A Gathering of Poets in Response to Peril

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In his famous elegy for W. B. Yeats, W. H. Auden says, “poetry makes nothing happen.” He adds: “it survives,/A way of happening, a mouth.”

In response to Auden, please join our Zoom reading on April 2, 2022 at 2 pm EST. This “Oh!Sound Reading” will feature many of the poets below. Details are posted on https://www.rsitoski.com/event-details/poets-in-response-to-peril. Please respond there if you can join us for National Poetry Month. Along with host Richard-Yves Sitoski, we will be celebrating How Poems MatterWhy Poems Matter.

How do poets respond to precarious events in the world? Susan McCaslin writes : “On Feb. 24, 2022, when the world woke to the shock of the catastrophic bombing of Ukraine, I asked myself and a few of my fellow poet friends how they would respond to Auden’s words, especially in these perilous times.” Susan and I discussed this line from Auden and continued with our own reflections on activism through poetry in this “Dialogue: Reflections on W.H. Auden’s ‘Poetry Makes Nothing Happen’”:  https://www.inanna.ca/2018/11/29/art-action-transformation/.

I continued curating this project, with thanks to all the contributing poets. It’s published on March FORTH, the only day of the year that is a command! See The London Free Press column on Saturday, March 5 on https://lfpress.com/entertainment/local-arts/poets-are-talking-tough-and-their-words-make-a-difference with a video of my introduction to our project and a video reading of two poems for Ukraine up on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqEczOl0OyQ. Thanks to the LFP for their ongoing support of poetry! Here’s to peace with freedom!

Penn Kemp
http://www.pennkemp.weebly.com
pennkemp.substack.com

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How Poems MatterWhy Poems Matter.

Poetry makes the song of the heart shape the architecture the eye creates.” Jim Andrews

“I mean this little visual as a statement of how poetry can matter. I feel that it can place us in the meaningful nexus between being epistemological warriors and worriers. Both meaningful positions to consider the world. Poetry makes nothing happen? It does make things happen in terms of epistemology, both as a view on the outside world and one’s internal world.” Gary Barwin

“Poetry makes nothing obvious, nothing earth-shaking happen. At first. But it’s a slow ignition that can light up your life later, on the right day, at the right time, right when you need it most.” Kate Braid

“In the dark hours we place a bird beside a crumbled citadel, a voice inside a crowded tunnel, a mother singing in her mother tongue to a baby who cannot sleep. The image, metaphor, voice  resonates with the rhythms of heart beat and pulse, this for me is poetry. Where we turn in the dark and in the light.” Yvonne Blomer

David C. Brydges

“The poet’s lampoon must never go dull. Poetry precisely pricks the diplomatic bubble mask with such elegant savagery. Poetry without provocation is a seed without soil. Poets are society’s second government of conscience and dissent. Poets are language light-bearers in darker times. Poets are historians capturing a community’s tragedies and triumphs. We record and share our humanity so others can identify, empathize, and be inspired. Helping to bring wholeness to the human journey when hearts are broken. A poem is a small act as contemporary artist Ai Weiwei says on taking action: “A small act is worth a million thoughts.” Artists and poets are the raw nerve ends of humanity. By themselves, they can do a little to save humanity. Without them there would be little worth saving. — statement in the cemetery where Jackson Pollock is buried.” David C. Brydges

“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!”
Andrei Codrescu

“Poetry is the translation of silences into words.” Sadiqa de Meijer

“When I woke up to the news of war I had no words. And spent a few days disoriented. I stumbled upon a recording I did for the “slow erosions” chapbook launch in January 2021. These poems anchored me, opened a space and I have listened to them since many times and shared with friends. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hpr6Vpkw8d0&list=PLhdtAvxoVAXFJJj9a_pUXRCsAUN-TWawy” Daniela Elza

“Poetry is the place where the light gets into a person’s heart and mind on darker days. It’s the way hope lives in the world, saying ‘yes’ even when everything else seems to say ‘no.’ Poetry transports, transforms, and transmutes. It’s strong magic, and words have power—especially in the face of apathy or tyranny. Poetry asks you to pay attention, to observe, to be the witness, and then it asks you to write the words down on paper and give them a clear, true voice.” Kim Fahner

“Auden also wrote, ‘But it survives/ A way of happening, a mouth.’” In perilous times, poetry is hope, and hope is awareness. Hope is clarity.” Carolyn Forché. Carolyn also gave us permission to add this link to a reading on March 1 of “Voices for Ukraine–Words together, Worlds apart.”

The reading inspired this little poem:
SIMULTANEOUS TRANSLATION

When Ilya Kaminsky thanks
Carolyn Forché for her reading
dedicated to the city of Odessa


“where two things were esteemed,
poetry and ships”–in the subtitle
below, his word “reading” appears

aptly as “vineyard”.
Penn Kemp

“Poetry homes right into the heart and soul and this wisdom is essential as the world spins out of alignment. For too long, poetry has been marginalized; it needs to be central to daily living and acting to manifest inclusion, peace and communal care for everyone.” Katerina Fretwell

Gary Snyder, quoted by Kerry Gilbert below.

