Listening to the River

“London poet Penn Kemp helps explore identity at Wordsfest”

The Thames River moves swiftly through London’s Kilally Meadows, a turn in the river at the end of Windermere Road that is eating away at the bank, carving a new history in its journey.

It’s here on the Thames, two kilometres from her childhood home that poet, spoken word performer and playwright Penn Kemp has found inspiration that culminated in River Revery, her 31st book of poetry and drama.

It will be launched Saturday at the sixth annual Words, London’s literary and creative arts festival, also known as Wordsfest, being held at Museum London Friday through Sunday.

Wordsfest will feature 40 Canadian authors, poets, writers, songwriters and other literary stars. It’s a “celebration of creative ideas, artistic expression and cultural diversity,”  where the concept of identity will be the theme.

“The Thames River is the very centre of London – look at the forks downtown – the very heart of the city, the flow, the current and the influence,” said Kemp, sitting under a sunny sky days ago a few metres from the river.

In Kemp’s new book is the poem Riparian, inspired by the place where we had just been walking and this excerpt reflects our view:

Woodcocks drum in May at Kilally Meadows as
mallard mothers introduce their pride to water.

Cattails sieve sediment in the marsh. Let alone.
Carrying on. There a dead ash stands undercut by
spring current sweeping without resistance among
dangled roots. On topmost branch, the local osprey,
intent on a shoal of suckers suspended in shadow,

catches sunlight, breast gleaming, before plummeting
with curved claws to pluck family breakfast.”

On Saturday at 1 p.m., Kemp will be in conversation with Diana Beresford-Kroeger, an author, medical biochemist and botanist who wrote the forward for River Revery.

Beresford-Kroeger is the author of several books, including To Speak for the Trees, released in September. She was named a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in 2011 and named by the society as one of 25 women explorers of Canada.

The Thames, its tributaries and the land it flows through is the land of Kemp’s childhood, where she wondered and dreamed and played and ran and walked and rode a bike.

The river meanders through her work, including her plays about Teresa Harris, The Dream Life of Teresa Harris (2013) and The Triumph of Teresa Harris (2017).

Harris was born in 1839, youngest of the 12 children of Royal Navy Capt. John Harris, one of the city’s earliest settlers and builder of Eldon House. The house was owned by the family until 1960 when it was donated to the city as a museum, while much of its property along the Thames became Harris Park.

Teresa, an independent minded adventurer, inspires not only Kemp’s work but also her heart.

River Revery, dedicated to Kemp’s grandchildren, is not just a book of poems; it’s a collaboration with London artist Mary McDonald, who provided photos and animations to support Kemp’s words. The website riverrevery.ca includes the full breadth of the work, which was first revealed at last year’s Wordsfest.

Kemp is also a wealth of knowledge about the Thames. She tells me the Thames is called Deshkan Ziibi (Antler River) in the Ojibwe language, but it was named by Lt.-Gov. John Graves Simcoe after its British namesake – a name itself rooted in the ancient Celtic language and meaning the Dark One.

“I really think we need to return to listening to what the river and the land are telling us,” said Kemp, a lifelong environmentalist and activist.

“Ever since I was a tiny child, I’ve tried to articulate the mystery not expressed in words – the river, trees, the birds – . . . and I’m still trying to translate the mystery. I believe if I’m listening I can hear one maple.”

Kemp gets irritated with anthropomorphism of nature by people making it appear and behave as a human being even though the rivers, trees, animals and land are distinct entities.

“The land is not limited to our sensibilities or understanding and comprehension,” said Kemp.

“That’s where the listening comes in . . . We’ve been trained to project, transfer our humanness values to nature and the truth is nature is so much longer lived. It has its own life. It breathes so much longer than we do. We have to get back to honouring the land as the Indigenous People did before colonialism.”

Kemp said the Thames is more than a “metaphor” of the identity of London. “It’s the reality of our identity, staring us in the face, asking for recognition, to be honoured and valued, not just to be used,” she said.

Wordsfest artistic director Joshua Lambier said the festival’s theme of identity is about “re-imagining Souwesto” referring to name coined by the late London artist Greg Curnoe for Southwestern Ontario.

Lambier said identity will be explored from a variety of angles, including the “notion of the Forest City,” which Kemp and Beresford-Kroeger will explore, and the relationship between “creativity and identity,” which a panel hosted by award-winning author Nino Ricci, the Alice Munro Chair in Creativity at Western University, will discuss Saturday at 4 p.m.

