Poetry and Jazz on a midSummer Night

Penn Kemp and Bill Gilliam with Daniel Kolos

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

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

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

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

“What happens when the lyric power of a highly experienced and galvanically charged poet dances in the electron stream? Barbaric Cultural Practice collects a decade’s poetic exploration of digital world absurdities, of the vitality of the earth and its grave needs, and of community. Penn never just reads: she performs, even on the page, and we can’t help but listen. Connect with the surging circuit of her energetic and eclectic words, connect and recharge.” – Susan McMaster

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

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

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

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

Helwa cover

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

Helwa Nut Circle

World Poetry Day

March 21… Monday!  and I’m remembering all our past adventures!

Posting this poem, because it’s vigorously snowing…
See Dennis Siren’s videopoem using part of this text:

Crossing the Light

Our near neighbours, the dead, shimmer beyond the fence line.
Suspended in air, why do they care for our silly antics?
Shouldn’t they be headed toward the light? Are they caught

by our yearning, pulled on the taut line of longing that holds
us to them? Memory, nothing but memories project out, project
beyond those viscous realms we can barely fathom.

Ancestors surround us, bemused. The space between us
looms like nothing, invisible fullness of spirit. Nothing
looms. Just about perfect. Almost right. Taken for granted.

Symmetries of either sphere don’t merge nor mesh.
The life to come is already here when time dissipates.
Mysteries of multiplicity displaced again shift shape.

The abstract dead regard our fears. They watch our coming
and goings-on. With a t/rope they could steer us along ways
less problematic. But then the word isn’t heard without an ear

and memory of mouth to utter. Utter confusion. Utter awe.

Shock sneaks a gap between event and reaction.
Animation suspended. Adrenaline overload. A zone
slowed down to zero and beyond. Cross at the corner

with the light or be accosted by cross border guards.

In and out of time, visitors file by, see-through poem in hand.
Wait for them. Send for them. You might wait a while.
Messages to the missing are seldom reported lost.

The dead collect, fan out with last
leaves’ fall. Not content to lie
mouldering in snow-softened grave

they hover mid air, mid-dimension, mid
dream. Their visiting hours limited to
the wee hours when all is possible

though nothing can be clearly seen.

They speak when spoken to just like
the good children they were raised
to be, but sound won’t carry across

the divide. Their mouths open and
close. Open and close. Great gulfs
of uninterrupted, uninterpreted anguish.

Nobody can lip read over here. Words
land on the sea, rest a second on that flat
flaccid surface and almost dissolve.

Snow falls, flake by flake. The dead descend
in tiny white shrouds, as in that last scene
from Joyce’s short story, John Huston’s film.

They linger alive for another moment of
morning and melt. Left mourning, I scry
between between words and worlds.

Reeled in by whatever realm entices.

Pale sun on snow
pulls me from the poem
to the window, lights

a shaft of reeling
possibility. Ice

crystals split to rainbow
in the glint and dull again
at instant cloud cover.

Indoor plants lean toward
the west, yearn for more.
Or. Less. Then. When.

The thermometer hovers at zero,
that zone where elements merge
confused, uncertain, in-between.

Tears course down the pane.

Beyond outer reaches of thought,
the land is luminous

Penn Kemp

The Parliamentary Poet Laureate Poem of the Week



March 12- August 21, 2016. Jim Kemp’s painting, “Three Figures with Tall Hats” is on exhibit in “Portals”. Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery. 101 Queen St N, Kitchener ON N2H 6P7. Curator: Edwin Outwater, Music Director. Contact: Jennifer Bullock, Ass’t Curator.
http://kwag.ca/en/connections/resources/kwag_newsletter_jan_apr_2016_web.pdf, p. 6


Poem for Winter

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


All Things Considered

Pale sun on snow pulls me from a poem
to the window, lights a shaft of spinning
possibility. Now at nadir of deepest darkness

the small Moon of Long Night turns to beam
over the orchard above the frozen lake.

The sun stands Solstice still, holding
its breath, biding its time until released
to start once more in utter clarity of cold.

In that perilous moment before cycles
start up again, we all can fall through
cracks.  Interstices of ice drag us down.

We slip between stars, drawn out
beyond what we know, considering,

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

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

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

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

Hold on!  But there is nothing to hold fast.

Penn Kemp



Poem for Solstice Night

All Things Considered

On the shelf inside the storm, an empty
pitcher of light awaits sage and summer
savory.  All puns are planted to present

these things as if saying were enough
to conjure the perfect illusion illuminated.

Now.  At the turning of the year after
nadir of deepest darkness, the small
Moon of Long Night turns to beam
over the orchard above the frozen lake.

The sun stands Solstice still, holding
its breath, biding its time until released
to start once more in utter clarity of cold.

In that perilous moment before cycles
start up again, we all can fall through
cracks.  Interstices of ice drag us down.

We grope from dusk to dark to light.
We slip between stars, drawn out
beyond what we know, considering,
considere, to be with the luminary.

Night rustles outside our window, murmurs
and squeaks.  Whimpers follow outraged
raccoon yowl.  Orange and black streak

across the dark pane I can’t see through
conjuring night creatures’ obscured world,

Scent leads a trail to territorial war, deep
enmities nurtured throughout the long wee

hours before dawn lifts that velvet cloth to
reveal grey, seeping shade back to clarity.

Penn Kemp


The last lines of this poem were first published in “from Dream Sequins” with drawings by the brilliant Steven McCabe. See his gorgeous https://poemimage.wordpress.com/.

On Sounding

  • Sonic Word/ Spoken World
Sound Poetry is what we all do in the discovery of language. One of the ways I got into sound poetry was listening to my children when they were very young. The discovery of language comes through a baby’s babble. When you listen to a child, it is amazing to watch and hear as their mouths form what even in babble is their native language. Words emerge from incomprehensible murmurs like mmmaammmabaabbbaabbananana…, first “mama”, then do you hear “banana”?
So for us right now, you will hear English emerge through the babble. The syntax is almost there, not quite. You get the sense of subject, verb, object. But you get the rhythm of the language as a gestalt before you get the actual words.
Just as a baby moves through babble into concrete syllables and words that become more and more articulate, I get to know through what I am sounding what I want to next explore, what’s coming up, been dredged out. The poem emerges on a wave of sound. Sound leads meaning.
Sounding as well explores what you don’t yet know about language, about what you are feeling. It’s a way of allowing parts of yourself to be heard. It is a way of expressing what has not yet been articulated.
Sounding has intrigued me because it’s a way into other language, other cultures. It’s a way of experiencing the freshness of childhood again. It’s a way of lifting poetry off the page. It’s a way of dealing with experience that is too much for the logical train of subject, verb, object. Sounding allows for any eventuality. It is a hoot. It is a way of participating in the extra-segmentals of speech. For someone like me, it’s a way of entering music. I was one of those children who had a very expressive face, knew all the words to all the songs but had no pitch. No pitch. So the music teacher asked to please stay in the choir, in the back row and mouth the words. I did. Sounding is my revenge.
Sound poetry improves our communication by releasing spontaneous, inventive dialogue beyond linguistic rules. It’s a variety of wail. It explores language in widening waves of individual expression. It’s able to use the sound of the human voice to portray the environment the inner space, to sound the alphabet, to sound like frogs, like evolution, to enter into one’s own creativity.
Sound is the source of creativity for me because it allows for play. I never know what is going to be heard. Now I’d like to share the experience of sounding with you. I’d like to do a sound poem with you. Are you game? See my participatory poem on www.mytown.ca/nightorchestra.
What you’ll need to do is sit up straight and oxygenate your brain by taking a deep breath. Take your fingers and massage your voice box tension to come in between All you need to do is make every sound that I make after I make it. The piece is called Re: Solution. It might well have been called E: Volution. May the wheels of creativity keep on turning!
Penn Kemp
Photos: 1. At Open Mic London ON, Mykonos Restaurant
2. At Calgary International Spoken Word Festival

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

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

Bill Gilliam and Penn Kemp

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

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

Altar Ego, a poem for “What is Now?

Altar Ego

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

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


Altar Ego

Something has happened to

the I on this passage. I is

no longer a point of view,

stuck to this emotion or that,

the site of accumulated

experience. I has shed

the necessity of self defence.

I is a floating centre of perception.

I has widened to include

you and you and you be-

cause no barrier intrudes

between us.

I has become compound,

many-faceted. Complexity

leaps to a larger simpler

system. I is surprised

the words continue even

here. I is resting in

a continuum Am.

The diphthong of pain

Aeiii ground down

to seed syllable AUM.

Have you noticed that if you stay

with an image long enough

the fear you felt dissolves

into a live love you can embrace?

Penn Kemp


Painting by Jim Kemp
Photo by Gavin Stairs