“You do what you can, as a citizen, and as a poet. Poetry, it seems to me, pushes against the degradation of language, and opens a space for the human.” Robert Girvan

“Poetry, especially when it is read aloud, can stir the most hardened heart to all that is possible. Poetry may well be our (and the Earth’s) most potent hope.” Heidi Greco  

“Poems connect us.
They are ambassadors when grief blinds us, when joy takes our breath away, when memories visit in the night and don’t leave a name.
Poems are rhythms of peace in a world of ancient battles.
They offer refuge from the front lines when there is little to believe or trust.
They offer a map to the heart, a path otherwise lost.
And finally, poems are followed by silence, the space between words, the knowing that cannot be told with language.” Diana Hayes

“A LITTLE NOTHING: POETRY MATTERS
When words fail, war is apt for displaying insanity.
Does matter matter? In wars of words, matter dissembles, lies.
It’s said, meter matters, metrics matter,
think of Fiona Hill: “…he wouldn’t, would he? Well, yes, he would.”
It’s said, maters matter, mother-tongues matter, meaning matters,
sometimes something trumps nothing
sometimes something lies amidst the branches of insulation
sometimes nothing
sometimes something lies
in the valley of its un-making
some times a thing — a too busy grief
some times no thing
for now, better, no thing
a word-less nothing”
Karl Jirgens

“Poetry, painting, sculpture, music, all the arts, including “folk arts” nourish Life itself and celebrate the creativity of the human spirit and address the Why of being alive. War destroys Life. Some arts remind us of that destruction: ‘Guernica,’ war symphonies, and graphic expressions of death. Arts also can evoke Being itself, even capturing the love and mystical sense of harmony that quietly permeate all the energy-events in the Universe. Above all, poetry and its companion arts embody that sense of Presence in our mutual humanity and aspirations of the spirit. To the No of destructive forces, they are the everlasting Yes to Life.” Lee Johnson

Jim Andrews

“As Wislawa Szymborska writes, ‘Poetry isn’t recreation, a respite from life. It is life.’ Poetry is also a hiatus, a lift out of the daily round. Just as we support white Ukraine, may we support all activists against tyranny. May we celebrate peace with freedom.
From FAST POEM for UKRAINE
The dark day we saw
coming. We heard it
coming. But we thought
we could for-
stall war.
Disbelief and shock there.
Disbelief and shock here.
Will new and expanded
sanctions work? Tears
are never enough. As if
poems could help. As
if words would work.
“We now have war in Europe
that is of a scale and type
unparalleled in history.”
“This will not shake Europe.”
But it already has.
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.”
Penn Kemp

“My most recent effort is a poem trying to express how crucial battered old trees are for wildlife—the very ones people (including most arborists) would deem hazardous. Every tree matters to something alive, and the dead and dying sometimes most of all. I confess I hope the poem saves trees.” Chris Lowther

“Because poetry’s nothing is so much better than a poetryless nothing. 
Because Auden also wrote “we must love one another or die.” Tanis MacDonald

“Though poetry may change nothing in Auden’s sense, it has the power to transform consciousness. Change for the betterment of the whole is incremental when in the seed state, but capable of blossoming in the fulness of time. Poetry has the power to open hearts and minds to what poet and novelist Joy Kogawa calls “the arc of goodness.” Susan McCaslin

“Poetry is the voice of the spaces between the words, of the heart between the beats, of the caught breath before the long exhale. It’s not a naming of what we feel and perceive and think and imagine, but a net to capture all of those in its evocations and place them in our hands, to weave our own tale. Poetry hums and sings and says what can’t be said.” Susan McMaster

“No one goes to war for a poem. If the world were filled with poets, and those who read poetry, perhaps the only conflict would be the shortage of time in which to appreciate them all.” Sandra Nicholls

“A n d  P o e t r y  S t a r t e d  t o  R u s h  O u t 
A hole opened in the sky
And poetry started to rush out
At first we thought there must be so much poetry
It would take forever to empty the world
But each poem stretched the hole wider
And so now we must get to work again
We must breathe into the word
And let language rise up among us
If there is no poetry left in the world
Our kind will die forever
Without poetry we will not walk
Into the middle of the river
Just to see what’s done
To our reflections by the waves
Quicker than time can drag poetry
Gasping away forever
We must make up the new world
New words new ways”
Robert Priest

“Poetry takes one view of the world and smashes it, giving the writer — and in turn the reader — a way to reassemble it, examine it, reassess it.” R L Raymond

“I’ve always read that Auden quote — “poetry makes nothing happen” — from a somewhat Buddhist perspective. Nothing. Emptiness. The radiant creative void. Poetry makes it happen.” Murray Reiss