“The great thing about Wordsfest is the diversity of the content, so there should be something for everyone,” said Lambier.

“We try to bring the Western University campus downtown to the people of London who want to meet and see national authors, but also our local writers who will all be discussing new ideas, new books, new artistic approaches.”

Joe Belanger, The London Free Press, October 31, 2019

GOING WITH THE FLOW: Kemp a natural at Wordsfest C1

London poet helps explore identity at sixth-annual Wordsfest

Penn102019 Belanger

Photo: Joe Belanger

Believe…

In the space of a year she 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.

believe 2018 Mary McDonald

 

Presenting RIVER REVERY

My new collection of poems is available from https://insomniacpress.com/new-releases.

RIVER REVERY

Rivers are often used in mythology to represent boundaries; to cross the river is to transform. The poems in RIVER REVERY reflect the river Thames as it winds through the city of London, Ontario. Because the Thames forks into two streams at the city’s core, it was called Askunessippi, “the antlered river,” by the original Algonquin inhabitants. For Indigenous communities, it is “Deshkan Ziibiing.” In re-naming the river the Thames, English settlers colonized forbidding new territory as an imitation of ‘home,’ rather than embracing the vibrancy of the river as it is. A distillation of ecological concern is a current necessity in RIVER REVERY. Such inspiration in poetry is one source for right action since the Thames waters our gardens, real and imaginary.

Poetry  ·   $19.95  ·  Trade paperback  ·  ISBN 978-1-55483-238-5 ·  122 pages  ·  5″ x 8”

River Revery

The London Free Press is marvellous at supporting local arts. Check out this interview on RIVER REVERY at Killaly Meadow! https://lfpress.com/entertainment/books/london-poet-helps-explore-identity-at-wordsfest?fbclid=IwAR0KU-ArMTmBwAmQ5IhMXix-Lm-QhSrlOCEWMBLF3_gywQS3uFy3gtk8p88

RIVER REVERY was launched at the glorious WORDS: The Literary and Creative Arts Festival Museum London!  I was honoured to be “In Conversation” with Diana Beresford-Kroeger. An indomitable visionary, Diana was launching her essential new book:

To Speak for the Trees: My Life’s Journey from Ancient Celtic Wisdom to a Healing Vision of the Forest  

Our conversation was moderated by beloved rogue psychiatrist, Nina Desjardins to a full house, with lively audience participation.

All fired up! A triad of women offer the courage and resilience of heart, imagination and action to face climate change and tip the balance towards recovery.

Penn Nina Diana Jake Wordsfest by PatriciaWith Nina Desjardins, Diana Beresford-Kroeger, me and my son Jake Chalmers at the book signing after our Wordsfest “In Conversation”! FUN! Thanks, everyone for filling the hall… and THANKS, Wordsfest! My reading from RIVER REVERY  was sponsored by The League of Canadian Poets. https://pennkemp.wordpress.com/2019/09/15/river-revery/

The video of “In Conversation” with Diana Beresford-Kroeger was recorded by the ever-brilliant Dennis Siren: https://youtu.be/lf_apKTzpgQ, for all those needing inspiration!
A poem from RIVER REVERY is in the 2019 http://wordsfest.ca/zine.

My reading was funded by Canada Poetry Tours, The League of Canadian Poets @canadianpoets and the Canada Council for the Arts,

.Poets logo    logo

RIVER REVERY features photographs by Mary McDonald and QR codes linking to poetry films by Mary McDonald and by Dennis Siren.

Animations and sound explorations of several of the poems by media artist extraordinaire Mary McDonald are up on RiverRevery.ca as well as news about the poetry films: they are shown in festivals everywhere! You can add to this community project on #RiverReveryLdn. An Augmented Reality, multimedia animation collaboration, with thanks to @LdnArtsCouncil #CommunityArtsInvestmentProgram

RIVER REVERY is dedicated to my grandchildren, Ula and Kai… and to all the grand children who will carry on!

Shall we rename the Thames? The Antler River!

Yours in the current’s flow,
Penn

FOX HAUNTS is ready to trot!

FOX HAUNTS isn’t officially out till September, but foxes are sly and appear unexpectedly, those tricksters. Here’s a delicious first review by poet Stanley Fefferman: http://opusonereview.com/?p=4769!

