Books Read & Recommended, 2018

A very eclectic collection, read by the fire, on planes, in the garden. And/or heard, in bed…

Kate Atkinson, Transcription

Belinda Bauer, Snap

Carleigh Baker, Bad endings: stories *

Sarah Bakewell, At the existentialist café: freedom, being and apricot cocktails with Jean-Paul Sartre [and others]

Sharon Bala, The Boat People*

Deirdre Baker, Becca fair and foul*

John Banville, Mrs. Osmond*

Linwood Barclay, A Noise Downstairs

Julian Barnes, The lemon table: stories

Billy-Ray Belcourt, This wound is a world: poems

Chloe Benjamin, The Immortalists

Diana Beresford-Kroeger, Arboretum America: a philosophy of the forest; photographs by Christian H. Kroeger; foreword by Edward O. Wilson

Jill Bialosky, Poetry will save your life: a memoir*

Holly Black, Doll bones; with illustrations by Eliza Wheeler *

Leonard Cohen, The Flame

Christopher Paul Curtis, The journey of little Charlie

E.D. Blodgett, Transfiguration* 
E.D. Blodgett, Apostrophes: woman at a piano* 

George Bowering, No one (Not recommended~!)

Alan Bradley, The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place*

Dionne Brand, Tessa McWatt, Rabindranath Maharaj, editors / Luminous ink: writers on writing in Canada

Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone*

Stephen Harrod Buhner, Plant intelligence and the imaginal

Steve Burrows, A tiding of magpies

Jessie Burton, The miniaturist: a novel *

Rhonda Byrne, The Power*

Heather Cadsby, Standing in the flock of connections

Anne Carson, Red Doc

Kate Cayley, How you were born: stories*

David Chariandy, Brother*

Svetlana Chmakova, Brave*

Noam Chomsky ; created and edited by Peter Hutchinson, Kelly Nyks & Jared P. Scott. Requiem for the American dream: the 10 principles of concentration of wealth & power /

Noam Chomsky; interviews with David Barsamian, Global discontents

Kim Clark and Dawn Marie Kresan, Canadian Ginger: an anthology of poetry & prose*

Ta-Nehisi Coates, We Were Eight Years in Power: an American tragedy*

Marina Cohen, The doll’s eye; illustrations by Nicoletta Ceccoli

Billy Collins, The rain in Portugal: poems

Cressida Cowell, The Wizards of Once*

Cressida Cowell, How to Fight a Dragon’s Fury. How to Train Your Dragon Series, Book 12. Read by David Tennant *

Lorna Crozier, What the soul doesn’t want: poems*

Tom Cull, Bad animals*

Rachel Cusk, Outline*

Rachel Cusk, Transit *

Rachel Cusk, Kudos*

Lauren B. Davis, The Grimoire of Kensington Market *

Elisabeth de Mariaffi, Hysteria *

Edmund de Waal, The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance

Mai Der Vang, Afterland: poems *

David Demchuk, The Bone Mother

Patrick deWitt, French Exit    cd

Cherie Dimaline, The Marrow Thieves*

Jeramy Dodds, Drakkar Noir

Brian Doyle, editor. A sense of wonder: the world’s best writers on the sacred, the profane, and the ordinary

Norman Dubie, The quotations of bone

Esi Edugyan, Washington Black: A Novel

Jennifer Egan, Manhattan Beach*

Deborah Eisenberg, Twilight of the Superheroes *

Dave Eggers, Heroes of the frontier: a novel*

Dave Eggers, The monk of Mokha. Mokhtar Alkhanshali *

Cecilia Ekbäck, The midnight sun

Cecilia Ekbäck, Wolf Winter

Louise Erdrich, Future Home of the Living God *

Susan Faludi, In the darkroom*

  1. A. C. Farrant, The days: forecasts, warnings, advice *

Elena Favilli, Francesca Cavallo. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

Aminatta FornaHappiness*
Aminatta Forna,The hired man*

Philip Freeman, Searching for Sappho: the lost songs and world of the first woman poet including new translations of all of Sappho’s surviving poetry*

Patrick Friesen, Songen*

Cornelia Funke, Ruffleclaw; illustrated by the author; translated by Oliver Latsch *

Neil Gaiman, Odd and the Frost Giants; illustrated by Brett Helquist*

Jorie Graham, Fast*

Shari Green, Macy McMillan and the rainbow goddess *

Camilla Grudova, The Doll’s Alphabet

Lisa Halliday, Asymmetry*

Richard Harrison, On Not Losing My Father’s Ashes in the Flood *

Paula Hawkins, Into the water

Elizabeth Hay, All Things Consoled: A Daughter’s Memoir

Emma Healey, Stereoblind: poems  *

Emma Healey, Whistle in the dark*

Chris Hedges, Unspeakable: Chris Hedges on the most forbidden topics in America / with David Talbot

