Solution: a poem

This poem is up on the front page of the current https://www.goddess-pages.co.uk/.

What a fabulous image to accompany the poem!

frogs

 

Solution

We two skalds sit together side by
each, looking out over centuries.

We watch the stirred pot settle till
murky situations sweetly clarify of

their own accord, attuned to an old
rhythm whose resonance is our song.

We watch the seasons’ rush, leaves
deciding on whether it’s spring or

fall. The creek is slowly turning into
pond, so water plants blithely tell.

And the frogs declare they’re home.
They’re not going anywhere else

now that our water levels equal
spirit level. Toads will return in

time to lay a million unimpeded
eggs, a myriad tadpoles and more

toads a fingernail long to bide a
while as lares in their garden lair

awaiting the Goddess.

Penn Kemp

Advertisements

Giving Voice To Age

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

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 as 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

“Giving Voice To Age”, the Winter issue of Sage-ing With Creative Spirit, Grace and Gratitude, P. 31. http://www.sage-ing.com/Sage-ing28.pdf

Photo: Colin Morton

Gavin and Penn. Photo by Colin Morton

A lovely book of poems from Aeolus House!

Here’s my review of Stanley Fefferman’s The Heart of All Music: Poems about Music and Musicians. Aeolus House, 2018. 52 pp. ISBN 978-1-987872-11-8. $20

Convergence is a word often used to describe the reshaping of our world by such forces as the Internet. This concept also applies to Stanley Fefferman’s latest collection, The Heart of All Music, which can be described, appropriately, as the convergence of a life-time of listening attentively to a wide range of musical genres.

It’s a treat when a poet takes a whole book to explore in depth a single subject. When the topic is music and the poet as knowledgeable as Stanley Fefferman, the result is a gift for all the senses. His work is varied in tone, mood and mode, given a perceptive ear and a gift for translating the complexities of musical experience into language. Fefferman employs a wide spectrum of forms, including prose poems that read like a possible transcription from his original review. The tone of the poems hovers between elegiac and celebratory, performative and prosaic, traditional and contemporary. This elegantly presented book is like a musical score in itself. The Heart of All Music sectioned in the four musical terms of a sonata: “Allegro, “Largo”, “Scherzo”, and the Finale, “Andante Cantabile”.

Fefferman’s preface describes the magic of listening to music. He declares “the feelings that came set off the language centres of the poet-in-me, and the music generated words.” At first I thought of searching YouTube to hear the pieces Fefferman describes. Then I realized that the poems themselves present a complicated translation that is this poet’s specific perception, “sharp as crackling bones/ that fall as feathers filling an entire hall”. The reader experiences Fefferman’s particular vision through his vivid imagery: “Debussy’s unique String Quartet unfolds a shimmer of antique silk/ embroidered with pizzicated rhythms of the new French enthusiasm”.

Metaphors translate the sometime psychedelic experience of a concert. The poet often describes one sense in terms of another, presenting the emotional range of a synaesthete. Indeed, Fefferman includes a poem to Alexander Scriabin, famous for his own synaesthetic correlations. Fefferman offers us fascinating imagery to describe specific works. His phrase, “crennellated patterns”, conjures an instant image of fortified battlements, an image immediately followed by “notes that roll/ like a silken standard in the wind”. We are thrust into a mediaeval scene to accompany Barrios’s “La Cathedral”.

Musicians play off each other; “the players spin solo threads”. Like the musicians Fefferman depicts, the instruments described in these poems have character, indeed personality. “The cello in the scherzo remains sardonic” after “jittery discourses that keen upward till they peter out /— a musical representation of life leaving the body.” Shostakovich’s final sonata is “the corvid utterance of Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘Nevermore’.” The cello continues “dialogues with itself/ among mutterings of ‘es muss sein’”—Beethoven’s motto in his last quartet. The phrase, “It must be”, figures prominently in  Milan Kundera’s novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being as well, designating an acceptance of fate. A line of poetry also interprets another string quartet in a phrase from Eliot’s The Waste Land. One art is presented in terms of another, engaging both feeling and intellect.

Fefferman’s commentary is a “solo series of precision shifts between attitudes of stillness and repose [that] encode/ a lifetime of contemplation” in a veteran’s “deep acceptance of the world as it is.” Blues, jazz, traditional folk and classical works, Fefferman covers and comments on it all, from O’Carolan to David Bowie to John Hammond to Mozart and Claude Vivier. Fefferman is at his best presenting female singers like Lhasa De Sela in one of his most touching laments, as well as poems to composers cut off too soon by war. His beautiful last poem, dedicated to Dvorak’s Piano Trio in E minor, is a spiritual resolution for both Fefferman and his readers:

“the sound of peace itself
a melody so exquisitely played
the mind is overwhelmed with pleasure
and comes to rest in its own place
like the reflection of sky in lake.”

Fefferman’s epigraph announces that he associates the heart of music with the moment of happiness that he is offering in these poems. Indeed, The Heart of All Music is a paean to Music and Musicians. The cadenced rhythm of these poems will resonate long after the last note, the final phrase. To paraphrase Rumi, in this beautifully produced collection from Aeolus House, “We have fallen into the place where everything is music.”