Penn Kemp’s FOX HAUNTS reviewed by Stanley Fefferman

Penn Kemp. Fox Haunts. Aeolus House, 2018. 97 pp.

The way suburban garden fences are a line the fox crosses from the countryside to steal our chickens, is like the line fox, since time immemorial, has crossed from the countryside into our myths, into our dreams, into our literature and our language. Shenanigans is derived from the Gaelic word for fox. A skulk of foxes is the collective noun. Jimmie Hendrix sang of his “Foxy Lady.” And here is a stanza from Penn Kemp’s poem to Inari, the Shinto fox-god deity:

Fox girls dance beneath the twisted maple

calling their sister to tranform from mist

as beguiling women with red in their hair.

Fox Haunts, Penn Kemp’s 24th collection, is a meditation in 90 poems on a predator who is our closest neighbour, one who is getting closer all the time as it’s habitat yields to subdivisions. The longest section of Fox Haunts, entitled “Urban Fox,” consists of poems about foxes Kemp might have encountered: her writing can be elegant.

It’s true you walk on toes like cats

like a ballerina of the wildwood.

Kemp empathizes with the drama of the hunt, the inside as well as the outside of it.

 

Fox circles her prey, closing in

on her victim in ever tightening

gyres. Her fixed glare freezes

poor rabbit into terror so pure it

dissolves to acceptance, suspended

acquiescence, adrenalin overload.

Almost like peace. Soft as comfort,

this compliance in the fox’s grasp.

Just a single shriek before the

neck snaps.

At her best, Kemp’s narrative and poetry are transparent. She has variance in her voice: sometimes she addresses her images directly to the fox:” I come upon your prints on/muddy path, neatly, deliberately splayed.” Sometimes, she drops into a journalistic mode and addresses the reader directly in what sounds to me like chopped prose: “Like Canada Geese, Fox may/be adopting city life to avoid/ hunters, the tough slog of/country life. Clever fellow.” Only to follow that with a passage of the most startlingly direct poetry:

 

They look upon the easy prey of pets, soft

and vulnerable bichon frisés left outside

by themselves in the yard, those with no

defense but a petulant, startled bark —

before they are meat, carried off dangling

in the soft jaw of a mother triumphantly keen

on feeding her kits.

 

Kemp is ‘entranced’ with the world of “Wily wiry trickster tales,” and devotes a section to ‘Fox’ references in the writings of Taliesin, Ovid, in the legend of Samson, in other Hebrew Scriptures relating to Solomon and Ezekiel, in Aesop, W.B Yeats and St. Exupéry, Akiro Kurosawa and Alice Munro whose father raised foxes for fur on a farm where he also kept ” Old horses in the barn waiting/their turn to be fed, to be feed.” As for the night sky, Kemp puts fox in the constellation Canis Major and Canis Minor, These bits of Fox arcana bring into close focus the mythical resonance of that beast in the human imagination.

 

After having the pleasure of reading Fox Haunts, and of writing down these few thoughts, I look forward to more hours with the book, looking into the stories behind lines like:

 

Fetch Laelaps, a bitch commanded to catch all

she chases. Let her seize that Teumessian fox!

 

Fox Haunts is one those rare books that can become a companion.

ABOUT PENN KEMP.  She has been dubbed “a one-woman literary industry” as London, Ontario’s inaugural Poet Laureate and Western University’s Writer-in-Residence. Kemp was the League of Canadian Poets’ Spoken Word Artist, 2015. Her website is www.pennkemp.weebly.com

https://www.stanleyfefferman.com/blog/fox-haunts-by-penn-kemp-a-review-by-stanley-fefferman

This poem is in my forthcoming FOX HAUNTS which can now be ordered! https://www.amazon.com/Fox-Haunts-Penn-Kemp/dp/1987872142/ref=sr_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1525695775&sr=1-5

I’ll be launching FOX HAUNTS on September 9, 2018, 4-6 pm. Launch, Aeolus House poets: Ariane Blackman, Brian Cameron, Stanley Fefferman, Tom Hamilton, Penn Kemp and Colin Morton. Pressed (waffle house), 750 Gladstone Ave, Ottawa, ON K1R 6X5. (613) 680-9294. Contact: Allan, abriesmaster@outlook.com.

Sunday, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 7-9 pm. Launch, Aeolus House poets: Ariane Blackman, Brian Cameron, Tom Hamilton, Penn Kemp and Sydney White. Supermarket Restaurant, 268 Augusta Ave., Toronto. Contact: Allan, abriesmaster@outlook.com.

