Sitting Pretty: 9/11/2017

I love how Tuck Magazine publishes topical new political and occasional poems!
News that stays news. Now I can share this piece with you.

AFP photo

September 11, 2017

By

Penn Kemp

So Far Sitting Pretty

 

While Hurricane Harvey harasses Houston

While Earthquake 8.1 devastates Oaxaca

 

While Irma’s Eye widens over Florida Keys

and Trump remarks, “Just get out of its way”

 

While wildfires torch pine forests whole and

crossing continental divide, evacuate towns

 

While Trump’s toddler tantrums go nuclear

to defy Kim Jong-un’s asinine missile taunt

 

While race hatred rages in white supremacists

and America turns her tough back on Dreamers

 

While refugees capsize in unforgiving, fraught seas

While Britain’s Brexit divides ancient allegiances

 

While Buddhists slaughter Muslims in Myanmar

While women are executed in dishonorable killings

 

While nightmares confront war game apocalypse

and brinksmanship totters on the edge of Equinox…

*

Then tomatoes gleam scarlet in the green of harvest

and hummingbirds linger in sun before migrating

 

Caterpillar chrysalis becomes bright new Monarch,

folding and unfolding stiff wet wings for first flight

 

While September long shadows our yard in semi-annual

balance between light and dark. What can we maintain?

 

We have read about that perfect summer of 1914

before the dam burst in bloody floods of war

 

We recall an azure morning behind twin towers,

scorching flame brilliant on vertical pure white

 

We do not know recompense. We prepare equanimity

In a world out of control we are not without hope

 

Hope is left for last after all evils flee Pandora’s box

In calm arising before catastrophe, we sit and wait

 

Sitting ducks, perhaps, yet ducks with luck, imminent

ingenuity, feathers still unruffled by storm impending

 

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Fare Trade

Sustenance cover 2017

Sustenance: Writers from BC and Beyond on the Subject of Food. Rachel Rose, editor. Anvil Press Publishers, October, 2017. https://alllitup.ca/books/S/Sustenance#overview,

The anthology is launching October 22 in Vancouver! Wish I could be there but my poem will have to sustain:) http://writersfest.bc.ca/festival-events/sustenance-a-feast-of-voices/

Sustenance anthology 2017

Here’s my contribution to the feast:

“Fare Trade”

I would eat local food only were it not for temptation.
A green invitation of open avocado in emerald halves.
An alluring variety of mango hot to eye, cool to tongue.

The seduction of dark chocolate.
The slurped fulfilment in oyster.
The simple necessity of rice.

Otherwise, I would be content with my yard’s fall produce.
But having tasted the world’s fare, how to return unjaded
to simple pleasures that this ground offers?  Beans.

Corn.  Squash.  Corn.  Beans.  The three sisters thrive.

Yes, I will eat local food mostly.  Except for.   Except for…
Accept.  Chocolate.  No chicory compares to caf頡u lait.
Ole!  Import coffee; import tea!  Import taunt.

On to political rant: our food too cheap, our farmers ruined.

Our eyes closed, we rest easy, spoiled ripe fruit in the docks,
turning sleepy to sun-rotten.  Given so much, we reach for more

even when over full.  And poems break off as the lunch bell rings.

Penn Kemp
from Luminous Entrance: a sound opera for climate change action

“Fare Trade” is published in Barbaric Cultural Practice, Quattro Books.
http://quattrobooks.ca/books/barbaric-cultural-practice/

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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

Love Hope Opt 11779840_10152952905252051_2078125788695655817_o

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

wordsfest-belanger

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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.

performing-women-2016

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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