Eco-Poetry: Using the Arts to Celebrate the Earth

Saturday, April 30, 1-2:30 pm EDT  Zoom

Eco-Poetry: Using the Arts to Celebrate the Earth

Please join us tomorrow for a breath of fresh air, a breath of poetry and SPRING!

Host: Jennifer Chesnut, Environmentalist-in-Residence, London Public Library.

With special guest Penn Kemp, explore poems on the theme of Earth and create your own eco-poem. This reading and workshop is open for all levels of experience zoom.

Please click this Zoom link to join the program: You should not need it, but if you do, the Meeting ID for this event is 817 8709 1382 and the Passcode is 595825. The Zoom “Room” will open 5 minutes before the program begins. This program is being recorded. A prize draw is being held for participants of the live program. You can also register with your London Library card:

These six poems are from Penn Kemp’s RIVER REVERY, Insomniac Press.
“A Dazzling Multi-Media Response to Our Changing Climate:” Thanks to Jennifer Chesnut for the invitation and the images!

Penn Kemp has been celebrated as a trailblazer since her first publication (Coach House, 1972). She was London Ontario’s inaugural Poet Laureate and Western University’s Writer-in- Residence. Chosen as the League of Canadian Poets’ Spoken Word Artist (2015), Kemp has long been a keen participant in Canada’s cultural life, with thirty books of poetry, prose and drama; seven plays and multimedia galore. See,

This event is sponsored by the City of London.

Celebrating National Poetry Month and Plays

Upcoming April Readings Live and on Zoom

Thursday, April 7, 7pm ET: Zoom reading and discussion with Huron Literary Society at Western University to encourage young writers on Mental Health and Literature with Q & A. I Presenters Vanessa Brown, Penn Kemp and Yoda Olinyk. Contact: <>. Play-writing as an expression of hope and possibility. Sponsored by Playwrights Guild of Canada.

Sunday, April 10, 2 pm ET: Live! Our theme is the environment and eco-poetry. London Open Mic, Mykonos Restaurant, 572 Adelaide St N, London, ON N6B 3J5. I am launching P.S. (Gap Riot Press) I’ll read from my play THE TRIUMPH OF TERESA HARRIS to celebrate this intrepid conservationist. Guest readers include Jennifer Chesnut, London Library’s Environmentalist-in-Residence; Richard-Yves Sitoski, Owen Sound Poet Laureate; Andreas Gripp and Jennifer Wenn.  My reading is sponsored by Playwrights Guild of Canada. Contact: scryingsolo@gmail.com 

Sunday, April 10, 6:30 pm. Live! Pre-concert conversation with Jennifer Chesnut and Penn Kemp on environmentalism and the arts, on poetry and local conservation awareness initiatives.
7:30 pm. Earth Speaks: A musical meditation on our collective responsibility to the planet. Chor Amica, Patrick Murray, guest conductor. Performance of ecopoetry by Jennifer and Penn. Oakridge Presbyterian Church, 970 Oxford St. W. London ON N6H 1V4. $25. Contact:

Saturday, April 30, 1-2:30 pm EDT. Zoom.
Eco-Poetry: Using the Arts to Celebrate the Earth.  With special guest Penn Kemp, explore poems on the theme of the Earth and create your own eco-poem. This reading and workshop is open for all levels of experience.  Host: Jennifer Chesnut, Environmentalist-in-Residence. Sponsored by London Public Library and the City of London. Free. Join Zoom Meeting: 

May (date TBA). Live! The Launch of Poems in Response to Peril: an Anthology (Pendas Productions/Laughing Raven Press). Dedicated to the poets and people of Ukraine from 48 Canadian poets. Readers: Penn Kemp, Richard-Yves Sitoski, and local contributors to the anthology as well as surprise guests. We have 200 pre-orders. Keep ’em coming! Poems in Response to Peril: an Anthology is 125 pages. $25 plus postage: order from

See too this essential anthology, Worth More Standing,

Gathering Voices in Response to Peril

POEMS IN RESPONSE TO PERIL, our anthology with 48 Canadian poets in support of Ukraine, will be launched May 28, 2 pm, Blackfriars Bistro, 46 Blackfriars St., London ON! All welcome, an outdoor patio.

The anthology, all 122 pages, is out now and it is beautiful… a fitting tribute in solidarity with Ukraine!
Order from $25 plus post till our launch on May 28, then $30 plus post.

POETS IN RESPONSE TO PERIL, our Zoom on April 2, is now up, thanks to Richard-Yves Sitoski: h4. Truly a labour of love, from Canadian poets to Ukrainian poets and people. What a profound and poignant event, gathering 100 poets and participants coast to coast— holding fast for over three hours of words that we so needed to hear. Poetry is the ability to respond, and the poets did, in voices eloquently and powerfully expressed. This blog is intended to keep that community vibe flowing.