Sheila Heti, Motherhood *

Brenda Hillman, Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire*

Alice Hoffman, Survival Lessons

Alice Hoffman, The rules of magic*

Alice Hoffman, Here on Earth*

Robert Hogg, There is No Falling

Nancy Holmes, Valancy and the new world *

Gail Honeyman, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine*

Cornelia Hoogland, Trailer park elegy*

Emma Hooper, Our Homesick Songs*

Susan Howe, Debths

David Huebert, Peninsula Sinking *

Helen Humphreys, The ghost orchard: the hidden history of the apple in North America*

Helen Humphreys, Machine Without Horses

Kazuo Ishiguro, My twentieth century evening and other small breakthroughs: the Nobel lecture*

Walter Isaacson, Leonardo da Vinci*

Annie Jacobson, Phenomena: The Secret History of the U.S. Government’s Investigations Into Extrasensory Perception and Psychokinesis*

Maureen Jennings, Let darkness bury the dead: a Murdoch mystery *

Amanda Jernigan, Years, months, and days: Poems *

Jim Johnstone, editor. The next wave: an anthology of 21st century Canadian poetry

Kij Johnson, The Fox Woman *

The Journey prize stories: the best of Canada’s new writers

Han Kang, Human acts: a novel; translated from the Korean and introduced by Deborah Smith*

Thomas King, Cold Skies*

Barbara Kingsolver, Unsheltered

Larissa Lai, When Fox Is a Thousand *

Danielle LaPorte, White Hot Truth*

  1. I. Larry, High risk*, Undercover*

Ursula K Le Guin, Words are my matter: writings about life and books, 2000-2016 with a journal of a writer’s week

John Le Carré, A delicate truth

League of Canadian Poets, Measures of astonishment: poets on poetry / presented by the League

Ann Leckie, Ancillary Justice

David Lehman, Best American Poetry 2016

Donna Leon, Drawing conclusions: a Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery

Donna Leon, The Temptation of Forgiveness

Carrianne Leung, That time I loved you: linked stories

Deborah Levy, Things I Don’t Want to Know

Jennifer LoveGrove, Beautiful Children with Pet Foxes *

Helen M. Luke, Old Age: Journey into Simplicity

Helen M. Luke; edited by Rob Baker. Kaleidoscope: the way of woman and other essays* 

Harriet Alida Lye, Honey Farm*

Kari Maaren, Weave a Circle Round*

Anne McDonald, Miss Confederation: The Diary of Mercy Anne Coles*

Gregory Maguire, Hiddensee: a tale of the once and future Nutcracker *

Terese Mailhot, Heart Berries: A Memoir

Alice Major, Memory’s daughter

Mark Manson: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck*

Daphne Marlatt, The Collected Earlier Poems, 1968-2008. Edited by Susan Holbrook*

Monia Mazigh, Hope has two daughters *

Alexander McCall Smith, The House of Unexpected Sisters: The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency *

Ami McKay, Half Spent Was the Night *

Steve McOrmond, Reckon*

W.S. Merwin, Sir Gawain and the green knight / a new verse translation*
W.S. Merwin, The river sound: poems

Anne Michaels, All We Saw*

Madeline Miller, Circe**

Valerie Mills-Milde, The Land’s Long Reach*

Thomas Moore, Ageless soul*

Naomi Novik, Uprooted*

John O’Donohue, Conamara blues: poems *

Michael Ondaatje, Warlight*

Helen Oyeyemi, Mr. Fox*

Louise Penny, Kingdom of the Blind: A Chief Inspector Gamache Novel

Richard Powers, The Overstory*

Meredith Quartermain, U girl: a novel *

Sina Queyras, My Ariel*

Matt Rader, Desecrations*

Judy Rebick, Heroes In My Head *

Elizabeth Renzetti, Shrewed*

Noah Richler, The candidate: fear and loathing on the campaign trail*

Eden Robinson, Trickster Drift*

Margaret Rogerson, An Enchantment of Ravens*

Damian Rogers, Dear leader *

Catherine Sheldrick Ross, Lynne McKechnie, Paulette M. Rothbauer, editors. Reading Still Matters: What the Research Reveals about Reading, Libraries, and Community *

Salman Rushdie, The golden house: A Novel *

Karen Russell, Vampires in the Lemon Grove *

Linda Rutenberg, The Garden at Night. Introduction by Christopher Dewdney*

Deborah Samuel, The extraordinary beauty of birds: designs, patterns and details

Richard Sanger, Dark woods. Biblioasis*

Sarah Selecky, Radiant Shimmering Light*

Maria Semple, Where’d You Go, Bernadette*

Kamila Shamsie, Home Fire*

Alexie Sherman, Thunder Boy Jr.*

Merilyn Simonds, Gutenberg’s Fingerprint: Paper, Pixels and the Lasting Impression of Books*

Linda Spalding, The Reckoning*

Barbara Shapiro, The Muralist

Sjon, From the Mouth of the Whale*

Ali Smith, Autumn*

Ali Smith, Winter*

Michael V. Smith, Bad ideas

Murdoch Neil Smith, Boo: a novel

Zadie Smith, Feel Free

Mark Strand, Eavan Boland, editors, The making of a poem: a Norton anthology of poetic forms