 

The Triumph of Teresa Harris March 22-25 at The Palace

http://www.palacetheatre.ca/shows-and-events/2016/9/8/the-triumph-of-teresa-harris

www.eldonhouse.ca

The Palace Theatre and Eldon House present The Triumph of Teresa Harris
Procunier Hall, The Palace Theatre, 710 Dundas St., London ON. 519-432 1029.

The indomitable explorer Teresa Harris returns to London in Penn Kemp’s new play

The Triumph of Teresa Harris!

Her adventures are on stage in 5 Performances…

Procunier Hall @ The Palace Theatre 710 Dundas Street London, ON, N5W 2Z4 Canada

Press

“From the pen of Penn Kemp”, http://www.thelondoner.ca/2017/03/08/from-the-pen-of-penn-kemp

“Writer revisits adventures of heroine Teresa Harris” https://www.ourlondon.ca/community-story/7165300-writer-revisits-adventures-of-heroine-teresa-harris/ by Mike Maloney

“Two productions by poet Penn Kemp celebrate 19th-century London woman who ‘untied the corset strings’” by Joe Belanger
http://www.lfpress.com/2017/03/03/two-productions-by-poet-penn-kemp-celebrate-19th-century-london-woman-who-untied-the-corset-strings

Bob Smith interviews Penn about March events celebrating Teresa Harris: http://www.rogerstv.com/daytimelondon
The video is up on http://rogerstv.com/show?lid=12&rid=9&sid=3268&gid=271401

“Play stands as tribute to one woman’s Triumph”,
http://news.westernu.ca/2017/01/play-stands-tribute-one-womans-triumph/

A scene from our March 4 performance of The Dream Life of Teresa Harris:interactive video by Mary McDonald:
http://touchcast.com/…/dream_life_of_teresa_harris_march_20….

“A marvelous performance, blending music and words to bring an amazing woman to life. Can’t wait to see the pla based on this story at the Procunier Hall, at the Palace Theater. We have our tickets already. They are going fast!” Susan Cassan

“I almost checked my passport on returning home for extra stamps (such was the journey we were on today)” John Hassan

Publications

The script of the complete play, THE TRIUMPH OF TERESA HARRIS is now available, on line & in print!
https://www.playwrightsguild.ca/triumph-teresa-harris-0.

The Eldon House version, THE DREAM LIFE OF TERESA HARRIS is also now available, on line, in print & in London Public Library!
http://www.playwrightsguild.ca/dream-life-teresa-harris

See http://www.playwrightsguild.ca/playwright/penn-kemp.

Upcoming

“I believe I have a little of the Bedouin Arab in me.”-Teresa Harris

March 22-25, The Triumph of Teresa Harris: a play in two acts

Performances

March 22, 2017 – 8:00 PM

March 23, 2017 – 8:00 PM

March 24, 2017 – 8:00 PM

March 25, 2017 – 2:00 PM ** Matinee

March 25, 2017 – 8:00 PM

Tickets:  $23 seniors/students. $25 adults. Online: an additional $1.00.
Preview, March 27: $15

The Triumph of Teresa Harris is written by Penn Kemp and directed by Diane Haggerty <info@londoncommunityplayers.com>

Performed by a cast of 16 with 2 musicians!

The Cast for The Palace Production, March 2017

DIRECTOR: Diane Haggerty

MUSICIANS: Mary Ashton and Panayiotis Giannarapis

ACTORS

Ammar Abraham: Lieutenant/Tenzin

Dean Andrews: Scott

Bridget Corbett: Sister

Grace Ginty:  Sister

Maya Gupta: Mid-Teresa

Brenda Hamilton: Amelia 2

Afia Kyei: Chris

Kassia Mobbayal: John

Christopher Noble: St. George

Irene Paibulsinjit: Annie

Karina Redick: Sister

Kendall Robertson: Sister

Jan Sims: Amelia 1

Old Teresa: Maureen Spencer Golovchenko

Passing Stranger/Cook: Heather Weitzel

Young Teresa: Jordyn Taylor

With thanks to London Community Players at the Palace Theatre.