Part 1 of our zoom,, features Penn Kemp, Richard-Yves Sitoski, Susan McCaslin, Svetlana Ischenko, Russell Thornton, Albert Dumont, Bänoo Zan, Celeste Snowber, Blaine Marchand and Marsha Barber.

The Zoom recording Part 2 is on Featuring Caroline Morgan Di Giovann,i David Brydges, Diana Hayes, George Elliott Clarke, Charlie Petch, Harold Rhenisch, Jennifer Wenn, Karl Jirgens, Kate Braid, Katerina Fretwell, Kim Fahner, Lorri Neilsen Glenn, Marianne Micros, Murray Reiss, Patricia Keeney, Peggy Roffey, Solo and RL Raymond.

Part 3: . Featuring Richard-Yves Sitoski, Robert Girvan, Robert Priest, R. Pyx Sutherland, Sharon Thesen, Sheri-D Wilson, Susan McMaster and Akinlabi Ololade Ige, Susan McCaslin, Susan Wismer, Tanis MacDonald, Tolu Oloruntoba, Yvonne Blomer.

Kudos to Rico (Richard-Yves Sitoski), our indomitable host, along with Owen Sound Public Library!  Rico continues to gather our voices in poetry on, 49 so far! Send your videos to him, And please take a listen when you can, when you need to hear these poems. Here’s celebrating National Poetry Month, #npm22.

Attached is our cover for POEMS IN RESPONSE TO PERIL, designed by Rico.

Here’s to the community of poets! Gathering voices: so many ways of maintaining connection.
May the conversation continue! For updates, please see Gathering Voices,

And here’s my poem, “Toward”, written on the day of the Zoom:

May peace prevail, inner and outer,

Gathering Voices: poets and participants respond to our Zoom

A wonderful event! Still glowing from the sense of purpose generated when poets come together for an important cause. Poetry forever!
Marsha Barber

Thank you all so much for what was an amazing event. Penn, Susan and Richard for your dedication to this cause, and all the poets and audience. It was deeply moving.
Yvonne Blomer

– it was deeply moving, and healing.  Thank you all!
Kate Braid

It was an extraordinary afternoon hearing all the poets read, relating to these dreadful events in Ukraine. The strange thing is that I didn’t realize how I needed to hear the human reactions, responses poetically—Facing this issue head on (through poetry) is, to my mind, part of the eventual reconstruction of world community.
Holly (& Allan) Briesmaster

Richard/Penn: Congratulations on an impressive Zoom launch! Of all the Zoom events in the past few years i have attended this was the most high profile and meaningful with poets caring about the Ukrainian crisis. Plus so many other topics that they are passionate about. I am so heartened Canadian poets are deeply engaged in the tragedies of the day. I look forward to seeing the anthology and am proud that when the history of these times is written there will not be a blank page for the poets.
David Brydges

Today, I spent almost two hours in zoom poetry reading for “Poets In Response To Peril” as organized by Canadian Poet Penn Kemp. When the invasion of Ukraine began, she wanted to put together a chapbook, but instead, the outpouring of Canadian voices created a full-length book.. within days. 
This is a really remarkable and quick effort, and the reading had me in tears as a poetry and people lover.  My cat enjoyed the reading as well. 🙂
The proceeds of the book sales will go to PEN Ukraine.
Please consider purchasing this book in support of the voices of Ukraine and PEN Ukraine.  email inquiries and orders 
Sarah M. Daugherty

My sincere thanks to Penn and Richard and the Library Zoom meister for arranging a truly astonishing afternoon of poetry, coast to coast. It was an honour to take part. Our poems now go out like prayers to Ukraine and , sadly, other places in our world where people suffering in peril may find a measure of comfort in our words. Poetry does have power. With love,
Caroline Morgan Di Giovanni

Our time together yesterday reminded me of a statement I made years ago. This is it: “Time is the storage place of our memories. And the human heart is the storage place of our tears. I have gone to that place of memories and visited where tears are kept. What I retrieved was the notion that poetry is delightful to the human spirit.” I hope your Sunday is restful and emotionally uplifting.
Albert Dumont

Congratulations on this impressive mobilization of poetic force in support of our allies and fellow artists under attack in Ukraine.
Neil Eddinger

These poets…so amazing…all of them.
Kim Fahner

What an event dear Penn, and such variety and diversity and even Ukrainian spoken! Brava! A huge life-changing Poets in Response to Peril event. Brava/bravo Richard and Penn!! The variety, poignancy, astoundingly creative and delightful videos all contribute to a masterful, memorable production. 
Katerina Vaughan Fretwell

​We were particularly interested in your latest book since it also benefits those affected in the Ukraine. What a beautiful endeavour that helps shed light on the dreadful situation expressed with poetry. It is so beneficial and of course, our residents love reading poetry!
Rebecca Gee

