Endorsements for Barbaric Cultural Practice

The latest book of poetry by Penn Kemp, forthcoming October 1, 2016 from Quattro Books.

In praise and rant, the poems in Barbaric Cultural Practice pay tribute to our dear Mother World’s enchantments as well as her upheavals. They confront the stresses of urban life as juxtaposed to nature’s round, and deal, for example, with the effect of computers on our psyche and with the imprint of electronic media upon perception, consciousness and dream life. They are a response to the need for action against climate change and a humorous protest against overwhelming technology.

“… quirky, witty, funny, deep, wise & full of surprises.”
– Di Brandt, author of Walking to Mojácar

Barbaric Cultural Practice is an urgent set of makings, of remarkable and dramatic word-acts, that reminds us that language – the hallmark of civilization – also enables barbaric, human imposition on Nature and the eternal. The inaugural Poet Laureate of London ON, Penn Kemp is an expert tool-and-die versifier. Proof? Well, that very pun you’ve just read is indebted to her, for she employs every poetry technique available – every tool in the toolbox – to stress the stubborn connection between concrete reality and supposedly abstract words. Nor does Kemp flinch from pondering how our distancing embrace (that’s not an oxymoron) of electronica interferes with our relationships to the earth, each other, and to Art. Barbaric Cultural Practice is so timely, it is an alarm clock, shocking us awake to our drowsy, Eloi circumstances.”
– George Elliott Clarke, