense. Out at the service station, I hide my
throbbing head in scarves, breathing in old
scents while, undeterred by oil or gas spill,
to fill our tank, he braves car, truck or diesel.

Their fumes set me fuming: rendered direct to
my temples as dark clouds over the autobahn.
I’m off and roaring before the car is. Exhausted

by exhaust, what was my nervous system crawls
to its last redoubt and screeches, shrivels like a
cockroach sprayed by Raid. The map of my brain must
be all nose, homunculus sniffing out new terrain for
sachets of fonder memories in the glove compartment.

Flowers, I gasp. Give me instead whole acres of bright
pollen pounded to mere ounces of essential oil.
“So,” he announces, hopping back into the driver’s seat.
“We’re all gassed up. Ready for a day in the country?”

Our coniunctio oppositorum is the margin of air where
Pollution Gage meets Pollen Count. “I am if you are.”
In partnerships these days, sensitive is sensitized.


“It’s a pleasure to read such well-crafted poetry—I anticipate that our burgeoning readership will enjoy it immensely. Thank you.”
Jason Sears, editor.


London, ON poet, activist and playwright Penn Kemp (M.Ed.) is London’s inaugural Poet Laureate. Penn is the League of Canadian Poets’ Spoken Word artist of the year and their 40th Life Member. Her most recent work is From Dream Sequins, Lyrical Myrical Press, Toronto, and Jack Layton Art in Action, which she edited for Quattro Books, Toronto. A prolific artist, Penn has to date published over twenty-five books and had six plays produced. She is one of Canada’s most active performance poets, with ten CD’s to her credit, many videopoems and Canada’s first poetry CD-ROM.



Poetry for Lit erRacy!

My poem, “Rash Talk”, is up on http://thelitteriseeproject.com/.

Fun!  Terrific project for Lit erRacy!  Congrats, Carin Makuz and Frontier College​.

(t)(r)(a)sh talk

Posted: July 20, 2015 in penn kemp


Litter begets
more litter—

ah, sure when
litter it, we re
itter ate it.

I / it


the literal

The ill litter it
refuse refuse
and garb age.

I utter a light
little iteration

against litter
alluding to

allusion, all
iteration and

assonance off
the road, on

the road and in
to ash, rash,


London ON performance poet, activist and playwright Penn Kemp is the 40th Life Member of the League of Canadian Poets and their 2015 Spoken Word Artist of the Year. She received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal for service to arts and culture. As  inaugural Poet Laureate for the City of London (2010-12), she presented poetry at many civic functions. As Canada Council Writer-in-Residence for Western University for 2009-10, her project was the DVD, Luminous Entrance: a Sound Opera for Climate Change Action, Pendas Productions. Penn has published twenty-five books of poetry, prose and drama, had seven plays and ten CDs produced as well as several award-winning videopoems.

Follow her on Twitter or https://www.facebook.com/pages/Penn-Kemp/126450531030?fref=ts.
Updates: http://mytown.ca/pennkemp, https://pennkemp.wordpress.com/


Penn Kemp’s Five Poems For Food… and National Poetry Month!

Penn Kemp’s Five Poems For Food… and National Poetry Month!.

Celebrating FOOD in National Poetry Month: HYMN TO HORMONE


I eat nut chocolate instead of carrots. I drink
caffeine straight from the bean. I don’t care
if my senses rot, cavities root in my mouth,
gnaw at my brain. I nod a refrain to be
wicked, to be wild at the expense of ordinary

sanity. The expanse of external wisdom
mounts as paper wrappers, candy wrappers,
oh sweet sweet the caress of chocolate.

While I don’t care if the sun turns
my uncoloured skin ultra-violet, the long
and the short of it is the spectrum
unannounced of the daily. In living we
are realized, we are being flushed out

of hiding our response by this reddening
cheek, the drenching of the brow in sudden
cartoon frenzies of sweat.The character is
worried. She is fretting. She is sunk.

Penn Kemp

This poem was first published in http://hammeredoutlitzine.blogspot.ca/2007/10/penn-kemp.html.


Photo: Gavin Stairs

Poem for Political Action

Crossing the Floor

So MP Eve Adams drops Mr. Harper and joins
Justin. May more rats soon flee our sad ship
of state, crossing as Flag Day approaches.

The Liberals are showing true Blue colours
courting Cons. Relish her name: Eve Adams.
“I can no longer support mean-spirited leader-

ship…values simply don’t align with this team.”


Running as new Liberal against the Finance
Minister Joe Oliver, Eve is likely to lose. But
the Liberal Party has nothing to lose in such
a fight. They’ve shown an open door to all
Red Tories disgruntled with Harper’s rule.
Justin has lost nothing except our respect.

Penn Kemp

Saving our woodlots through poetry!

Gathering Voices, Lit.-on-Air on 94.9 FM, Radio Western, http://chrwradio.ca/content/upcoming-episodes-gathering-voices

Because saving our woodlots is still imperative, my Poem 2013 Chinese Year of the Snakeshow, Gathering Voices, on Radio Western is replaying this show, “Trees, Please!” Listen now on http://chrwradio.ca/content/trees-please-gathering-voices-july-16th.

penn %22For Me it was Foxes%22small(1)photo by Dennis Siren

A polyglot of poets read their poems to save the London woodland, as published in the PigeonBike Press pamphlet, “Trees or Jobs: It Should Not Be a Dichotomy”. Poets include Tom Cull, Andreas Gripp, Patricia Keeney, Penn Kemp, Susan McCaslin, Susan McMaster and R L Raymond from PigeonBike. With an intro. by Joni Baechler, London’s mayor. She writes:
“I am so pleased that London poets have come together in a creative,
collaborative project with the goal of protecting our natural
environment. Heartwarming to my creative soul.” MP Irene Mathyssen,
also a creative soul, writes: “When all the empty strip malls are
falling down, we will still be missing our beautiful lost trees.”

The poems are up on http://www.scribd.com/doc/150431112/Trees-or-Jobs. Music on the show is from Bill Gilliam’s “Prelude (Dream Sequins) ”, composed for Penn’s sound opera of that name performed at The Aeolian, from his latest CD, Ensorcell.

Ode to Tim Two-Bitswhopper

Ode to Tim Two-Bitswhopper


Tim Horton and his family lived opposite my in-laws in Willowdale, North York, throughout the ’60’s.  They raised their kids in an unassuming, unpretentious VLA house.  A contrast to the Tim Hortons enterprise!  (Veteran Lands Act, post ’45)

Ode to Tim Two-Bitswhopper

Ah, Tim, how far you have fallen from
fine hockey star on quicksilver skates
to purveyor of sludge and sugar and
starch even without any golden arch.

O Tim, if you’d lived you’d be fat now,
rich on food faster than you ever flew.
You discovered the secret, free enterprise.

Hire cheery faces at minimum wage.
Make ’em watch eight hours’ video
extolling Horton history. A myth in
the making, all in marketing learned

so well from Amurican owners, those
grown-up Wendy’s to your Peter Pan.
And we know how that worked out for

you. Now you’re willing to marry again,
moving up the ranks to rank Burger King:
“The triumph of hope over experience.”

For you can never age nor decay, Tim.
You’ll franchise and fry, immortal in lard
pans or steaming as old-fashioned soma.

Place yourself on every main drag or mall
so tourists can ride from rest stop to rest
expecting their fare everywhere exactly

the same. Why travel for variety when comfort
is here? Drive through. Drive on to the next town.
Familiarity never flags when we’re in a rush.

Forget the fuss of old fogies who lament passing
home cookin’ for simulacra substitution. They’ll
die off with the trees as you lay waste your cups.

Strew your containers and spread your name far!
Overflowing fame translates into dollars, a paean
to plastic and paper debris. Ex-pan, expand and

never explain. Throw out your day-olds, don’t let
customers buy them cheap, sans tax. You have a
Canadian reputation to keep fresh. O Tim, Do-nut

Deity, your name lives in bits, in bites on Saturday
nights, 24/7. We’d bow to you if we could still bend.
Fast fueled, we promo you, we expand with you, O

Sweet Special! O Rush! Think doughnut-emburger’d.
And you’re already for all night bagel breakfast!

Penn Kemp

Thanks to MIke Donachie for the great article!