Poem for an Awful Inauguration

January 20, 2017

This Awful Inauguration day augurs so
dimly for us all, and we aren’t even in
the United States. The world awaits

uncertain of outcome, certain only that
meanness prevails of heart and intent.
We’ve dropped into the well of offal.

An Awful Inauguration day augurs well
for the unduly rich but poorly for poor
and dispossessed, for poor middle class.

This Awful Inauguration day augurs ill
for Obamacare, for the health of a nation,
for all illegal aliens and for alienated arts.

This Awful Inauguration day augurs dimly
for us all, and we aren’t even in the Year
of the vain Fire Rooster till January 28.

O weather vane, you parade your lies as
truth. You spin with the wind. You turn.
You twitter and trumpet trust topsy-turvy.

This Awful Inauguration day crows triumph
for the cock of the walk, king for a day, or
another four years. We withhold, withstand

his very dangerous flash in a very wide pan.
But we don’t withdraw. We march, we hold
on, hold to, truth as we know it. We refuse.

We are other. We are alien. We protest: these
Auguries of Inauguration are not innocent.

Penn Kemp

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Review, Barbaric Cultural Practice

Adebe deRango Adem, Quill & Quire, December, 2016.

“Down the paths of most resistance”!

This review truly gets the book, I’m grateful to say!  It’s available for $18 from

quattrobooks.ca/books/barbaricculturalpractice/.Quill & Quire.p40.review column December 2016.jpgbarbaric-cultural-practice_front-cover

Ode for the Feast of Words

WORDSFEST is happening all weekend long at Museum London: see http://www.wordsfest.com/

http://www.lfpress.com/2016/11/03/words-fest-gives-instant-feedback
Send your responses about the Festival to http://www.wordsfestzine.com/. Work for this zine will be collected from Festival-goers on Friday and Saturday, then published and launched at the Rhino Lounge in Museum London Sunday, Nov. 6, at 5pm. Whew! Here’s my poem for the zine:

Ode for the Feast of Words

Our London Muses, amused, proclaim:

Come join our Museum feast in joy

of joining, reading, weaving a way,

riding a wave, waving a welcome,

well, come in then. Here. Hear!

Attendance’s high, attention is close.

Words are our vocation, invoking

the vocative, pro vocative, calling us,

calling on us, call sure, culture, meeting

our many cultures, collected. Whatever

the weather, we conjure com pose

words worth envisioned, inclusive in

terms of the other, for all our sakes.

Describing the arc, friends collect and

meet new, gathering poets in harmony |

with other authors.  Rhythm rhymes us.

Creating community, fusion delights

this spacious collective, call elect if

held in the London community bowl.

The Graces are present, spirits high.

Lift the cup and dance, sing, speak, tell

the tale told, win, write welcome.

O may the best manifest

fest if all festivity

Cheer and exult.

Hail and salute!

Here, here!
Penn Kemp

http://www.lfpress.com/2016/11/02/wordsfest-authors-and-eager-fans-come-out-from-under-the-covers

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Photo: Toban Black

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A Year of Reading Dangerously: Memorial

Notes on Alice Oswald’s Memorial: a version of Homer’s Iliad
with an afterword by Eavan Boland.  W.W. Norton & Company.

“Like fire with its loose hair flying rushes through a city
The look of unmasked light shocks everything to rubble”

Alice Oswald’s Memorial: a version of Homer’s Iliad is a merciless, fully compassionate and all too relevant reading of The Illiad. This short, immensely weighted book drops the unresponsive body of narrative to reveal a poetry of pure heart: “I write through the Greek, not from it— aiming for translucence rather than translation.” Memorial is heart-rending into its specificity, enumerating the names of the dead in a litany reminiscent of Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veterans  Memorial. I almost wrote ‘fallen’, the word of memorialists since the Great War.

Oswald enlists “‘enargeia’, which means something like ‘bright unbearable reality’. It’s the word used when gods come to earth not in disguise but as themselves. This version, trying to retrieve the poem’s enargeia, takes away superfluous narrative. Instead, Oswald evokes through similes traditional Greek pastoral and lament. But why or why does she not use the more assuaging and mellifluous ‘as’ instead of the obstreperous ‘like’ when introducing her similes… Perhaps she prefers the bluntness of ‘like’.

I misspelled history as ‘histroy’ and Spell Checker suggested, appropriately, his Troy. “The Iliad is a vocative poem. Perhaps even (in common with lament) it is invocative. It always addresses Patroculus as ‘you’, as if speaking directly to the dead… a kind of oral cemetery”. The poem presents in a phrase or epithet a man’s whole history as well as the manner of his death.  The olive tree is granted slightly more space in Oswald’s astonishing simile of life’s cycle:

“Like a man put a wand of olive in the earth
And watered it and that wand became a wave
It became a whip a spine a crown
It became a wind-dictionary
It could speak in tongues
It became a wobbling wagon-load of flowers
And then a storm came spinning by
And it became a broken tree uprooted
It became a wood pile in a lonely field.”

Another Alice Oswald was my English teacher at Medway High School: a dry stick we considered ancient. A dry stick who would burst to flame when reciting Keats’s ode. The image on the cover of PERFORMING WOMEN honours that flame as well.

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Creative Age Festival 2016

My poem, “Double Vision“, celebrates the Creative Age Festival in London ON!

