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.

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

PIERCING HEARTS. Poets ‘are talking tough’ and their words make a difference

By Joe Belanger, The London Free Press. March 5, 2022

Poets across Canada and around the world are contributing thoughts, voices and poems about the war in Ukraine to London poet Penn Kemp’s blog. Kemp, who has written two poems about the conflict in Ukraine, said she believes that poetry can make a difference because it’s a sharing of community. 

Photograph taken on Friday, March 4, 2022. (Mike Hensen/The London Free Press). March FORTH!

Lately, I can’t seem to get this classic Tragically Hip tune out of my head, nor the words of the late singer-poet Gord Downie:

Don’t tell me what the poets are doing

Don’t tell me that they’re talking tough . . .

Well, Gord, they are.

I’ve been humming that tune ever since an email arrived from Penn Kemp, London’s first poet laureate and a renowned poet, playwright and author.

The email advised that poets across the country and around the world are contributing their thoughts, voices and poems about the war in Ukraine to her blog, and will be sharing their words live on teleconference on April 2 at 2 p.m. Details on that gathering will be posted on the website to kick off National Poetry Month.

Kemp’s Friday blog post is titled A Gathering of Poets in Response to Peril.

She offers up two new poems inspired by the horrors of war in Ukraine.

In The Honorable, the Diss-, Kemp expresses her — and our — shock, anger, fears, outrage and determination to do something. It reads in part:

The Doomsday Clock counts down a

hundred seconds till midnight strikes.

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.

We all can let our government know how we feel; we can donate cash or goods. It’s clear the government of Justin Trudeau shares our feelings and expresses them through donations of military and civilian aid to Ukraine along with condemnation of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

As citizens, we also can support Ukraine with donations.

What can a poet donate? Seriously. Show me a rich poet.

But they have words, which can pierce, perhaps not armour, but certainly hearts. Can they have an impact?

“Yes, yes, yes,” Kemp declares.

“It makes a difference because it’s a sharing of community, of heart space. It creates empathy. It’s an outlet for our feelings of despair and helps us become activists, the writer and the reader. Poetry encompasses the entirety of human emotions.”

On Kemp’s blog, someone posted an anonymous quote found on a headstone where American artist Jackson Pollock and other artists are buried: “Artists and poets are the raw nerve ends of humanity. By themselves they can do little to save humanity. Without them there would be little worth saving.”

“That’s why I turn to poetry,” Kemp said. “It makes nothing happen, but it makes us feel empathetic; it expresses our sorrow and communicates it to our community and it reaches across languages to the heart.”

On Kemp’s blog, I find a contribution from one of her pals, award-winning Romanian-born American poet Andrei Codrescu.

“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!”

Kemp had a similar reaction.

“What prompted me was Putin’s threat of nuclear bombs, which would annihilate the world,” she said. “He’s a madman, one man wreaking havoc throughout the world.”

Perhaps there’s no more immediate proof of the impact arts and poetry can have on people than pop-rock’s Twisted Sister and its anthem, We’re Not Gonna Take It, which the Ukrainian people seem to have adopted as a resistance anthem.

And I love a tweet from Twisted Sister’s lead singer Dee Snider that brings into perspective the difference between the two issues dominating news today: the pandemic and the Ukrainian war.

“People are asking me why I endorsed the use of We’re Not Gonna Take It for the Ukrainian people and did not for the anti-maskers. Well, one use is for a righteous battle against oppression; the other is infantile feet stomping against an inconvenience.”

Yes, the arts, including poetry — words — can have an impact, piercing hearts and minds and the balloons of fools.

Yeah, the poets are talking tough.


Fast Poem for Ukraine

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 has.

The Honorable, the Diss-

We learn to pronounce Ke-ev, not
a single syllable spelt, not caving in
to the Russian Kiev, but keeping Kyiv.

How Chrystia Freeland pronounces
Putin’s name with an emphasis on
Pew, ew!, a diphthong of disgust.

As if an explosive P could repulse
this errant madman, could in a huff
and puff blow down that house of

cards, his arsenal now on high alert.
The Doomsday Clock counts down a
hundred seconds till midnight strikes.

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.