Dear Penn, Rico, Susan and all who made this special event possible…It was an emotional gathering of coast-to-coast poets and poems and I was honoured to be part of the outpouring of love and grief and hope at this time of peril.
Here’s to peace and freedom indeed!
Diana Hayes

Dear Penn & Rico,
Warm thanks for hosting such a wonderful event! It was fabulous.
I know it took a lot of energy to do that. You’re culture heroes!
Excellent reading. — It came out great!
Good to see and hear so many supportive authors!
A strong reading set! — The book extends vital support of Ukraine while condemning war.
What a massive job. Your combined energies on the reading, video and book are deeply appreciated.
Here’s hoping that the war will come to an end soon. 
The world stands against the atrocities.
It is good that Canadian writers also stand against such martial aggression.
Thank you for it all,
Sunflowers for Ukraine) 🌼🌼 🌼
Karl Jirgens

And thanks dear heart for all your continuing efforts. I love that the whole project began with the conviction that poetry makes everything happen…in its time.
Patricia Keeney

Such an amazing project! I hope the blog post, the project (and the new book!) get lots of well-deserved attention and love!
Renée Knapp

Thank you  Richard-Yves Sitoski and Penn Kemp for all the work you put into Saturday’s very moving “Poets in Response to Peril” event. It felt like a teaser for the upcoming anthology. Now I can’t wait to read “Poems in Response to Peril”.
Mary Little

Wonderful initiative, great event. And thanks to you Penn, to Richard-Yves, to Susan McCaslin who worked so hard to bring it to fruition. Thanks to Tim for the technical support. A great gathering. Splendid poetry. Now people should purchase the Anthology and help support Ukraine. But it was great to feel a part of the poetic community this afternoon. I look forward to reading the anthology. There were many powerful, moving poems this afternoon.  
Blaine Marchand

Dear Penn & Richard,
Thanks to you both for collaborating on this wonderful and meaningful event. I hope more books orders flow in. Thanks for all you are doing to get more poets’ voice out to the public, Penn. And thanks for the links you are providing to preserve people’s responses to Saturday’s amazing event. The event continues opening in ever-widening circles!
Susan McCaslin

Yes, thank you Penn, Rico, Tim, Susan, and all of my fellow poets for a most intense and meaningful event. I’ll remember it!
Susan McMaster

One of the poets said that she was falling in love with the community of poets on the zoom. Certainly, it was a wonderful group of poets, both in terms of their poetry and also their humanity. In the midst of sorrow about the war, there was also much beauty in the poets’ words…The breadth and depth of the poems shared by the poets was emotionally moving. Thank you again for putting together such a phenomenal project.
Ola Nowasad

I would like to order a copy of Poems in Response to Peril. I attended the Zoom event on April 2nd and it was phenomenal.
Lisa Reynolds

That was a very rich and varied collection of poems and poets. A delight to be a part of the gathering. Well done, organizers. Thanks!
Peggy Roffey

Sorry Penn for not to be able to participate at event with my voice. I was just ear but not voice. Anyway, I already doing my best with colegues writer here in Bosnia to help some of Ukrainian writer to find temporarry home here in Sarajevo and to be evacuate with great help of German Goethe Institute. I hope I am doing right, aven I have Memory of myself rejecting to leave Sarajevo with my two Children on the beginnig of four years long siege of my city starting 1992.
All the best to you and friends making that event possible.
Goran Simic
Because of a poor connection from Bosnia, Goran was able to be with us only “by ear but not voice.” How ironic, because the voices of those who have known war need to be heard! As this conversation points out:
Dear Mr Simic, (And Everyone else…)
I have not had the pleasure of meeting you, but I do know of your fine work, and have just now read two of your poems, It does not seem right that you could not share your voice at this event, particularly because in addition to your gifts as a poet, you are much closer in many ways to the bloody events unfolding in the Ukraine than many of us here.
Robert Girvan
Dear Robert, thank you for kind words about my poetry. I will be glad to record one of my poems to participate for video Message as Canadian/ Bosnian contribution of poets who alarm the world about attack on Ukrainian state, culture and history. All of my friends writers who survived siege in Sarajevo still feel alive the same scars watching destruction of city and civilians in Ukraina. But with pride for people not to give up struggle. I will do video asap because I spend most of my day on the hill keeping company to the four street abandoned dogs we adopted five years ago.
Goran Simic
Dear Goran,
Excellent! I look forward to seeing you and hearing your voice and words. The lucky ones who have not (yet) faced war, bow their heads to those who have endured it, and listen.
Robert Girvan
Goran has sent the video of his poem for
I hope you do too. His greetings from Sarajevo and the poem:

I am still feeling the pleasure of seeing you in your great blue and yellow costume, and the 
 honour of being involved in the  hours of poetic tension that was so invigorating,  even in the perilous present.
Elizabeth Waterston

All I can say is
Thank you and love to you.
You are a great inspiration,
your spirit, insights and grace
encourage me, inspire.
Sheri-D Wilson

Please let me add my voice to those who have already thanked the organizers and all who attended yesterday’s reading.  It was indeed a marathon and, as one of the final readers, it was gratifying to see how many people hung in through the whole reading in an amazing outpouring of solidarity, support and yes, love. As Richard has noted, if even a fraction of that positive reverse-bomb energy intervenes in places in the world where people’s lives are torn by violence, we will have done our bit for peace and for the sustainable future of humanity. I look forward to receiving my copies of the anthology. 
Susan Wismer

The Cover Reveal!

Poems in Response to Peril: An Anthology

Preorder now from!

Poems in Response to Peril: An Anthology highlights the work by 48 of our most committed Canadian poets, responding to the current crisis in Ukraine and other perils afflicting our troubled times. These passionate, often heartbreaking, poems offer us sunflowers and broken earth; intimacy and grief; falling bombs and the fragility of flesh; AK-47s and a bride’s bouquet. This anthology couldn’t be more timely and necessary.

Poems in Response to Peril is 125 pages of poetry that describe what Penn Kemp calls “a sharing of community, of heart space. Such an outlet for despair helps us—both writer and reader— to become activists. The poems encompass the entirety of human emotions, written and published in the white heat of this moment in 2022. The videos of readings by our contributors will be linked by q.r. code in the book! You can see 40 readings now up on

Poems in Response to Peril will be published in Spring, 2022 by Pendas Productions/Laughing Raven Press. Pre-orders are $25 plus postage. To order Poems in Response to Peril, please email Richard-Yves Sitoski,

 Here’s celebrating National Poetry Month with poems that move us to action! 

”Piercing Hearts: poets ‘are talking tough’ and their words make a difference”  The London Free Press, March 5, 2022,

Gary Barwin: Poetry Matters, from POEMS IN RESPONSE TO PERIL, Pendas Productions

From an Upstairs Window, Winter

Poem for the dregs of February.

Some years ago, I was commissioned to write a poem on L. L. Fitzgerald’s painting for the National Gallery of Canada’s magazine. Luminous Entrance: a Sound Opera for Climate Change Action was performed at Aeolian Hall in 2009 with Anne Anglin, Ruth Douthwright, Brenda McMorrow, Robert Menegoni, video by Dennis Siren, sound by John Magyar.

Here it is, performed: “From an Upstairs Window, Winter”.

And the same text in this gorgeous videopoem,
Electroacoustic music by Bill Gilliam. Images by Gera Dillon.

Here is the text:

From An Upstairs Window, Winter 

The sky is about four o’clock bay.
Icicles have dropped heavy white
tulips onto back kitchen rooves.
Soft snow is rising onto the air.

Maple buds set in their pale limbs
almost as if ready.  Our cultivated
tree prepares to join the bush outside
familiar lines where sharp angles collide.

Time to leave the window to its own
reality, condensed flat beyond the pane.
Supplies are low.  We have been so long
in winter, we are running out of sun.

On the shelf inside the storm, an empty
pitcher of light awaits sage and summer
savory.  All puns are planted.  We present
these things as if saying were enough to

conjure the perfect illusion of presence.


You can see where the poem’s title came from!

L.l..Fitzgerald, The National Gallery, Ottawa

Reads for International Women’s Day

This month, with comments:) In a time of loss and transition, I’m having trouble organising my mind, so I read instead of writing or editing. A book is so contained with its beginning, middle, and end. Covers we can close with a sense of accomplishment and of completion. I love how books weave around one other, sequentially, thematically, without my conscious intent. So grateful to London Public Library for their engaging and enticing collection! The dregs of winter: a perfect time for tomes and for poems.

Here’s my poem for IWD: “Choose to Challenge”, The video of my reading is up on

Recommended Reads for International Women’s Day and ON….

Angie Abdou, This One Wild Life: A Mother-Daughter Wilderness Memoir. In her dedication, Angie Abdou hopes the reader will receive the book like a long letter from a good friend. And it is: a sweet, endearing, sometimes heart-breakingly honest memoir. But earlier, the price of being so open was a devastating social media attack: Abdou describes the effects in this memoir of healing.  We learn what it is what Abdou plans to do with her “one wild and precious life”. During the Pandemic, it’s a lovely treat to hike in the mountains vicariously with her.  And oh, I loved her cottonwood!

Brit Bennett, The Vanishing Half. Many different ways of exploring identity and choice and choice’s consequences.