“There is a thickening, the moment water seeping from wetness forms a drop, just before it falls as the watering called in shorthand water and another forms from the wet. Thickening is the opening in the world that forms awareness, that tradition calls the self. It is a shell, that gathers life in and then gives it away. Call that the skull, if you like, a shallow bowl, a shawl, and a shaping. There is space that holds memory, that minds it, then pours it out into other cups, from which people drink it down, in repetition of the original thickening. It is good, they say, to the last drop. It can be found in gardens, wells and the sound of feet on shore that is called sand and gravel, after feet call them to the ear. When tamed, and harnessed, it is called the self, and moves into worlds of artifice. In that form, wild things, that shift by the world’s will, avoid its halters. It can, however, be the passing on of breath, formed in lungs, throat, mouth and with tongue and palette and lip, and in that form it carries through air to a listening ear, which reforms its dance as sound. When the eye joins in, this sound becomes the tracks of birds on paper. To be complete, a voice must complete the triad and lift it again into the air, dancing it again in the mouth.”
Harold Rhenisch

“As poet Don McKay writes, ‘poetry makes “nothing” HAPPEN. Gives the mute heart a tongue, awakens somnolent minds, brings memories back to life and life to conscious engagement.’”
“from WHY POETRY?
Why poetry or any art
in this time of planetary crisis?
how can a mere scatter of words
bright strokes of a brush
or melodies loosed to the wind
stay the daily dying off
of species we will never see again?…
Auden on the death of Yeats
bitterly laments in almost tuneless mourning
that poetry ‘makes nothing happen’
but finds the faith to move on
makes bleakness blossom
in measured blank verse
until it blooms in lofty rhyme
affirming art in a ferocious time.”
Peggy Roffey

“Living the last years in my hometown Sarajevo which survived the four years’ long siege, I noticed many of my friends often reached to poetry books dealing with war, rather than to history books that make every single life looks like numbers. Watching on TV the attack on Ukraine, the only thing I can write now, as a survivor, is a short poem:
Warrior, if you come back to your hometown in uniform
Everybody will ask you how many enemies you killed
But once changing your clothes
Nobody will ask you
How many times you were killed
On your way back home.”
Goran Simic

“Poetry connects us through space and time, through, between and beyond the words themselves. ” Christine Smart

“The nothing that poetry makes happen is pure potential. It’s Zen mushin space. It’s chaos in the original sense of the term, the yawning void that precedes matter and order. It’s a charged emptiness, an electric paradox, infinitude which has the wherewithal to (ful)fill itself. Poetry restores the primacy of the unknown, the unknowable, the unnameable. Poetry is for those of us who find meaning not in answers, but in questions.” Richard-Yves Sitoski

“Poetry is our body’s knowledge. Seeping from blood to ink, where the senses meet soul. Poetry creates bridges from the invisible to visible, crossing all borders. It writes us anew in the midst of hardship and companions us as a lover.” Celeste Snowber

“THIS VAST ROBE
We will,
Wear this vast robe together
Repair the vast robe together
We will
Share ‘this’ – our one Vast Robe
Together”
Roberta Pyx Sutherland

“Poetry reminds us of our deepest humanity. It is the human spirit expressed in language, pulling us back to what inspires and lightens the soul: hope, empathy, faith in the possibility of a future despite history’s continual attempts to eradicate it.” Eva Tihanyi

Here, in the cemetery,
you see the oddest people
with flowers, all searching
for a place they know
and bruised over the place
where the heart is.
When I come here–which I do
only in words–I tell them to walk
slowly, to look for every bit of death
they can find in the works of art
around them:  life is buried there,
where we go.
MTC Cronin, quoted by Sharon Thesen

“Poetry can go beyond prose, bypass intellectualization, and enter an intuitional realm that connects with each of us on a deep emotional and spiritual level.  When this happens there is an extraordinary resonance and true transformation becomes possible, indeed almost inevitable.” Jennifer Wenn

“Sometimes poetry is the invisible thread, the line, that connects us to our own humanity, humility. Realms open – hearts, bodies, spirits, minds. The poem flies into our beings – to unravel the unravelling world.” Sheri-D Wilson

“Poetry as the voice of the heart strings is how it matters.” Elana Wolff

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Poet standing for Ukraine

Two Poems for Ukraine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqEczOl0OyQ. Video: Mike Hensen

Fast Poem for Ukraine

February 24, 2022

The dark day we saw
coming. We heard it
coming. But we thought
we could for-
stall war.

Is Putin unhinged at
last? “Russia’s response
will be unlike any in history.”

Disbelief and shock there.
Disbelief and shock here.

“Each citizen of Ukraine
will decide the future of
the country.”

Will new and expanded
sanctions work? Tears
are never enough. As if
poems could help. As
if words would work.

“We now have war in Europe
that is of a scale and type
unparalleled in history.”