Video: ‘Shock and disbelief’: A London poet’s odes to Ukraine. Photo/video: Mike Hensen

A Gathering of Poets in Response to Peril


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 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’”:

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 with a video of my introduction to our project and a video reading of two poems for Ukraine up on Thanks to the LFP for their ongoing support of poetry! Here’s to peace with freedom!

Penn Kemp


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.” 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:

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

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.
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.’”
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

We will,
Wear this vast robe together
Repair the vast robe together
We will
Share ‘this’ – our one Vast Robe
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


Poet standing for Ukraine

Two Poems for Ukraine: Video: Mike Hensen

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!

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is gavin-by-robert-hogg-2.jpg

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.

For Ula, On Graduating Grade 8

May you keep on flying, Beauty!

And for Kai! And her cousins Ana, Matteo, Neveah, Olivia, Audrey, and Rowan.
And for all those who attended their graduation ceremonies virtually.

You can hear my reading:


In the space of a year Ula has learned to sit,
to stand, to walk, to totter forward in a run.

She has seen one full round of the seasons.
She wraps her family round her little finger.

Now just before dusk we stroll hand in hand
to witness the evening ritual of geese return.

Gliding along the Thames in formation, they
skim overhead, flapping slow time in synch.

She studies their procedure, dropping my hand
to edge forward, neck outstretched, arms aero-

dynamically angled. She flaps and flaps along
the bank, following their flight, ready for that

sudden lift. Again, again, till the last goose has
flown. Dragging her heels home, disconcerted,

she braces her body against the rising breeze,
bewildered that she too can’t take off to sky

but game to try again tomorrow, convinced
the birds’ secret will soon belong to her. 

Nanna Penn

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.


Resistance: an anthology

Resistance: Righteous Rage in the Age of #MeToo

 University of Regina Press. Sue Goyette, editor.

Thanks to U. of Regina Press and editor Sue Goyette and all the courageous contributors to this important anthology. May our voices help those who need to hear our words.

The launch of this anthology is up now on

Here is my contribution, the poem below and my reading, up at 29:30- 31:30 on RESISTANCE: the official launch.

My longer reading is up on “What We Know Now”,

What we did not know in 1972. What has changed.

It’s too late. He has jumped me, fallen on me, almost as
in love, catching his weight in his hands as they smack
against the grungy linoleum tiles I’ve wanted to replace.

The kitchen wall is rippling. The chalky ceiling bulges
as if it needs new plastering; as if something is trying
to pound through, something that can’t be contained.

A flash flood, a fire? My spine slams against the door.
My skull is permeable. I know what’s going to happen.

I don’t know what’s going to happen. Time expands to
include all the random possibilities of thought, of world.

Tectonic plates collide. I know that he erupts explosively,
a system under great pressure from without, from below.

His face balloons massively through the mist. I know him.
I know that drawn-down mouth, mask of Greek tragedy.

How often I have traced the dimple in his chin, a line from
nose to mouth where God pressed His finger: the philtrum.

His fingers close, blunt tips touching, the heels of palms
meeting as if in prayer. Relentless hands ring my throat.

Gold wedding ring presses deep into my gullet. Even in
absolute panic, my body responds to his closeness, dearly

familiar and almost kind. My breath stops, is stopped. My
breath holds itself, forgets itself under his thumbs, then

gasps. And is forced quiescent.

I have already disappeared up the smoky trail, out the top
of head into wide blue sky. A buzz as of bees in the cool

expanse of air. Strange croaks seem to start in my gullet
and travel up with me into the vast and empty. I am flying.

Mewling, I hover, open my new eyes to glimpse our roof, so
puny from this height. Beyond him, beyond myself, above.


Violent shaking startles me out of freedom: a sudden updraft.
I’m being pulled down the vortex of consciousness back into

a body I thought I’d surrendered. The sound in my ear, carol,
carol, and no song but choking, roaring. Nothing but his voice,
loud as Poseidon in a seashell in my ear. He’s really done it now.

I swim in an ocean of blood. Swirling red currents fill each cranny
of consciousness and this time I go under, diving, divining down.

When I emerge, he is gone but the room is swirling around me
in colours of other travels. Turkish scarlet cushions. Moroccan

striped curtains dance a jig of molecules that confuse my senses.
I am lying on the couch. I shut my eyes again, not to see. Not

to hear. His footsteps, running closer. Water, soaking my head.
I look at him. A yellow cast of fear lies over last red flares of rage

on his face. But the hands that hold the basin barely tremble. “If
you’ve quite recovered,” he announces, his voice oddly strangled.