Natasha Brown, Assembly. Rachel Cusk, Sheila Heti and Bernardine Evaristo walk into a bar… and meet Natasha Brown. Assembly is honed stiletto-sharp, not a hair out of place, however the protagonist feels in classist, racist England. “Unfair”, whine the various white men who confront her in this short, perfect novel.

Catherine Bush, Blaze Island. Poignant and powerful writing set on Fogol Island, about climate change: “We were very quickly free of the city and out over the most vivid degree of blue permitted on this planet to the human eye.” “It looked like the earth had resisted the imagination of God or poets, I thought in exhilaration.” And this short, tender film from the text,​.

Sharon Butala, This Strange Visible Air: Essays on Aging and the Writing Life. Always brave, honest and necessary writing.

Clare Chambers, Small pleasures: a novel. So many charming pleasures: beautiful writing, engaging characters and utterly engaging plot.  A delicious read and reprieve from current events.

Sadiqa de Meijer, The outer wards
Sadiqa de Meijer, Alfabet / alphabet: a memoir of a first language
. “Or was there an influence of origins at work, an onomatopoeic element with ecologically ambient sounds and forms giving rise to each language?”
“I tried to contain where the words went, but there are submerged forces in writing—in the land-water realms of consonant vowel—that require our surrender.”
“a sort of sideways drift has taken place among the words”
“The untranslatable is inherent in all intercultural contact, where its particles may accumulate and become tropes of otherness.”

Junie Désil, Eat salt / gaze at the ocean: poems
“scudding back and forth through history”
“There isn’t a pastness”

Esi Edugyan, Out of the sun: on race and storytelling.
“In the 1800s, Black pioneers established themselves in Priceville, Ont., only to be eventually pushed out by European settlers. The only thing that remained of them was their cemetery.”

Louise Erdrich, The Sentence. Louise Erdrich herself reads the audiobook in a delicious rendition as funny as it is powerfully poignant. And the novel includes a bookseller called Louise! A ghost story that starts on Halloween 2019 and progresses through that annus horribilis till Halloween 2020: one long sentence of the present. Glorious!

Annie Ernaux, Hôtel Casanova: et autres textes brefs. Autofiction écriture at its finest in curious glimpses: “l’écriture, du rapport qu’elle a avec le monde réel.” My school French was good for Ernaux’s lucent prose, until the slang of dialogue…

Lucy Foley, The Guest List. A predictable but fun mystery set on a secluded Island… murder ensues.

Louise Gluck, Faithful and virtuous night
Louise Gluck, American Originality: Essays on Poetry. Essential and astonishing reading and re-reading for any poet and reader of poetry. “What remains is tone, the medium of the soul.”
“The silenced abandon of the gap or dash, the dramatized insufficiency of self, of language, the premonition of or visitation by immanence: in these homages to the void, the void’s majesty is reflected in the resourcefulness and intensity with which the poet is overwhelmed.”
“the use of the term ‘narrative’ means to identify a habit of mind or type of art that seeks to locate in the endless unfolding of time not a still point but an underlying pattern or implication; it finds in moving time what lyric insists on stopped time to manifest.”

Amanda Gorman, Call Us What We Carry. An astonishingly accomplished and moving collection.
The Muses, daughters of Memory inspire us.
“History and elegy are akin. The word ’history’ comes form an ancient Greek verb meaning ‘to ask.’” Anne Carson
Lumen means both the cavity
of an organ, literally an opening,
& a unit of luminous flux,
Literally, a measurement of how lit
The source is. Illuminate us.
That is, we too,
Are this bodied unit of flare,
The gap for lux to breach.”

Joy Harjo, Poet warrior: a memoir
In these quotes, you can experience her voice directly as written: “And the voice kept going, and Poet Warrior kept following no matter
Her restless life in the chaos of the story field.”“Every day is a reenactment of the creation story. We emerge from
dense unspeakable material, through the shimmering power of
dreaming stuff.
This is the first world, and the last.”
“The imagining needs praise as does any living thing.
We are evidence of this praise.”
“When you talk with the dead
You can only go as far as the edge of the bank.”
“Frog in a Dry River”

Vivian Gornick, Taking a long look: essays on culture, literature, and feminism in our time

Lauren Groff, Matrix: a novel. “Visions are not complete until they have been set down and stepped away from, turned this way and that in the hand.” Loved this celebration of mediaeval visionary Marie of France!

Bell Hooks, All about love: new visions. “Love invites us to grieve for the dead as ritual of mourning and as celebration… We honor their presence by naming the legacies they leave us.”

Min Jin Lee, Pachinko. Fascination depiction of a war-torn Korean family saga, now filmed. All too relevant still.

Maggie Nelson, On Freedom. I’m listening to Maggie Nelson ON FREEDOM ironically, given Canada’s truck convoy versus convoys to Ukraine. Oh, the loss of innocence in that word’s current associations.

