Reminder of Spring

Here/There

This poem was published this week in https://www.goddess-pages.co.uk/here-there/.  It was performed as part of LUMINOUS ENTRANCE: a Sound Opera by Penn Kemp at Aeolian Hall, London ON.

All the ducks in a row

 

Three Mother letters—
Fire, River, Water.

I find you in speaking
tree, pond eye
river ear

meadow’s hand
loop of swallow,
stream of thought

There you are
baby in her bath,
strands of hair floating
as if on the Thames

submerged but for her
smiling face, ahhhhhh
she murmurs

*

Hummingbird fast
as the letter Shin
on fire, on red
cardinal flower.

The bees that return
season upon season
the letter Shin on fire

The mud bank from
which turtle drops,
splash of circling carp

Duck with her brood
aligned behind her,
careful setting out across

the wide water.
strutting down the street
to the creek.

*

There you are, green
again after drab dearth,
long absence of light.

There you are in moments
between friends, among
many.

There you are in the mouth
of another, tenor’s laugh,
an operatic trill.

There you are in the ear
receiving wisdom, at last
ready to understand.

There you are in those eyes,
riverine, opening out, trans-
mitting from mirrored depth.

There you are in a rose,
first bloom or faded,
faintly scenting the air.

There you arise full-blown.

*

You are also inside, inner, with me.
Radiance seen, felt and heard

A whiff of this, aroma of that,
taste on the honeyed tongue.

There you are in the cardinal
feeding his mate. Garlic
scapes spring arabesques

in the air. Goats on hind legs
rear up acacia trunk, giraffe
stooping for special branch.

There you are in the sudden
confirmation of synchronicity
when the radio speaks the word

I am writing. Oracles, move
over. And keep talking, please,
humming through medium cool.

The song responds, corresponds
to mood.

Contemplate the missing, lost,
forgotten, ignored, left out.

Enough now. Let it be
enough. Now let us
praise

Penn Kemp

Penn Kemp has been active in Canada’s literary scene since her first publication of poetry, Bearing Down, by Coach House (1972). As well as editing Canada’s first anthology of women’s writing, IS 14 (1973), she wrote the first play produced in Canada about abortion rights. She was London’s inaugural Poet Laureate and the League of Canadian Poets’ Spoken Word Artist, 2015. Multimedia works are up on https://riverrevery.ca. Her 2018 poetry books are Local Heroes (Insomniac Press) and Fox Haunts(Aeolus). www.pennkemp.weebly.com.
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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*

Two beautiful reviews Fox Haunts came in this evening
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

Launch of LOCAL HEROES

Launch of Local Heroes (Insomniac Press) by Penn Kemp

April 19,2018, Lecture Theatre
Museum London, 421 Ridout St N.

6:30-7:15. Curator Tour: Women’s Lives in Canada: A History, 1875-2000
7:30-8:30. Penn’s reading
8:30-9 pm. Book signing

Join London poet and playwright Penn Kemp for the launch of her book
Local Heroes (Insomniac Press). Local Heroes is a celebration of regional artists from Greg Curnoe and James Kemp to writers Alice Munro, Colleen Thibaudeau and Bonnie Burnard.  New poems about explorer Teresa Harris are featured.

The evening includes an exhibition tour with curator Amber Lloydlangston, followed by Insomniac Press publisher Mike O’Connor and Penn’s reading.

The theatre will show several short videos on Local Heroes by Dennis Siren, Mary McDonald and Western’s Community Engaged Learning. The poet will then sign books.

Contact: Museum London, 519 661-0333, info@museumlondon.ca
http://museumlondon.ca/programs-events/event/2458/2018/04/19
promo video: https://youtu.be/x-edwKodu0s
https://www.facebook.com/events/181506832475203/

For more about LOCAL HEROES, please see http://poetryminiinterviews.blogspot.ca/2018/03/penn-kemp-part-one.html.

https://www.amazon.ca/Local-Heroes-Penn-Kemp/dp/1554832063

B1458pl8620file203 (2)

Cover photo courtesy Harris Fonds, Western Archives, Western University

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.