“This will not shake Europe.”

But it already is.

A NEAR MEMOIR: NEW POEMS

A NEAR MEMOIR: NEW POEMS from Beliveau Books is out!

Live! Launching A NEAR MEMOIR: NEW POEMS 

Sunday, September 5, 2021, 7:30-9:35pm. Red Lion Reading Series, 23 Albert St., Stratford ON. I’ll be reading as Featured Poet, https://beliveaubooks.wixsite.com/redlionreadingseries/shows. 
Register: https://www.facebook.com/events/110970911119609/?ref=newsfeed

If you’d like a numbered copy signed to you, let me know, pennkemp@gmail.com. 
If you’d like a numbered copy, unsigned, please contact beliveaubooks@gmail.com.

The cost is $15, including postage. See https://beliveaubooks.wixsite.com/home/books.

But on September 5th in Stratford, it’s $10!

Readings from A Near Memoir

​Thursday, May 20, 3pm, 2021. Feature, Owen Sound Poet Laureate Open Mic series.​ Host: Richard-Yves Sitoski 
Sponsored by the League of Canadian Poets. https://www.facebook.com/events/169826411638195/?ti=ls

And Live!, Sunday, September 5, 2021, 7:30-9:35pm. Red Lion Reading Series, 23 Albert St., Stratford ON. I’ll be reading from A NEAR MEMOIR: NEW POEMS as Featured Poet, https://beliveaubooks.wixsite.com/redlionreadingseries/shows.

Thanks to a CAIP grant from the London Arts Council for time to write these poems.

Press

“Diving into a new book of poems by Penn Kemp is like setting out on an adventure.” https://lfpress.com/entertainment/local-arts/poet-penn-kemp-celebrates-growing-up-in-london-in-new-book-of-verse? with a video of my reading from the book,  a poem, “Choose to Challenge”, commissioned by Brescia for International Women’s Day this March 8: https://youtu.be/dNC2sbZGp3c. And https://lfpress.com/entertainment/books/new-books-by-london-area-authors-offer-variety-for-all-readers-tastes.

“A new book of poetry from prolific Southwestern Ontario writer and spoken word artist Penn Kemp”, https://stratfordbeaconherald.com/enttainment/books/latest-work-from-poet-penn-kemp-published-by-stratford-micropress-beliveau-books.

On Line

Read Richard-Yves Sitowski’s review in “SUSTAINING CONNECTIONS” on http://www.sageing.ca/sageing37.html, P. 25.

Three of the poems in the book are linked online.

A poem in the book, “Choose to Challenge”, was commissioned by Brescia University College to celebrate International Women’s Day! Read it here: https://brescia.uwo.ca/about/who_we_are/choose_to_challenge_poem.php
This poem was presented to the University at Brescia’s Dr. Hanycz Leadership Lecture on March 8, 2021. To see a video of me reading the poem, visit Brescia’s YouTube channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThguVNENewQ #.

The London Free Press featured it: https://youtu.be/dNC2sbZGp3c?list=PLfojJEPqDqrTBdAxGfpQaPao8m_ynhfuI&t=11.

With special thanks to Dennis Siren, visionary videographer, for his videopoem of a poem in the book, “Translation”, dedicated to my father, painter Jim Kemp: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMqzgfLJtws&t=22s.

“There you are”, from A Near Memoir, is at 8:14 in my Luminous Entrance: a Sound Opera for Climate Change Action, up on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9mS75i.

Endorsements for A Near Memoir: new poems

The poems in this unusually substantial chapbook reflect with charming insight on key moments and memorable forks in the road in the poet’s early life, then move to more sombre reckonings with mortality, the traumas of war, and the trees and environs of her Souwesto region, and conclude with inspirational “challenges” to us all in facing our uncertain future. Stylistic aplomb is underpinned, throughout, by mindful perception, impassioned concern, and a visionary verve.   
— Allan Briesmaster, author of The Long Bond (Guernica Editions)

d the deep without. It draws from the innermost regions of subjective consciousness while opening to social engagement and planetary awareness. The title suggests a genre both personal and universal, exploring the double lineages of family and the larger polis, our civic communities. Here we meet various members of her family, including her father, the visual artist. Penn has transformed his legacy into spoken word and a poetics where sounds and silences converge: “I still wait with paper’s white space till / words arise, images in words, watching them come into form…” As we participate, we are whirled into places where perception sharpens, and we too are transformed.