Molly Peacock, Mary Hiester Reid Paints, Travels, Marries & Opens a Door.
A lovely study of painters and painting. Tonalists “connected light both to emotions—and to the sounds of emotions. Using musical vocabulary, like nocturne or symphony, they suggested that emotions could be heard through paint”. “tap into childhood to find the ‘transitional object;” as D.W. Winnicott calls it: “‘Our first adventures into reality are through the objects” with “vitality or reality of [their] own.”

Angela Szczepaniak, The nerves centre. A ten-act cast of characters: poetry in performance, poet performing! A study of anxiety, her titles from self-help with dramatis personae. My fave: Mime Heckler. Utterly uttered!

Lisa Taddeo, Animal: a novel is a ferocious diatribe against male sexual violence. Since the book is dedicated to her parents and she lives with her husband and daughter, I wondered about the story behind the novel.

Hanya Yanagihara, To Paradise. Nicely structured fin de siècle tome, over three centuries, based on Washington Square and similarly named characters not to mention Hawaiian royalty. Deja vu, David Mitchell!

Zoe Whittal, The Spectacular. Three generations of women negotiating current, changing times.  It’s complicated, very. Spectacular, if you’re 21.  I’d have liked much more from the oldest woman but it’s a long novel as is. Reminiscent of David Mitchell’s Utopia Avenue.

To remind us of spring…

Please join me on

Celebrating Gavin Stairs!

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Our beloved Gavin died on Thursday, September 16, peacefully at home, as he wished. Gavin was cremated on September 22. The process was complete at 3:21 pm EDT, the exact moment of the Fall Equinox. This time of Balance is propitious. Because of COVID restrictions, a gathering on October 17 to celebrate him is limited to 25 people, family only. We will celebrate him full-on with friends in the Spring.

Gavin’s huge spirit touched the lives of so many. We will be holding a celebration of his life at the home which we shared for the last twenty years around the time of his birthday in late April.

SO grateful for all your support, however it manifests, through these changes.

Love abounding,


Tributes to Gavin abound on his Facebook page and mine. So many kind comments and consoling blessings. Thank you! Here are some:

My son, Jake Chalmers writes: “Gavin Stairs, my mother’s gentlest protector, husband and spiritual companion moved on peacefully. Penn and Gavins love for each other for the last quarter century has been thorough and constant. They cherish each other, and we are so thankful for him and his dedications.”

My daughter, Amanda Chalmers, writes: “With a heavy heart, I am sharing the news of my mom’s life partner, Gavin Stairs, passing. He died on Thursday, September 16, peacefully at home. For those who knew Gavin, you will remember him as a gentle giant with a twinkle in his eye. Gavin was an extraordinarily wise, deeply spiritual, and thoughtful person whose calm, kind spirit created a ripple effect around him. He was devoted to my mom and her work and had a loving, playful side he shared with me and my kids. Gavin was cherished by Penn and our family and his presence will be deeply missed. We all wished we had more time with him.💖

Robert McMaster: “I am so sorry to hear of Gavin’s passing, not so much for him, I think his spirit was ready for the journey, but for you and all those that knew him. He was like the brother I never had, and one of the closest friends I’ve ever had. I felt honoured to be there with him…”. ❤️LOVE🙏BLESSINGS☮️TRANQUILITY and ☯️Balance in Life.”

Brenda McMorrow: “Gavin’s spirit lives on in my heart and mind. I have such deep and beautiful memories of times spent with him. I felt so connected with him and he will be surely missed in his physical form.” 

Glen Pearson: “I recall the wonderful talks the three of us had together at your lovely home. He was a person of keen insight and possessed a compassionate outlook. The thoughts of so many of us are with you.”

Lisa Maldonado: “Dearest Penn, my sincere condolences at this irreparable loss. I wish we had been able to spend more time with you both. Sending you much love.”

Jennifer Chesnut: “Gavin was a wonderful warlock from the world of light. He was wise, honest, gentle, witty… I’m so sorry for your loss.”

My fave photo of Gavin, meditating:

August 2021, several days before Gavin’s collapse

Baby, young man and elder: Gavin embraced Love embracing Love.

Gavin Stairs (1946-2021) was the publisher of Pendas Productions, a series of poetry chapbooks combined with CDs, based in London ON, from 2000-2014. Poets include Henry Beissel, Katerina Fretwell, Patricia Keeney, Penn Kemp, Daniel Kolos, Susan McMaster, Charles Mountford, and Gloria Alvernaz Mulcahy. He collected and fastidiously published Poem for Peace in Many Voices, chapbooks and CDs, in 136 translations and two volumes. Collaborative works included Sound Operas with musicians like Bill Gilliam and Brenda McMorrow. Gavin designed and produced these gorgeous books, CDs and DVDs from his den in our basement. How his generous, expansive presence will be missed.