J.R. (Tim) Struthers, ed. Clark Blaise: the Interviews

Graham Swift, Tomorrow

Gillian Sze, Panicle

Wisława Szymborska, Map: collected and last poems; edited by Clare Cavanagh

Amy Tan, Where the past begins: a writer’s memoir*

Donna Tartt, The Goldfinch*

Kim Thúy, Vi ; translated from the French by Sheila Fischman

Miriam Toews, Women Talking

Alexandre Trudeau, Barbarian Lost: Travels in the New China*

John Vaillliant, The Jaguar’s Children*

Alberto Villoldo, One Spirit Medicine: Ancient Ways to Ultimate Wellness*

Alberto Villoldo and David Perlmutter, Power up your brain: the neuroscience of enlightenment

Ocean Vuong, Night sky with exit wounds*

Clemantine Wamariya, The Girl Who Smiled Beads. (Julia Zave)

Elizabeth Waterston, Magic island: the fictions of L.M. Montgomery*

Joshua Whitehead, Jonny Appleseed: a novel

Anthony Williams, Medical Medium*

Deborah Willis, The dark and other love stories*

Oprah Winfrey, The wisdom of sundays: Life-Changing Insights from Super Soul Conversations. Oprah Winfrey*

Peter Wohlleben, The Inner Life of Animals*

Peter Wohlleben; translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp. The weather detective: rediscovering nature’s secret signs

Meg Wolitzer, The Female Persuasion*

Lauren Wolk, Wolf Hollow*

Erin Wunker, Notes from a Feminist Killjoy

London Free Press WordsFest 2018_jpg_large

,,, and still reading…

 

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Fox Haunts reviewed

What caught your imagination when you were young?

For me it was Foxes:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E58HtvVZQXs*

Signed copies of Fox Haunts (Aeolus House, 2008) are available for $20 plus shipping.
Contact pennkemp@gmail.com.

Alice Major has just written a lovely review on The League of Canadian Poets’ Review page: http://poets.ca/2019/01/21/review-insomnia-bird-by-kelly-shepherd-fox-haunts-by-penn-kemp/?fbclid=IwAR2A1attCS5ufAze9Xfrby4rhiaOfZw5PdxGGtLCSJm-d-rXkVz6RhkrIpU.

“In two recent collections, urban wildlife becomes a context for poets exploring the relationship of human and animal—a relationship that stretches back into myth-making and tale-telling, sideways into contemporary biology, and forward into a future of changing climate and anthropocentric landscapes. Each poet uses a different lens and tools to produce different but complementary books…

Penn Kemp’s Fox Haunts is also a book about how a wild animal can inhabit our urban lives and our imaginations. She also braids myth, science, literary allusions. But the voice here is different—more personal, less specific about a particular city inhabited by the fox and more intrigued with the dichotomous essence of the animal in our minds.

The poet’s “I” is established from at the beginning with an autobiographical poem about a child imagining the fox in her night-time bedroom—hungry, prowling:

… He was going to eat
me alive. Unless I played dead. I froze into the mattress.
The folds of the sheet turned marble. A frieze. The fox could
not smell out the stiff and still. I could sleep. Warily.

In subsequent poems, the fox often becomes ‘you’, a fellow creature to be addressed. But he remains always risky; even if you order a tame fox from the Internet at great expense, it will still be too skittish, too easily bored:

Better keep him busy, entertained or he’ll
run amok into your cushion, your couch,
your nightmare.

Fox is an animal reported on in New Scientist and “What I hear on CBC.”  Kemp incorporates intriguing scraps of biology, like evidence that prey animals are gifted with the ability to forget the trauma of being chased, that foxes can see the earth’s magnetic field, that they may be adapting to city life to avoid hunters. Such information forms the context for arresting poetic imagery:

They look on the easy prey of pets, soft
and vulnerable bichon frises left outside
by themselves in the yard, those with not
defence but a petulant, startled bark …

… Given such ready supply
of sweet fat food, Fox laughs and moves in

The paradox—it may be easier and safer for the wild animal to live near humans—is one more riff on the idea of “wildness” that Kemp explores throughout the book. Fox is both hunter and the trapped beast; the untamed animal that wears “dainty gloves.” He is the outcast who takes back the territory of our backyards: “Kudos for taking back the night, Nox Fox.” He is the ‘rewilder’ who calls us to Be Wilder.

The poems are suffused with a tension between the real creature of our urban backyards and the creatures of our imagination, individual and collective. “Who can tell foxfire from phosphene?” the poet asks in “When Eyes Close,” an evocative short lyric about the patterns flickering in our brains when our eyes are closed. The poem’s 12 lines encapsulate one of the basic questions in philosophy: what is the relationship of the human brain to a real world?

“A blur of orange, a smudge or smear/Could manifest as creature any time, // Could grow into the idea of Fox …” she writes. Pattern becomes story, but it all starts from “what glimmers, eyes shut.”

The section “Little literary foxes” pursues the vulpine presence through folktale and Biblical narratives, literature and contemporary film.

“Aesop always gives Fox the finger/

shaking his index as reproof.”

This section is broad-ranging and stuffed with facts that are literary rather than biological: The word “shenanigans” may come from an old Gaelic word for fox. The constellation we call Canis Minor is, in Greek myth the Teumessian Fox which could never be caught. Artists from WB Yeats to Alice Munro to Kurosawa have some kind of fox relationship. However the section as a whole feels forced, as though the author has been working her way through a googled list of “fox in popular culture.” A number of the pieces don’t feel as though they have been transformed into poetry.

Nevertheless, Fox Haunts is a haunting brush with Fox’s vanishing tail. The human-animal connection is elusive, interstitial, “inner and outer, on / the verge.” And Kemp’s long career as a sound poet is apparent in the sonic delight of lines like:

Fox, you are epic,

You are epidemic,

You are anathema

 

You are a theme of tales…

Thanks to Alice Major and to the League of Poets for their Reviews section!

Well, this is fun! A cocktail, a fox tale…. I just saw this pairing: Fox Haunts, a cocktail… and a review! https://alllitup.ca/Blog/2018/Chappy-Hour-The-Quick-Red-Fox-Fox-Haunts
https://alllitup.ca/Blog/2018/Chappy-Hour-The-Quick-Red-Fox-Fox-Haunts#topofpostcontent

Other reviews of Fox Haunts are up on https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39743870-fox-haunts and https://www.amazon.com/Fox-Haunts-Penn-Kemp/dp/1987872142.

A comprehensive and thoughtful review of Fox Haunts by Jennifer Wenn is up on http://tuckmagazine.com/2019/01/11/fox-haunts-penn-kemp-review/:

Fox Haunts by Penn Kemp is a fascinating investigation of both the real animal and the figure of literature and myth. Kemp’s wordplay, wit and humour are on full display (for example, the whimsical suggestions for keeping foxes out of the yard in How To Repel the Urban Fox), but there are serious streams concerning adaptation, the collision of our civilisation with nature, and what Kemp terms rewilding. This is a captivating, multi-layered work, a demonstration of Kemp’s own precepts: “…Poetry allows for profusion//of voices and multilinear narratives//puns…” (Prompt).

Fox Haunts is divided into four sections: Family Fox-lore, The Urban Fox, Little Literary Foxes, and Dream Frequency. Family Fox-lore consists of two prefatory poems (A Child’s Garden Fox; and Steal, Stole, Stun), family memories that introduce main themes in the work. This starts with a literal collision between human technology (here, a car) and the wild (in the shape of a fox) and proceeds through imagination and a very real fox victim in the form of a stole.

The Urban Fox, Section Two, is the longest one and in many ways the heart of the work. We meet the foxes adapting to and claiming space within our cities, at first just via subtle indications like a rustle in a bush (Ghost Scents), glowing eyes at night (Night Vision; Avoidance Tactic), a slight odour left behind (Natural Magic) or tracks (What Matters; The Beauty of Snowy Waste and Noble Silence; Synecdoche). Later we discover Fox raiding “our pantry, our cat-//food, or cat perhaps” (Be Wilder), urinating on compost bins (Foul Play), raiding a henhouse (Foul Play), keeping everyone awake with screams and shrieks (What the Fox Says), grabbing the family dog by the leg (Foxes I Have Known, Rabid), carrying off defenceless bichons frisés (Why Here, Why Now) or depositing unmatched footwear inside via the cat door (Your Lair Is My Layer, Apparently). We perceive the world through Fox’s heightened senses: hearing (On the Nature of Intelligence; Pointers; Strategies, Night Vision); night sight (On the Nature of Intelligence; Night Vision); seeing the earth’s magnetic field (Strategies). A special mention of At the Moment of Equinox, a lovely hymn to balance and to nature, Fox’s realm.

Little Literary Foxes, Section Three, investigates literature, with touchpoints including Kurosawa (Inari, Kami of Foxes), Ovid (Song of His Origins), the Bible (Samson Agonistes, On Condemnation and Canticles), Milton (Samson Agonistes), Aesop (Fox Fable; Verse, Vice, Virtue), Yeats (Celtic Twilight), The Little Prince (Les Petits Amis), Kim Philby (“The Fox That Came to Stay”), Stephen King & Stanley Kubrick (Eye Shine), Alice Munro (Fair Play on Fur in F Sharp) and more.

In Dream Frequency, Section Four, Kemp, as she has in other works, explores her dreams. Here she finds herself haunted by Fox’s many aspects; a riff on the book title. As Kemp notes in her Introduction “Fox Haunts begins with a play on words. Who’s haunting whom?” We discover Fox and Kemp engaged in a variety of pas de deux: “…You wrap yourself round//in an ourobos of sleep and dream…” (Elementals); “Fox leads me a merry chase as will-of-wisp//streaks across western sky painting random//wisps along cirrus cloud…” (Avoidance Tactic); “We are entangled in tango, not//knowing the steps, not knowing//what trust is, leaning backward.” (Fox Trot); “…I burrow after you into teeming dark” (The Light Breach); “…I stand before you, astonished,//mouth so agape you might well leap down//the little red lane straight into bloodstream.” (Offer).