Penn Kemp’s A Near Memoir carries the reader simultaneously to the deep within and the deep without. It draws from the innermost regions of subjective consciousness while opening to social engagement and planetary awareness. The title suggests a genre both personal and universal, exploring the double lineages of family and the larger polis, our civic communities. Here we meet various members of her family, including her father, the visual artist. Penn has transformed his legacy into spoken word and a poetics where sounds and silences converge: “I still wait with paper’s white space till / words arise, images in words, watching them come into form…” As we participate, we are whirled into places where perception sharpens, and we too are transformed.
—Susan McCaslin, author of Heart Work (Ekstasis Editions)

A Near Memoir collects a confluence of poems around Penn Kemp’s beloved subjects: art, nature, community, the divine feminine, and flowingness of life.
—Sharon Thesen, author of The Wig-Maker (New Star Books)

Penn Kemp’s A Near Memoir: new poems explores the earliest stirrings of the creative imagination in childhood and the joys of associative thinking. With narrative skill and vivid sensual detail, it discovers and uncovers the effect of adult perspectives on a young mind, the puzzling life lessons of parents and teachers, the wisdom and heartbreak of nature. Ironic and lyrical, accurate and ambiguous, playful and profound, these finely tuned poems—whether enlightened moments or deep dives into an evolving self—flow with the ease and excitement that only a seasoned artist can bring. A book full of surprises and affirmation.
—Patricia Keeney, author of Orpheus in Our World (NeoPoiesis Press)

“Diving into a new book of poems by @pennkemp is like setting out on an adventure. You never know what you’ll come across and @JoeBatLFPress says her newest offering, A Near Memoir: New Poems, is no different.”

Hey, Red! Great poems!!!! So sensuous and lyrical and sly. 
—Catherine Sheldrick Ross, author of The Pleasures of Reading (Libraries Unlimited)

Penn Kemp ‘s book is wonderful in her mastery of language and attention to detail. A gorgeous read. A really great gift!” —Jude Neale

Nice day in the Grove for a new read from a dear friend and mentor, the magical Penn Kemp — Nick Beauchesne

A near Memoir has arrived and it is a treasure. So beautifully produced. With your life writings personal and planetary. And with such touching story-telling visuals. —Patricia Keeney

SPRING Events

Up now!

The Free Press has a marvellous article on line: https://lfpress.com/entertainment/local-arts/london-poet-penn-kemp-marks-womens-day-with-call-to-action. The video link to reading the poem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNC2sbZGp3c&t=6s.

“The Words Festival is very pleased to present two of Canada’s finest poets, Jane Munro & Penn Kemp! Our host for the afternoon was Phil Glennie”: http://wordsfest.ca/events/2020/jane-munro-penn-kemp-in-conversation. The recording is up on https://vimeo.com/498423922.

February 19, 2021. “Steal, Stole, Stun”. One Minute Poem, Poets Corner Reading Series. From FOX HAUNTS, P. 15 (Aeolus House) Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5Dtvlc5rNE. https://poetscorner.ca/one-minute-poem/.

February, 2021. “We are gonna begin writing sometime when…” from “Re:Solution”. Performed with Anne Anglin. Sound Poetry DJ mix on  https://www.mixcloud.com/spoken_matter/sound-poetry-mix-tape/. Editors, Andreas Bülhoff & Marc Matter, <andreasbuelhoff@googlemail.com

February, 2021. “Heart to Art” from Barbaric Cultural Practice (Quattro Books) https://pennkemp.wordpress.com/2016/02/14/valentine-poem.

Forthcoming Events with Penn Kemp

April 18. NPM. Readings from “Voicing Suicide”, an anthology edited by Daniel G. Scott. Contact: <voicingsuicide@gmail.com>, organizer Josie Di Sciascio Andrews <j_andrews@sympatico.ca>

April, 2021. NPM Zoom and launch of Femmes de Parole/Women of their Word, edited by Nancy R Lange. Readings: Penn Kemp and Sharon Thesen. Contact: rappelparolecreation@hotmail.com.

May 20, 3pm, 2021. Feature, Owen Sound Poet Laureate Open Mic series. Host: Richard-Yves Sitoski 
https://www.facebook.com/OSPoetLaureate2019to2021

September 5, 7:30-9:30pm, 2021. Feature, Red Lion Reading Series, 23 Albert Street, Stratford ON. Host: Andreas Gripp,
https://beliveaubooks.wixsite.com/redlionreadingseries/shows. Contact beliveaubooks@gmail.com.

  1. “Becoming”: a poem of 80 words matched with Jim Kemp’s painting for 80mL Exhibition to celebrate Museum London’s 80th Birthday. http://museumlondon.ca/. Contact: 80museumlondon@gmail.com

New Publications

“To Carry the Heart of Community Wherever You Find Yourself”. Sage-ing With Creative Spirit, Grace and Gratitude, http://www.sageing.ca/sageing36.html, P. 12. Number 36, Spring 2021.

“What Matters”, “Studies in Anticipation”, “Hope the Thing”, Possible Utopias: the Wordsfest Eco Zine, Issue 6. http://www.wordsfest.ca/zine, March 2021.

Forthcoming Publications

A Near Memoir, limited edition chapbook. Scroll to bottom of https://beliveaubooks.wixsite.com/home/books. Pre-order now.