Sage-ing, Summer 2021

Sage-ing With Creative Spirit, Grace and Gratitude

P. 25. Number 37, Summer 2021.

The Solstice edition of SAGEING is out, with fine articles by Susan McCaslin and John Lent. AND a review of A NEAR MEMOIR by Richard-Yves Sitoski !


Penn Kemp with Richard-Yves Sitoski 

Even as we are isolating in place during this long pandemic year, we need to conjure a sense of community… now more than ever, perhaps. These days, my community lives on-line and in memory through many decades. Because I think in poetry more than prose, my musings turned into a collection, A Near Memoir: New Poems, and I welcome the new connections my memoir is bringing to me.

Richard-Yves Sitoski

I write this at 4:36 a.m. on a mid-May morning, 56 weeks into a pandemic that has left me simultaneously enervated yet full of a need to move, to do. I have become my cat, essentially, alternating between endless hours of otium and brief instants of frenetic activity. Because my priorities need realignment and my insecurities ministrations, I have, like many, turned to poetry, greedily hoovering up biographical and autobiographical works in an attempt to feel rooted. Penn Kemp’s new chap, A Near Memoir, therefore arrived at an opportune time. Kemp looks at the body of her cat in “For a Small, Beloved Descendent of Bast.” There’s a wonderful juxtaposition here of the promised mythologizing indicated by the title with the very matter-of-fact description of the cat’s lifeless state, leading to a payoff at the end that takes us into Christopher Smart territory.
As the title indicates, her book is not a memoir – it can’t be, with only 23 poems – but rather a brief compte rendu of a life of dynamism and poetic invention. In its scope and concerns, however, it accomplishes one of the roles of a memoir, which is (to reverse engineer the paraphrase of Heidegger that serves as the book’s epigraph) to “empresent” the past and bring it near in a process that slows the future’s approach.
Context is key. Kemp situates the personal in the familial and the familial in the public, sometimes through slapstick satori slaps that take us out of our own egos – symbolic and physical falls to the “sous-face” of the Earth – and remind us that we are part of something bigger than we can possibly understand. In “Shooting the Duck,” a young Penn becomes resigned to figure skating, fails in the process of “enduring” her mother’s encouragement, and we find in her mother’s motives shades of vicarious living.

Shooting the Duck

During the snowy winter of 1952, when I was eight
mom drove me each week to the Arena for a figure
skating class. She outfitted me just right, in a navy
blue velvet skirt that just covered my bum, a white
rabbit muff that kept me warm, a pompom wool cap.
En route mom told me romances of skating to Silver.

But those nasty nicks on the skate blades would trip
me up just as I pushed forward. Even when I learned
not to topple over, I could not figure out how to shoot
the duck. The ideal was to hunker down till you were
nearly sitting on your skates, then to dart one leg out
like the barrel of a gun as you coasted along the ice.

Not me. Invariably I’d end up on my bottom, gangly
colt legs galumphing out in front of me. An older girl
skated graceful rings around the fallen and the splayed
in a swirl of perfection as glumly shivering we tried to
imitate her glide. Like an unwelcome, embarrassed dog,
our wet legging stench slunk into the arena’s crisp air.

But I’d been given a dime and a nickel. My reward after
class was a soggy and savoured cone of chips, best chips
ever, the paper cone soaked in salted vinegar, well worth
taking mittens off for and enduring mom’s encouragement
on the wet-bottomed ride home. She’d been an avid skater
on outdoor ponds and still had unwarranted hopes for me.

Her dream of Winter Olympic Championship held no sway.

Getting back to the importance of context, one of the most affecting pieces in A Near Memoir is “Circling the Gulf,” which to me articulates something that may seem heretical in the discourse surrounding mental illness: that what we call illness might very well be a rational, if not reasonable, response to trauma. How should we on the outside react to war? Is it not possible that the trauma of war can be visited upon some people not directly involved in conflict, simply by virtue of their extreme sensitivity to our shared humanity?
Kemp leaves it to you to decide; what she does tell you, however, is that the situation played out in her family in a very specific way which ought to be considered by all of us, as we are currently living through a nightmare scenario that will have emotional ramifications the likes of which we can’t honestly predict. which to me articulates something that may seem heretical in the discourse surrounding mental illness: that what we call illness might very well be a rational, if not reasonable, response to trauma.

A Near Memoir, then, is a stop along the way in a career that has given us much poetry and given much to poetry. It does what poetry is meant to do, celebrating the universal by highlighting the particular, and whets our appetites for what will come next.

Richard-Yves Sitoski

Circling The Gulf: A Gain A Loss, Ingrained

Signs proliferate as we pass by. Plastered on the auto dealership plate
glass: SAVE THOU SANDS SAVE THOU SANDS. Save thou souls,
save thy soul, grain of sand, rain of rant, cycles of want and plenty.