Throughout the entire work Fox is a liminal figure: “Between discrete realms of possibility” (By her wits, you shall know her); neither dog nor cat (Doubles); inner and outer (Doubles; How to Haunt); literal and figurative (On Condemnation and Canticles); dream and waking (O Fabulist).

An all-important boundary is that between hunter and hunted. When the former, Fox most often victimizes poor Rabbit (How to Hunt; Strategies; Synecdoche; Synopsis, Lady into Fox). Other prey include voles and moles (Night Vision; Strategies); crows (Pulling a Fast One); fowl generally (Pointers; Foul Play); mice (Pointers; On Condemnation and Canticles) and the aforementioned bichons frisés (Why Here, Why Now). In a nice touch, Kemp dreams that Fox and Rabbit are pals (Fox Play).

But while Fox is hunting to feed her family, our civilization all too often turns Fox into the victim, for far less essential reasons: hit by a car (A Child’s Garden Fox; Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, 1563 to the Present); killed for its fur (Steal, Stole, Stun; The Purchase; Fair Play on Fur in F Sharp); starving (“Helpless, Helpless, Helpless”); clubbed to death for raiding a henhouse in search of food (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, 1563 to the Present); hunted for sport (Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, 1563 to the Present|); used as live torches (Song of His Origins; Samson Agonistes); pushed off a ledge five stories up (“The Fox That Came to Stay”).

Kemp’s prescription for restoring harmony is rewilding, adapting to and drawing from nature what we need, and perhaps have lost: “clarity and strength”, “surrender and acceptance”, “joy and creativity”, “initiation, inspiration”, “your broad view”, “your ground, your holy round” (At the Moment of Equinox). “Reclaim, rather,//and rewild, let’s agree.// //Yes, rewild us for we are//bewildered and beknighted.// //We are precariously tame and//dangerous.” (Be Wilder).

In the final poem, addressing Fox, Kemp expresses wishes and hopes we all could share: “On your own, you’ll do just fine as long//as we humans don’t interfere with your//livelihood, your livelong neighbourhood.// //May you be freed from old mythologies//that call you trickster, demon temptress,//ghost and fraudster. May you run free.”

Fox Haunts is a beautiful, thought-provoking, multi-level meditation, and a heartfelt plea for a reconfiguration of our spirits and a new relationship with the world around us.”

Jennifer Wenn is a trans-identified writer from London, Ontario. In addition to her day job as a Systems Analyst, she has written From Adversity to Accomplishment, a family and social history; and published poetry in Tuck Magazine, Synaeresis, Wordsfestzine and the anthology Things That Matter.   She is also the proud parent of two adult children.

Image result for fox glyph

Two beautiful reviews Fox Haunts came in
one after the other
on little fox feet from the Okanagan.

How could I not share them with you?

FoxHaunts-Cover

 

Fox Haunts. Poems by Penn Kemp. Aeolus House, 2018. 97 pages. $20.

Review by Bill Arnott

First time I saw a fox I was atop an open-air double decker, trundling along rugged coast, intermittently thrashed by leafy birch as though in a weaving Finnish sauna. I was compelled to shield my eyes – the same reaction as when something’s beyond comprehension, available only to the worthy. In fact it was present for everyone. Laid bare, unabashedly rich in beauty and lore. A slender, russet blonde animal, taller than I imagined. Regal. Same as when I met Penn Kemp. Somewhere a fellow trickster – Loki, Kokopelli perhaps, danced a gleeful jig, as I carried a newly signed Fox Haunts to my semi-detached lair.

Adaptation runs through this London Laureate’s new poems in darting twists, flight from imagined hunter’s horn. At times furtive, dreamily camouflaged, or bounding in plain sight, Kemp’s artistry enraptures. We join Penn in childhood, parents fused into fox memories with “A Child’s Garden Fox.”

“Sleepy, sleeping in my mother’s lap. Nestled. / When. A fox ran in front of the car. And / was transfixed by the headlights. Ran and / ran in front of the car but could not escape”

In red hued monochrome we glimpse dead fur and living banshees in “Steal, Stole, Stun.”

“The dried heads of black fox hung / from my grandmother’s stole as if / ready to strike. Dead flat button jet / eyes shut tight to their own secret”

And with fireside ease we move through seasons, geography and myth, playful “Glow” perching us parrot-like on the writer’s shoulder, experiencing evolving words while peering real-time into her thoughts.

“That narrow snout surfaces to / figure your next ploy, asking / curiously: ‘Who do you serve?’ // The essential question mocks / my reply. The whole, of course.”

Reading Kemp’s work I feel nestled in a sidecar affixed to the master’s motorbike, confident in her route, at times in conversation, storytelling, or akin to a lie-down on a therapist’s sofa. This book can leave one simultaneously inspired and intimidated, seeing genius expand exponentially with time.

Writing this I’m at Penn’s desk, at least the one she left for me to use in Vernon, BC. Beside me Fox Haunts lies curled and content, in its rightful place atop the rest. Through a broad bay window a few last leaves cling in vixen colours and from “Entertaining the Fox” the author’s words linger. “May you be translated. And remain / entirely your own.”

poetscorner.ca/team/

Image result for fox glyph

Review by Fern G. Z. Carr

Penn Kemp’s Fox Haunts (Aeolus House, 2018) is an intriguing exploration of all that is vulpine – a quest to define the quintessential nature of the fox. In keeping with its elusive nature, her portrayal of this creature is fluid and dynamic.

The title, Fox Haunts, is an apt play on words.  This is not only a work of place but a work that is indeed haunting – whether by its mastery of surreal imagery such as the reverie of miniature firefly-like foxes or the cruel reality of rabies.

Poems are contrasting yet complementary: predation vs. elegance (“sharp white teeth” / “Vixen slips off her black gloves”) and science vs. folklore (“The earth’s magnetic field serves as a reference guide for our Fox” / “foxglove holds the power of opposites”).

After having examined the vicissitudes and psyche of the fox, Kemp ultimately concludes that a fox is but a fox.  Her final poem in this collection is essentially a benediction with a proviso that the species will be fine as long it can be freed from pejorative mythologies and human interference – a caveat reflecting the sensibilities of the enchanting poems in this book.

www.ferngzcarr.com

 

Stanley Fefferman‘s review is up on http://poets.ca/2018/08/10/review-fox-haunts-by-penn-kemp/ and http://opusonereview.com/?p=4786.

FOX HAUNTS is available from pennkemp@gmail.com for $20 plus shipping, signed.

*Video of my reading by Dennis Siren.

Upcoming Poetry Launches!

Happy to be launching 2018 collections, Local Heroes (Insomniac Press) and Fox Haunts (Aeolus House). I’ll also read from Barbaric Cultural Practice (Quattro Books)

https://www.amazon.com/Fox-Haunts-Penn-Kemp/dp/1987872142/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1525695775&sr=1-5

FoxHaunts-Cover

Saturday August 25, 5:00-6:00 pm. Reading from Fox Haunts for Synaeresis #3 launch, The Black Walnut’s back room, 134 Wortley at Askin St., London ON) http://harmoniapress.blogspot.com/2018/07/synaeresis-issue-4-call-for-submissions.html. Contact: andreasgripp@hotmail.com

Sunday, September 9, 2018, 4-6 pm. Launch of Fox Haunts, with Aeolus House poets: Ariane Blackman, Brian Cameron, Stanley Fefferman, Tom Hamilton, Penn Kemp and Colin Morton. Pressed (waffle house), 750 Gladstone Ave, Ottawa, ON K1R 6X5. (613) 680-9294. Contact: Allan, abriesmaster@outlook.com.**

Monday, Sept. 10, 7 pm. Launch, Local Heroes and Fox Haunts. Novel Idea, 156 Princess St, Kingston, ON K7L 1B1. Introduced by Elizabeth Greene. Contact: (613) 546-9799, egreene4@cogeco.ca. Bruce Kauffman’s radio show “finding a voice”—a showcase of spoken-word events  broadcast weekly, Friday 4pm-6pm EST on CFRC 101.9FM. http://75.103.74.42/wp/eventscalendar/

Wednesday, Sept. 12, 7-9 pm. Launch of Fox Haunts, with Aeolus House poets: Ariane Blackman, Brian Cameron, Tom Hamilton, Penn Kemp and Sydney White. Supermarket Restaurant, 268 Augusta Ave., Toronto. Contact: Allan, abriesmaster@outlook.com.*

Sunday, September 23, 2018, 1pm. Launch of Out of Line by Tanis MacDonald with Tom Cull. Reading from Local Heroes and Fox Haunts. Oxford Book Shop, 262 Piccadilly St, London, N6A 1S4. Contact: Hilary  519-438-8336, http://www.oxfordbookshop.com

October 1-31, 2018.  Kalamaka Press Writer-in-Residence, Caetani Cultural Centre, Vernon, BC.  Readings TBA. http://www.kalwriters.com/residency/residency.html, https://www.caetani.org/about/.

Sunday October 14th.  Reading with Daphne Marlatt. Co-op People’s Bookstore. 1391 Commercial Dr, Vancouver, BC V5L 3X5. Contact: Rolf (604) 253-6442, coopbks@telus.net

Tuesday, October 16, 2018, 8:00 pm. Launch and reading with Susan McCaslin. Spoken Ink Reading Series, Burnaby Arts Council, Deer Lake Gallery, 6584 Deer Lake Ave., Burnaby, BC. Host Lara Varasi, lvaresi@shaw.ca (604)240-8903.*

Wednesday, October 17, 2018. Launch and reading with Sharon Thesen. Poets’ Corner, Massy Books, 229 E. Georgia, Vancouver BC. Sponsored by the Canada Council.
Contact: James Felton,  (604) 767-6908  www.massybooks.com/. jamesfelton52@gmail.com***

Thursday, October 18, 2018. Launch and reading with Damian Rogers at Milkcrate Records. Kelowna, BC. Contact: Matthew Rader, matthew.rader@ubc.ca.