“Strike/Struck/ Stroke”, These Days Zine, Jeff Blackman, publisher, thesedayszine2020@gmail.com.

“Drawing Conclusions”, “A Convoluted Etymology of the Course Not Taken”, “Celebrating Souwesto Trees” and “You There”. Beliveau Review, Vol. 2 No. 2 Issue 5, May, 2021. https://beliveaubooks.wixsite.com/home/magazines.

“What we did not know in 1972. What we know now.” Resistance Anthology. Sue Goyette, editor. University of Regina Press, Spring 2021.

“Re:Solution”, performed with Anne Anglin. Sound Poetry DJ mix. Limited edition audio cassette. Editors, Andreas Bülhoff & Marc Matter, <andreasbuelhoff@googlemail.com

“Weather Vane, Whether Vain, Whither and Thither” and “Black, White and Red All Over Town”,  An Avian Alphabet. Edited by Susan McCaslin, with woodcut prints by Edith Krause.​

“Dichte” and “Cancel Culture”, EVENT 50/2 (Fall 2021) or 50/3 (Winter 2021/22). http://www.eventmagazine.ca

Recent Events with Penn Kemp

March 8, 2021. 7 – 8:30 p.m. “CHOOSE TO CHALLENGE: Finding Common Ground Through Dialogue”,
Featuring keynote address by Waneek Horn-Miller. Celebrating International Women’s Day at the 2021 Hanycz Lecture/International Women’s Day event. 8:15 p.m. Penn’s reading, commissioned by Brescia University College, London, is sponsored by Playwrights Guild of Canada.  Register here for the whole event (https://hopin.com/events/choose-to-challenge-finding-common-ground-through-dialogue?bblinkid=248579307&bbemailid=28900794&bbejrid=1864748878. Contact: Linda, lpalme9@uwo.ca.

“Re:Solution”, performed with Anne Anglin. Sound Poetry DJ mix for https://www.mixcloud.com/. Limited edition audio cassette. Editors, Andreas Bülhoff & Marc Matter, <andreasbuelhoff@googlemail.com

2020 Holiday Recommendations

Curling Up

with a Great Book!

Superb Canadian writing highly recommended, grouped idiosyncratically

First, by women

Pairing books by Indigenous Writers: Michelle Good, Five Little 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?

See more recommendations on https://pennkemp.wordpress.com/2020/08/31/31booksinaugust/ , https://pennkemp.wordpress.com/2020/04/02/reading-and-recommending-poems-for-national-poetry-month-2020/ and https://pennkemp.wordpress.com/2020/11/06/on-reading-new-work-by-canadian-women-novelists/On reading new work by Canadian women novelists.

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.

Check out my own books on http://pennkemp.weebly.com/works.html.

Read on ! Read often:)

Poem for the Fourteen

Invocation: for all those missing and murdered

Come say hello, women. While the veils are still

thin, we welcome your presence, no longer missed

but present, with all the disappeared you stand for.

As if you were in the prime of life now. As if

your daughters bloomed full-grown around you.

As if your mothers were crying delighted tears.

And if you were here to see what has changed

and what has not, would you hide your eyes in

shame for what has been done, what has not?

Come into the light and tell us how you are. As

if you have life beyond what we recall or remember

before this dark December claims its own again.

https://pennkemp.wordpress.com/2017/12/01/another-invocation/?fbclid=IwAR04DnqiyRBbiV3Nc2ZTENGNsU92OxBkduVP4a-wQxn34ANvJqztAgWcU8Q

http://tuckmagazine.com/2017/12/01/poetry-1150/

Sounds of Trance Formation


Sounds of Trance Formation:

An Interview with Penn Kemp now up!

https://spokenweb.ca/podcast/episodes/sounds-of-trance-formation-an-interview-with-penn-kemp/

with Nick Beauchesne, Spoken Web Canada

December 7, 5-7 pm

“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.”

New #SpokenWebPod episode coming next Monday, Dec 7.
Come to our Listening Party to experience
“Sounds of Trance Formation: An Interview with Penn Kemp.”

Monday, December 7, 2020 at 5 PM EST – 7 PM EST
Hosted by SpokenWeb

Join us to listen and discuss #SpokenWebPod episode
Sounds of Trance Formation: An Interview with Penn Kemp

We will gather virtually to listen together at 5pm ET and share our reactions in a Twitter conversation. This will be followed by a 6pm ET Q&A with Episode Producer Nick Beauchesne and featured guest Penn Kemp. You are invited to join for the entire event or at 6pm ET for just the Q&A.

Listening Party Zoom Link:
https://sfu.zoom.us/j/83778515727…Meeting ID: 837 7851 5727
Password: resonate
One tap mobile
+16473744685,,83778515727#,,,,0#,,71824394# Canada

https://www.facebook.com/events/752942868631837/

Join the Twitter Conversation:
You are invited to follow @SpokenWebCanada and #SpokenWebPod on Twitter and join the conversation during the event as we listen together. Tweet at us with #SpokenWebPod and share your listening experience: what moments jump out to you? what sounds resonate with your experience?