“I’m off to town. Just take it easy. You’ll be all right!” He commands.
Irony of statement, concern of question or relief: it doesn’t matter.

Pain neatly divides head from shoulders. Voice creaks like something
inanimate outside its box. Words, the ability to make words— gone.

Phrases flutter and dissolve. “I’ll be all right.” Something automatic,
something ancient in me, is attempting re-entry. “All right. Just go.”

He is already gone, a flash of yellow bike. Silence except for
that buzz of wasps in my head. Wasp-words ring in my ears.


Can either of us remember what it had been about this time?
His jealousy of my phantom lover, the one that got away…

Who knew for sure what happened. What is this complicity
between us?  Already it’s as if nothing at all had happened.

We can talk to no one, certainly not each other, about
the sudden black holes, the mine-fields in ordinary
conversation that suddenly erupt. Because most often,

they are not there. The house is simply a house, the scene
domestic with cat and kids, and cauliflower on the stove.

I can talk to no one. I cannot talk. When I tried—family or
friends—all told me that it was none of their business. Not
to interfere. Not to know. I made my bed. Now lie in it. Lie.

When I did call the police, they listened intently to my story.
“Is the perpetrator your husband, ma’am?” “Yes.” “I’m sorry.

We do not interfere in cases of domestic assault. Thank you
for calling the Precinct.” The dial tone still rings in my ears.

And where could I go anyway, on my own with two kids
and no money and a body that will not move. Shame— I

wrap it around me to keep warm as if it were my own,
protecting me from the eyes of neighbours, hiding black

and yellowing bruises under sleeves and stockings. What
have I done? Dishes, drying in the sink. What has he done?

The fingers I’ve studied so closely, bald sentinels drumming
action. Beating to their own rhythm, the jazz that syncopates

sudden movement. My glasses hang by a wire arm, frame twisted.
Retribution, then contrition. Pain is finite after all. He comes back

begging. I pride myself on the ability to forgive that’s been bred
into me. A flip of power and I get whatever I want; he does what-
ever I want. Until resentment steams over again. Next time. No.


There will be no next time. There’s never going to be a next time.
This I believe on faith. This he believes on faith. When he returns

after the kids are asleep, he knows he has changed, knows his ire
has disappeared forever, as if it never was. I know there is no more

fear. I pray there is no more fear. We hold onto each other all night.
without a word. Stealthily, while his breathing deepens, I practice

opening and closing my throat for when the words come. If I could
speak. For when I will speak. My jaw creaks on its wrenched hinge.


His thumbs are imprinted on either side of my windpipe like black
sentinels. For days, I wear a long turquoise scarf and go around

pretending I am Isadora Duncan. Pretending I could fly. Secretly,
unwinding my scarf, I inspect the delicate progression of bruises.

A circle of yellow surrounds the thumbprint. I think I can make out
the actual whorls that are the perimeter. Black fades to purple, then

softens to a yellowish centre. In the mirror, that face that is not mine
looks out at me from the telescoped distance of time, wrinkled thin

with the patience of years. Her eyes clear and almost wise, assuring—
she is somebody I will become, the face I will grow into someday.

Penn Kemp

“It’s so important that the stories of the survivors be told and honoured. We are all one. Consciousness and the best forms of art go hand in hand and this is something your work demonstrates. The moment in “What we did not know…” that shone for me was the last one where you looked into the mirror and beheld your own face, knowing it as “The face I will grow someday.” And surely you have grown it and it has grown you. I’m glad poems about violence against men were included and hope that men and women will join together to address the systemic evils that allow such horrors to happen and be tolerated. Your tone was just right, not over-dramatized but authentic, each line finding the precise tenor and music to best accompany it as it moved from horror, to lament, through to healing.”
Susan McCaslin, author of Heart Work (Ekstasis)

“This is the strongest, most potent poem I’ve ever read about violation! Closely observed, the disassociation of flying over the rape, the denial, hope, lack of support of friends and authorities! the grounding in myth and history! The image of his wedding ring imprinted on her gullet is haunting and such a stark clear image of his physical violence! Brava and huge courage! Love in overcoming,” Katerina Vaughan Fretwell, author of Class Acts (Inanna)