Saturday, October 20, 2018. Nelson, BC.  Launch, Local Heroes and Fox Haunts.  TBA. Contact: Elizabeth Cunningham, elizabeth@waterside.ca

November 2-4, Museum London theatre, 421 Ridout St N, London, ON N6A 5H4. Time TBA. Mary McDonald and I are presenting new poems and augmented reality for riverrevery.ca as part of Poet Laureate Presents: River of Words.  Sponsored by the London Arts Council and the City of London.

* The launches in Ottawa and Burnaby are sponsored by the League of Canadian Poets and the Canada Council for the Arts. Thanks for their continued support!
** The launch in Toronto is sponsored by the League of Canadian Poets, Metro Readings in Public Places.
***The launch in Vancouver is sponsored by the Canada Council for the Arts.

 

Local Heroes cover

LOCAL HEROES: Poetry  ·  Canada $19.95  ·  US $19.95  ·  Trade paperback  ·  ISBN 978-1-55483-206-4 ·  154 pages  ·  5″ x 8”

“It is an excellent collection of poems which celebrate London cultural pioneers. It is full of Penn’s humour and wordplay. These poems evoke the city in its particular landscape and history.
And as anyone who knows Penn, a launch is never merely a launch. It is more like an evening with Penn and friends.
The evening began with a curator tour: Women’s Lives in Canada: A History, 1875-2000. Then Penn read from the book. They also showed several short videos on Local Heroes by Dennis Siren, Mary McDonald and Western’s Community Engaged Learning.
Dennis Siren recorded much of the evening at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-zCVUjonwk.
You can also keep up to date with Penn at her blog https://pennkemp.wordpress.com
She is a poetic El Nino.”  Mike O’Connor, Insomniac Press

The LOCAL HEROES event held on July 22 at Eldon House in London, was a great success.  It featured poems from “Teresa Harris Rides Again”. Mary McDonald created several augmented reality videos which were shown and displayed as qr markers in the house all week.  You can see them on https://teresaharrisdreamlife.wordpress.com/

 

FOX HAUNTS is ready to trot!

FOX HAUNTS isn’t officially out till September, but foxes are sly and appear unexpectedly, those tricksters. Here’s a delicious first review by poet Stanley Fefferman: http://opusonereview.com/?p=4769!

Penn Kemp’s FOX HAUNTS reviewed by Stanley Fefferman

Penn Kemp. Fox Haunts. Aeolus House, 2018. 97 pp.

The way suburban garden fences are a line the fox crosses from the countryside to steal our chickens, is like the line fox, since time immemorial, has crossed from the countryside into our myths, into our dreams, into our literature and our language. Shenanigans is derived from the Gaelic word for fox. A skulk of foxes is the collective noun. Jimmie Hendrix sang of his “Foxy Lady.” And here is a stanza from Penn Kemp’s poem to Inari, the Shinto fox-god deity:

Fox girls dance beneath the twisted maple

calling their sister to tranform from mist

as beguiling women with red in their hair.

Fox Haunts, Penn Kemp’s 24th collection, is a meditation in 90 poems on a predator who is our closest neighbour, one who is getting closer all the time as it’s habitat yields to subdivisions. The longest section of Fox Haunts, entitled “Urban Fox,” consists of poems about foxes Kemp might have encountered: her writing can be elegant.

It’s true you walk on toes like cats

like a ballerina of the wildwood.

Kemp empathizes with the drama of the hunt, the inside as well as the outside of it.

 

Fox circles her prey, closing in

on her victim in ever tightening

gyres. Her fixed glare freezes

poor rabbit into terror so pure it

dissolves to acceptance, suspended

acquiescence, adrenalin overload.

Almost like peace. Soft as comfort,

this compliance in the fox’s grasp.

Just a single shriek before the

neck snaps.

At her best, Kemp’s narrative and poetry are transparent. She has variance in her voice: sometimes she addresses her images directly to the fox:” I come upon your prints on/muddy path, neatly, deliberately splayed.” Sometimes, she drops into a journalistic mode and addresses the reader directly in what sounds to me like chopped prose: “Like Canada Geese, Fox may/be adopting city life to avoid/ hunters, the tough slog of/country life. Clever fellow.” Only to follow that with a passage of the most startlingly direct poetry:

 

They look upon the easy prey of pets, soft

and vulnerable bichon frisés left outside

by themselves in the yard, those with no

defense but a petulant, startled bark —

before they are meat, carried off dangling

in the soft jaw of a mother triumphantly keen

on feeding her kits.

 

Kemp is ‘entranced’ with the world of “Wily wiry trickster tales,” and devotes a section to ‘Fox’ references in the writings of Taliesin, Ovid, in the legend of Samson, in other Hebrew Scriptures relating to Solomon and Ezekiel, in Aesop, W.B Yeats and St. Exupéry, Akiro Kurosawa and Alice Munro whose father raised foxes for fur on a farm where he also kept ” Old horses in the barn waiting/their turn to be fed, to be feed.” As for the night sky, Kemp puts fox in the constellation Canis Major and Canis Minor, These bits of Fox arcana bring into close focus the mythical resonance of that beast in the human imagination.

 

After having the pleasure of reading Fox Haunts, and of writing down these few thoughts, I look forward to more hours with the book, looking into the stories behind lines like:

 

Fetch Laelaps, a bitch commanded to catch all

she chases. Let her seize that Teumessian fox!

 

Fox Haunts is one those rare books that can become a companion.

ABOUT PENN KEMP.  She has been dubbed “a one-woman literary industry” as London, Ontario’s inaugural Poet Laureate and Western University’s Writer-in-Residence. Kemp was the League of Canadian Poets’ Spoken Word Artist, 2015. Her website is www.pennkemp.weebly.com

https://www.stanleyfefferman.com/blog/fox-haunts-by-penn-kemp-a-review-by-stanley-fefferman

This poem is in my forthcoming FOX HAUNTS which can now be ordered! https://www.amazon.com/Fox-Haunts-Penn-Kemp/dp/1987872142/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1525695775&sr=1-5

I’ll be launching FOX HAUNTS on September 9, 2018, 4-6 pm. Launch, Aeolus House poets: Ariane Blackman, Brian Cameron, Stanley Fefferman, Tom Hamilton, Penn Kemp and Colin Morton. Pressed (waffle house), 750 Gladstone Ave, Ottawa, ON K1R 6X5. (613) 680-9294. Contact: Allan, abriesmaster@outlook.com.

Sunday, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 7-9 pm. Launch, Aeolus House poets: Ariane Blackman, Brian Cameron, Tom Hamilton, Penn Kemp and Sydney White. Supermarket Restaurant, 268 Augusta Ave., Toronto. Contact: Allan, abriesmaster@outlook.com.

 

Launch of The Dream Life of Teresa Harris, CD, with Augmented Reality!

Summer Blessings!

SUNDAY, JULY 22, 1:00 P.M.

Join local poet and playwright Penn Kemp for an afternoon of readings from The Dream Life of Teresa Harris and Local Heroes, paired with a viewing of ‘Augmented Reality’ exhibits by artist Mary McDonald.  Books and CD’s will be available for purchase.

Mary’s visual art and animation of my play will run for a week in Eldon House following the tea.

Details on http://www.eldonhouse.ca/events/ and https://www.facebook.com/events/2111776722426553/.

Eldon House
481 Ridout Street North
London, Ontario
519.661.5169
info@eldonhouse.ca

ELDON HOUSE INTERPRETIVE CENTRE
(AND GROUNDS FOR TEA OPTION)

COST: $6.00 + HST IN ADVANCE OR $8.00 AT THE DOOR (FOR ADMISSION ONLY)

OR $30.00 + HST FOR ADMISSION PLUS AFTERNOON TEA WITH THE AUTHOR AND ARTIST! THIS OPTION INCLUDES OUR REGULAR SUMMER TEA MENU.

Registration required through Eldon House.

Video by Mary McDonald

Poetry Mini Interview

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

 

from Goddess Pages

Calling on Persephone

by Penn Kemp

A little early for Persephone to return
but how enticing is this pomegranate!
No wonder she was tempted to indulge!

https://www.goddess-pages.co.uk/calling-on-persephone-by-penn-kemp/

Pomegranate

Blessed be the lost ones, those who
left, in our opinion, too soon, whose
time, they say, had come. Blessed

be those whose lives have stopped
in their current form, the bodies we
know and miss. For it’s we who are

lacking, not they. Either they don’t
know any more or their essence has
dissolved to some fuller| plenitude

we too will come upon in our time.
Only the Goddess knows for sure
if we listen, if we reach out to Her.

Calling on Persephone, as seasons
darken, as night falls into autumn:
Take care of those we have lost.

*

As we age, the living dead increase,
surround us with presence, with gifts
of their kind, on offer if we realize

they are ongoing, just out of earshot,
beyond tangential vision. Out there,
behind you to one side, they linger

friendly—don’t worry— and ready
to offer advice, offer warning, offer
remarks that reflect a wider gnosis:

Archetypes of what they could have
become, given time or opportunity.
My friends, our dead are listening.

May be as memories fleshed real or
may be as hallucinatory flashes from
some other realm: does it matter?

Now that they are really no longer
matter but transcorporeal illusion,
their words, their nudges and sighs,

they still comfort us, familiar whiff,
where the senses condense off-stage
then expand beyond the peripheral.

*

May we bring their attributes to life
within us. For Persephone’s love
of flower, to surround Her in kind.

She will return; She always does, to
turn the wheel, to begin once more,
speaking the words of consolation.

May we live that gentle beauty for
her, ongoing. May She who loves
blossoms bloom again in our eyes

as we admire a purple pride of fall
garden. May Her essence enter us.
May we become what we might.

May She remember and remind us,
Mnemosyne, Goddess of memory,
inventor of the language we need

now more than ever. Speak to us.
Tell us the news in the old way we
once knew. Keep in touch, please.

©Penn Kemp