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SpokenWebCanada at https://spokenweb.ca/podcast/episodes.

Sounds of Trance Formation

“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.”

On reading new work by Canadian women writers

And the Giller goes to Souvankham Thammavongsa for How to Pronounce Knife! Congratulations! And Congratulations as well to the other finalists!

Superb writing that I highly recommend, grouped here idiosyncratically.

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 work set abroad: Shaena Lambert’s Petra; Janie Chang’s The Library of Legends; Louise Penny’s All the Devils Are Here. Lisa Robertson, Baudelaire Fractals. Pairing Caroline Adderson’s A Russian Sister and Sarah Leipciger, Coming Up For Air. AND Farzana Doctor’s Seven.

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 books on relationship by Annabel Lyon, Consent; Lynn Coady, Watching You Without Me; Shani Mootoo, Polar Vortex;  Frances Itani, The Company We Keep.

Pairing books by Indigenous Writers: Michelle Good, Five Little Indians; Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, This Accident of Being Lost

Memoir: Lorna Crozier, Through the Garden: A Love Story (with Cats)

Sans pareil: Naomi Klein, On Fire. Not a novel: I wish it were!

About to read (sometime, soon-ish):

Marianne Apostolides, I can’t get you out of my mind: a novel
Carol Bruneau, Brighten the Corner Where You Are: A Novel Inspired by the Life of Maud Lewis
Cathy Marie Buchanan, The Day the Falls Stood Still
Cathy Marie Buchanan, Daughter of Black Lake
Catherine Bush, Blaze Island
Catherine Hernandez, Crosshairs
Maria Reva, Good Citizens Need Not Fear 
Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies
Elizabeth Waterston,  Railway Ties 1888-1920

Hoping to read:
(Attention, London Library! Every other book listed here is in your collection. Please take the hint…)
Dede Crane, Madder Woman
Lorna Crozier, The House the Spirit Builds

Celebrating Wordsfest, tuning in to MORE Literary Arts!


Then back to new poetry. And back to writing…

Feature image: Daniela Sneppova
Photo of me age 7: Jim Kemp

March is for Women

Celebrating Women’s Day 2020

For Women’s History Month, I’m reading:

Gish Jen, The Resisters
Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge                                   and the Teachings of Plants
Marianne Micros, Eye
Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation
Sally Rooney, Conversations with friends: a novel
Laisha Rosnau, Little Fortress
Linn Ullmann, Unquiet
Lidia Yuknavitch, Verge: stories
Leni Zumas, Red Clock

For March 8, I’m celebrating Katerina Vaughan Fretwell’s We Are Malala: poems and art.
From Inanna Publications: “Excellent new review of “We Are Malala” by Katerina Vaughan Fretwell, in honour of #InternationalWomensDay, with thanks to Penn Kemp and The League of Canadian Poets#femlitcan #IWD2020

‘The artwork included in this volume features paintings based on photos of Malala Yousafzai. Fretwell adeptly capture’s unflinching spirit. She brings Malala to life on the page in striking reds and greys. Malala’s eyes dominate, demanding that you engage, that you pay attention. The paintings pay tribute and reflect their counterparts on the page. Readers, take note.’

http://poets.ca/2020/03/06/we-are-malala/

A Canadian artist muses on Malala Yousafzai in poetic dialogue

“We realize the importance of our voices only when we are silenced.”
Malala Yousafzai

On the day I read Katerina Vaughan Fretwell’s We Are Malala, a photo appears on my screen’s feed: Malala Yousafzai meets youth activist Greta Thunberg for the first time. Malala and Greta become instant fast friends, and no wonder. Both young women have addressed the United Nations on their respective causes (climate change and girl’s education). When Malala was 17, she won the Nobel Peace Prize. Herself now 17, Greta too has been nominated for this high honour. Malala posts the two them, arms around one other. Her caption reads: “Thank you, @gretathunberg” along with a heart emoji.

CNN reports on the meeting of the world’s two most renowned young activists:

Greta Thunberg visited Malala Yousafzai at the University of Oxford. Thunberg is in the UK for a school strike planned for later this week.
Admiration between the two activists was mutual.
“So … today I met my role model,” Thunberg tweeted. “What else can I say?”
“She’s the only friend I’d skip school for,” Yousafzai quipped.*

The dialogue between these young women drew me back to Katerina Vaughan Fretwell’s We Are Malala: poems and art. The connection is appropriate because Fretwell creates a similar evocation of female friendship: hers is by proxy, through the media. Her collection of poems sets up a dialogue between Malala and Fretwell’s own personal history, though the two have never met. Fretwell intertwines her stories with the large context of Malala’s. How do their stories connect, as young women growing up in different times, different continents?  What are the disconnects? Fretwell’s education as a girl is assured in ways that Malala’s never was, but as Fretwell succinctly displays, the similarities of female disempowerment are shocking, despite the poet’s apparent privilege.