https://teresaharrisdreamlife.wordpress.com

The main character is Teresa Harris, b.1839, Eldon House,
London. She tells her amazing life story from her home in
Eldon House. Born the youngest of a prosperous pioneer
family intent on bettering itself, Teresa married a Scottish
military man who promised to carry her off to foreign parts
she had dreamed of all her life. Teresa’s story emerges
through her own voice and that of her protective mother
and her two husbands. Both men offered Teresa escape
from the ordinary domestic constraint for a woman of her
time and position in colonial London society.
Young Teresa 2017
Young Teresa: Jordyn Taylor
(Photo Credits: Harris Family Fonds, Teresa on Camel Photo, Western Archives, Western University)
The Triumph of Teresa Harris
Previously…
March4 Penn Panayiotis Teresa
Penn and Panayiotis Giannarapis performing The Dream Life with Mary Ashton.
Photo: Mary McDonald

Save

Save

Save

Save

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

penn-bassnett-wordsfest

3393652597_bcc236b0bf_z.jpg

Photo: Toban Black

Save

Save

Save

Performing Women: an Anthology

performing-women-2016

Performing Women: Playwrights and Performance Poets is now for sale!

The anthology is available for $10+ shipping from The League of Canadian Poets, , 416-504-1657, info@poets.ca.  92pages. http://poets.ca/feministcaucus/

And as a copyscript for $12 from Playwrights Guild of Canada, 416-703-0201, sara@playwrightsguild.ca. http://www.playwrightsguild.ca/performing-women-playwrights-and-performance-poets

Contents


Introduction
Penn Kemp, Editor
 

Why Ducks, Anyway?
Kelly Jo Burke

Red Dresses Hang from the Trees and Towers: Red and Rapunzel are Missing

Cornelia Hoogland

Sounding the depth, the surface resounding
Penn Kemp

Zoomorphic Poetics (or, Why I Write So Many Poems About Wildlife)
Catherine Kidd

How does collaboration enhance performance poetry? The Intimate Power of Co-Creation
Susan McMaster

Spoken Word Poetry as Political Act
Sheri-D Wilson

News from the Feminist Caucus, by Anne Burke, http://poets.ca/feministcaucus
“The new printing of Performing Women: Playwrights and Performance Poets
is available from the League Office. I have posted a copy here of the complete list of titles in this popular series. A digital copy was sent to the Playwrights Guild of Canada, our partners for the joint panel at the 2016 Canadian Writers Summit. I came across some amazing interviews which a few of the contributors gave and provide web links here which you need to enter into your internet browser. Thank you to Kelley Jo Burke, Cornelia Hoogland, Penn Kemp, Catherine Kidd, Susan McMaster, and Sheri D Wilson!”
http://poets.ca/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/NewsREVISEDOct2016from-the-Feminist-Caucus.pdf
Interviews with Featured Playwrights Q & A

http://www.playwrightsguild.ca/news/featured-playwright-q-penn-kemp
http://www.playwrightsguild.ca/news/featured-playwright-q-kelley-jo-burke
http://www.playwrightsguild.ca/news/featured-playwright-q-cornelia-hoogland

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Sound Learning!

“Reading and Workshop with Penn Kemp”

Saturday, June 6, 10:30 to noon.
Landon Branch Library (downstairs), 167 Wortley Rd, London N6C 3P6.

All welcome!

Come celebrate the culmination of our  Creative Age Festival London readings and workshops with me!

Photo: Kathy Smith

Photo: Kathy Smith

Free, sponsored by Playwrights Guild of Canada.

Program Description:

Penn Kemp is an inspiring workshop presenter, poet, playwright, performer, activist and London’s inaugural poet laureate. After reading from some of her plays, Penn will lead us in exploring and developing characters through sound and image. In allowing our Muses to speak through us, we’ll be surprised at the unfolding process of new writing. Free. Drop in.

Photo: Deb Hill

Photo: Deb Hill

Reading sponsored by the Guild of Canadian Playwrights.

Photo by Carmelo Militano, just after he has interviewed me on P.I., May 31, 2015, Winnipeg. https://ckuw.ca/programs/detail/p.i.-new-poetry

Photo by Carmelo Militano, just after he has interviewed me on P.I., May 31, 2015, Winnipeg. https://ckuw.ca/programs/detail/p.i.-new-poetry

https://www.facebook.com/events/1019743298045749/
https://pennkemp.wordpress.com/2015/04/25/creative-aging-readings-and-writing-workshops/., http://www.eventbrite.com/e/what-lies-ahead-creative-age-readings-writing-workshops-with-penn-kemp-tickets-16177439156?aff=erellivorg.