We are so defined by the stories we tell and those we as children hear.
For years, as I was growing up, ‘war stories’ were served with dessert
at the table. Over & over, I listened to my grandfather’s tales of leading
a regiment of Iroquois troops in battle on the killing grounds of France.

This warrior tradition emerged in my son in a fantastical, twisted way.
During an acute psychotic episode, he was hospitalized. His terrible
adventure, coinciding with the Gulf War, took on metaphoric overtone.
Even the word “gulf” looms between realities. Mind the gap, mine hole.

As a child, he listened to my father’s stories about his work as a bomb
disposal expert in Scotland during the Second World War. That stress
internalized by my son with dreadful accuracy. I believe a literalization
of memory occurs down generations all the time. Our work is to stop
the war in art and life so that the children don’t continue to enact conflict.

At the height of concern about the possibilities of chemical, biological
or nuclear warfare, he became convinced he himself was radio-active,
a bomb about to explode. Who is to say what his response to threats
of nuclear annihilation should have been? His was a tortured way of

reinventing personal history, of linking himself up with our tradition
of war service, of families disrupted by early deaths from wounds borne
on the field of battle. With the end of the Gulf War, my son recovered
and continues to celebrate family histories to this day as our memory

Penn Kemp

On Sunday, September 5, 2021, 7:30 – 9:35 pm, Kemp will be reading from A Near Memoir: New Poems as featured poet in the Red Lion Reading Series:
Kemp is thankful for a CAIP grant from the London Arts Council, allowing time to write these poems.
A numbered copy of A Near Memoir, signed to you, is available by writing to

Penn Kemp has participated in Canadian cultural life for 50 years, writing, editing and publishing poetry and plays. Her first book of poetry, Bearing Down, was published by Coach House, 1972. The League of Canadian Poets acclaimed Penn as their 2015 Spoken Word Artist and she is the League’s 40th Life Member. In 2020, she was presented with the inaugural Joe Rosenblatt (Muttsy) Award for Innovative Creators. In 2021, she was nominated for the League of Canadian Poets’ Pavlick Poetry Prize.

Richard-Yves Sitoski is a poet, spoken word performer, visual artist, songwriter and poverty activist from Owen Sound. His works have appeared in periodicals in Canada, the United States and Great Britain.


Heraclitus, Ongoing: a poem

Books I read are in the process of shaping, shifting
each time I open them. Not just pages but the content
won’t let me step into the same novel twice. Characters
talk back and letters dance jigs that won’t stand still.

Nor do I step into the same house twice. When I come
home, the front hall shifts to accommodate the change
I bring in my wake from outside realms. And the place
itself has contentedly settled within my absence.

I don’t step into the same dream twice. Oh, I try to return
to change the story, to divert the flow from disaster. But
the dream flips a new twist into its narrative, leaving me
to contend with eddies and currents I never suspected.

I don’t step into the same grief twice. Each has its own
taste, bitter, sweet or bittersweet, its intense specificity.
marked distinct and marking me. Every sorrow forms
a trail you know me by, sure signature of some loss.

I don’t step into the same life twice. Whether I step
into the same death is anyone’s guess: so many small ones
you’d think would prepare me, but who knows what
awaits us over on the other side, en la otra orilla.

I don’t leave my shoes on the bank and wade in.
I don’t recover what is swept away in the current.
Every poem hovers on the bridge over metaphor.
I don’t step into the river at all.

Penn Kemp

“Heraclitus, Ongoing,” P. 28-29.
Paintings by Jim Kemp, P. 49-50.
A Near Memoir: New Poems cover, P. 67.

Beliveau Review #8, June 2021
Scroll down,

Jim Kemp,
“Zen Burst”

Jim Kemp, “Moth”


Delighted to celebrate @MuseumLondon at 80, and on in this virtual show! 80mL 

What a grand collection, what marvellous company and innovative programming… and what interesting pairings!

Here’s mine:”Becoming”, matched with James Kemp’s painting:


Foxfire in the marsh leads viewers further
within, deep into mires of mixed illusion, to
the texture of coats applied layer upon layer.

Fairy lights float through bright tangle, tempting
me to follow those flames through impossible koan:

“What is your original face before you were born?”
Faux-fire, fool’s ghost among darkening shades—

how I wish I could meet you on that other side
beyond saturated green in gathering tints of paint —
Turner’s red daub lighting your masterful flourish.


“Becoming” was written in response to my father Jim Kemp’s painting in Museum London holdings.
The poem had to be exactly 80 words in length and it is.

My response to dad’s work is visceral, tinged with grief and an appreciation of his depths of texture.
Turner was a great influence on his paintings.

May, 2021.

Painting by Jim Kemp, Untitled, 1963