It’s essential for women to tell their stories in whatever form best suits. Fretwell’s primary medium is poetry— breathless poems in short lines, reminiscent of the Urdu poetry that Malala might recognize. The poems form an urgent inquiry that Fretwell and Malala share. How does a young woman adapt to the culture in which she was raised? How can she change the culture in which she is immersed?  Both Malala and Fretwell leave their country of birth, for another, safer, saner place. Malala’s exile is involuntary: after the gunshot wound that nearly killed her, she awoke to emergency treatment in Birmingham, England. Fretwell in political protest left the U.S. for Canada, where she still (proudly) resides.

Political poetry is difficult to write because it all too easily swerves into didactic, self-righteous polemics. A good poem follows sound and language itself, leading both the poet and the reader/listener into new and surprising exploration. A political poem tends toward rant, set on the rigid track of a pre-conceived idea or conviction that the poem must adhere to. Political poetry can be written as reaction, in the moment. It has the energy of immediacy, but often it has not had time to cure/ mellow age with a wider perspective. Political poetry is often undigested emotion that has not been realized as art.

In his Preface to Lyrical Ballads, William Wordsworth writes that “poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility: the emotion is contemplated till, by a species of reaction, the tranquility gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind”.

Malala Yousafzai’s history is so moving that our immediate response of empathy and horror can become sentimentally ineffectual. Katerina Fretwell has taken the time necessary to allow emotion to settle into contemplation, into poems that move the reader into wider perspective of understanding that deepens our response. In We Are Malala, Katerina Fretwell walks a fine line, escaping the trap and sensationalized trappings to explore a wider perspective than her personal narrative. The dialectic between poet and her muse continues. These poems stir the reader into action.

But how do we continue activism while we study or pursue our chosen art? How do we manifest that art in action? Fretwell points a way. Her enthusiasm, her passion, ignites and inspires. And Fretwell has several bows in her quiver. Not only is she a widely published and accomplished poet, but she paints as well. The artwork included in this volume features paintings based on photos of Malala Yousafzai. Fretwell adeptly capture’s unflinching spirit. She brings Malala to life on the page in striking reds and greys. Malala’s eyes dominate, demanding that you engage, that you pay attention.  The paintings pay tribute and reflect their counterparts on the page. Readers, take note.

Malala,
this verse serves me well:
So vie with one another in good works

As always, Inanna’s production values are impeccable, so that the font is easy on the eye, the pages sturdy and Fretwell’s art work subtle and powerful in reflecting the poems.

One of the best editors of our time, Harold Rhenisch, is acknowledged, “non pareil”, as pulling the poet out of the politics and into the poetry: an essential task, this conversion from reportage. News, undigested, is unlikely to stay new. To endure, it must be transformed into art.  In William Carlos Williams’s famous line, “It is difficult/ to get the news from poems/ yet men die miserably every day/ for lack// of what is found there” And to Ezra Pound, “Poetry is news that stays news” (

Reactions to “ecological grief” and “climate depression” are given form in these poems and by their expression, that grief, no matter how bleak is alleviated in the very act of creation. As Malala writes, “When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.” Fretwell joins the chorus of women speaking their many truths. “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.” At this perilous time, we need artists to tell their histories and to inspire and encourage transformative change.

Like Henry Vaughan, her poetic and literal ancestor from the seventeenth century, Fretwell contemplates “The World”. Vaughan writes, in his famous poem of the same name:

Time in hours, days, years,
Driv’n by the spheres
Like a vast shadow mov’d; in which the world
And all her train were hurl’d…

The darksome statesman hung with weights and woe,
Like a thick midnight-fog mov’d there so slow,
He did not stay, nor go;
Condemning thoughts (like sad eclipses) scowl
Upon his soul,
And clouds of crying witnesses without
Pursued him with one shout. **

Fretwell too, takes on the world. Her “clouds of crying witnesses” are young women activists in hot pursuit of injustice. They are intent on holding “the darksome stateman”, in all his guises, to account.

Some of Fretwell’s phrases will ring in your head long after you have put the book down. My favourite lines in the book link spirit and the natural world:

Once all women could talk to trees.
*
I still chant to forests, seeing chi—
silvery energy—pulsing around twig,

leaf, branch, bole. The whole.

The last lines of this book are a rallying call:

United we thrive, divided we die.
All souls. All sentience.

Sentenced to prescience, We Are Malala.

* https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/25/world/malala-greta-thunberg-meet-trnd/index.html
** https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45434/the-world-56d2250cca80d

Penn Kemp

malala-yousafzai-nobel-peace-prize

This essay appears on http://poets.ca/2020/03/06/we-are-malala/.