//

Poet, performer and playwright Penn Kemp has been lauded as a trailblazer, “a poetic El Nino”, and a “one-woman literary industry”. She was  London’s inaugural Poet Laureate . Her 2018 books of poetry are Local Heroes (Insomniac), and Fox Haunts (Aeolus House). See http://www.pennkemp.weebly.com.

This review is now up on http://bywords.ca/november2018/review1.htm, thanks to Amanda Earl.

Poetry Mini Interview

What are you working on?
 
My next project, LOCAL HEROES, Insomniac Press, 2018, celebrates legendary cultural heroes from London, Ontario. These poems evoke a specific city in its particular landscape and history. London’s literary and artistic heritage is documented, honouring artists in fields ranging from visual and language arts to figure skating. Presented as an overview, the collection stretches from Victoria explorer Teresa Harris to the contemporary arts scene. Local Heroes acknowledges the Indigenous peoples here, and the ongoing waves of settlers who have called the area home, as London grew from colonial outpost to vibrant cultural centre. Local Heroes spans time but remains in place.
 
Landscape shapes us by its distinctive atmosphere. Southwestern Ontario (Souwesto) is a peninsula bordered by two Great Lakes and by the United States. Local Heroes examines the works of artists who have been influenced by the pervading spirit of Souwesto. In classical Rome, a genius loci was the protective spirit of the local, depicted as a figure holding a libation bowl. London is situated in a bowl scraped out from receding glaciers. This bowl teems over with the productions of its arts through time. Why? What has made London a creative centre? As a mid-sized county seat set in the fertile farmland of Middlesex County, London is in the middle, entre lacs, between two metropolises, Toronto and Detroit, at the edge of the Snow Belt. Because it is so surrounded, London began as a garrison, a fiercely conservative British enclave that held tight to tradition and conventional mores. Artists who lived here could rebel, conform or leave.
 
The collection present three sections, in historical order. It opens with an exploration of the exploits of Teresa Harris, who escaped her corsets along with her colonial upbringing in London’s Eldon House. Like me, this explorer travelled widely for decades before returning home with memories and mementoes. The poems devoted to Teresa consist of outtakes from my play, The Triumph of Teresa Harris, that were best expressed as poetry. The middle section is What the Heart Parts, also produced as a play and a Sound Opera.When the Heart Parts is based on the life and death of her father, Jim Kemp, London artist and mentor of artists in the 1950s. In my work, poetry and drama intersect, the way two branches of the Thames meet at the Forks.
 
The second half of the book is a tribute to local London creators. I was lucky enough to grow up in an artistic household and so was introduced to many of London’s cultural icons. Anecdotes abound. “London Local Heroes” recognizes several of those artists who broke through conservative conventions to create and celebrate their own community. Cultural activists had to develop their own vibrant and exciting arts scene or be pulled away to the larger metropolis east or west of London. Transformation happens in the local, through the intersection of culture, art and geography that defines the regional. Local Heroes offers an empowering vision of regionalism: we are at our own centre, our own gravitational field, where activism is most effective. We are at the centre of a cultural cauldron where opposites mingle and mix. Here the arts are cultivated and emerge as rich as the farmland surrounding London. The centre not only holds but opens up to the world, rippling out in concentric circles.
Penn Kemp
For more, please see
by Thomas Whyte.

 

from Goddess Pages

Calling on Persephone

by Penn Kemp

A little early for Persephone to return
but how enticing is this pomegranate!
No wonder she was tempted to indulge!

https://www.goddess-pages.co.uk/calling-on-persephone-by-penn-kemp/

Pomegranate

Blessed be the lost ones, those who
left, in our opinion, too soon, whose
time, they say, had come. Blessed

be those whose lives have stopped
in their current form, the bodies we
know and miss. For it’s we who are

lacking, not they. Either they don’t
know any more or their essence has
dissolved to some fuller| plenitude

we too will come upon in our time.
Only the Goddess knows for sure
if we listen, if we reach out to Her.

Calling on Persephone, as seasons
darken, as night falls into autumn:
Take care of those we have lost.

*

As we age, the living dead increase,
surround us with presence, with gifts
of their kind, on offer if we realize

they are ongoing, just out of earshot,
beyond tangential vision. Out there,
behind you to one side, they linger

friendly—don’t worry— and ready
to offer advice, offer warning, offer
remarks that reflect a wider gnosis:

Archetypes of what they could have
become, given time or opportunity.
My friends, our dead are listening.

May be as memories fleshed real or
may be as hallucinatory flashes from
some other realm: does it matter?

Now that they are really no longer
matter but transcorporeal illusion,
their words, their nudges and sighs,

they still comfort us, familiar whiff,
where the senses condense off-stage
then expand beyond the peripheral.

*

May we bring their attributes to life
within us. For Persephone’s love
of flower, to surround Her in kind.

She will return; She always does, to
turn the wheel, to begin once more,
speaking the words of consolation.

May we live that gentle beauty for
her, ongoing. May She who loves
blossoms bloom again in our eyes

as we admire a purple pride of fall
garden. May Her essence enter us.
May we become what we might.

May She remember and remind us,
Mnemosyne, Goddess of memory,
inventor of the language we need

now more than ever. Speak to us.
Tell us the news in the old way we
once knew. Keep in touch, please.

©Penn Kemp

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

 

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/

428744_10151426851871939_1663732949_n