Photo: Kathy SmithPhoto by Kathy Smith

Double Vision, i

Age is the phase for integration as we enter
the violet sphere, embracing shadows in
whatever form they appear, welcoming all.
We wear our lives on our faces, to be read.

We have stood in bright glittering sunshine
long enough. We have given to the world
what the world required. Now we inquire
what we ourselves need to feel complete.

We enter understanding, standing under all
we have done, all we are. We rest in the full
spectrum of fulfilment, scanning the span of
a moment’s totality. Time out of time expands

to include our whole life, with its possibilities
realized or still potential, yet to be enacted,
expended to the rest remaining to us, doubling
to manifest or stay outstanding as life allows.

Now is when to remember just who we entered
this world to become. To gather, to recollect, to
recall, to weave into a basket of plenty and pass
our basket of us as bequest on, nest for the next.

None of our history is lost. It lives in the present
as presence. We are the legacy we leave and
that which we’ve received, stretching back over
generations. We hold in our palms the prints

of past, present and unknown epochs to come.
What brings us to wisdom, this transmission
of all we are? Our grandchildren might hear
what our offspring may not yet have learned.

For our wisdom to ripen, we need shelter, a
place that respects us so we may continue
to live the love that is antidote to fear, free
of want. Where we can reflect upon, reflect

back gleams of insight gleaned from living
well, unhampered. May we listen to our body.
Despite the indignities our flesh is heir to, we
attend to aches in organs hitherto unknown.

Photo by Marque SmithPhoto: Marque Smith

 Double Vision, ii

Now we understand why old folks walk as
they do, not from choice, but because knees
don’t bend and ankles tend to give way. We
see our parents in the mirror and marvel at

the flight of time, knowing that inside we feel
thirty or forty max., on good days. We know
the limits our younger selves blithely ignored,
growing up, growing over the lump in our heart.

As we enter elderhood, may we burn up rather
than rust away, till we are entirely retread, ready
for whatever awaits. Retired, may we try again,
treating ourselves as well we need be treated.

May our inner weather be sun-dappled no matter
what. May we recognize in the mirror the others
that we were, as we are. May we elders be seen
as lineage-holders, holding the mirror for the next

generation down the line and on. May we be heard.

Penn Kemp

This poem was  published in Cautionary Tales: Giving Voice to the Elders (2015) for the League of Canadian Poets Feminist Caucus Archives.  The original version of “Double Vision” was commissioned by Gina Barber for the Age Friendly London Report.  It was recorded by Dennis Siren on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4B8DOIfinOs.

Photos are from Creative Age Festival 2015, in the London Public Library Rotary Garden.

Photo: Bernarda Norwood

A poem for Wonder Woman on All Hallows

And all is Hallowed.  When the veil between the worlds is thin… this poem for you.  In Wonder.

Here’s to the magic of the changing season…

A story about this poem on http://metronews.ca/news/london/1200230/audio-london-poet-penn-kemp-talks-halloween-and-wonder-woman/ !

Her Orbit of Ellipsis

My granddaughter is going as Wonder Woman
for Halloween. She’s practised swinging her
Lariat of Truth so I’m reading up on Artemis,

protectress of young girls and the archetype for
our current Wonder Woman. Arrow to hand, she
alights on the mark, drawing the bow on intruders.

Artemis herds her young artoi, girls of eight or so
away from polis, the city, into wilder woods where
she reigns Queen and they her willing apprentices

stay till puberty. Artoi, little Bears, they follow
their Great Bear into the chase and Orion hides,
the hunter hunted and flung out to constellation.

My granddaughter has gone trick or treating and
returned with a gleeful sackfull of eternal returns.

Penn Kemp

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For Amanda, Ula and Kai Chalmers.

This poem is published in http://www.goddess-pages.co.uk/three-poems-from-penn-kemp/.

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Music from 19th C. Upper Canada, Poems from the present

Come to Eldon House Interpretive Centre on March 8, 2:30 pm for Music of the Harris Family and Poems from Possessions: The Eldon House Poems!

Eldon House Interpretive Centre, 481 Ridout Street, London ON.  $20. For tickets, call 519-661-5169.

Featuring Rachel Snow, soprano, Sigmar Martin, violin, Stephen Holowitz, piano and James Reaney, narrator

Special Guests from Poetry London reading from Possessions- The Eldon House Poems.

The spirit of nineteenth century London Ontario comes to life with presentations of music discovered in the Eldon House archives and other favourites of the period,

See James Reaney’s http://blogs.canoe.ca/brandnewblog/entertainment/eldon-house-ic-will-rawk-on-march-8/, http://www.lfpress.com/2015/03/06/my-london-harmonious-history-revealed and https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1001660329853682&fref=ts

I will be reading my poem, “The Dream Life of Teresa Harris”, from the anthology Possessions: The Eldon House Poems. The poem can be heard in my CD, Night Vision (Pendas Productions). It’s performed with singer/songwriter Brenda McMorrow and me on this videopoem by Dennis Siren: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XO4_aJpvqjE&list=UUExB7YpDG2lBqqRtH06GIKg&index=67, filmed at The Aeolian. This poem portrays the dream life of 19th century Londoner, explorer and world traveller, Teresa Harris. She was the youngest daughter of Eldon House’s Harris family. The poem developed into the play, The Dream Life of Teresa Harris, presented at Eldon House in September, 2013.

Scenes from the play to get you in the mood:

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Photos by our art director, Daniela Sneppova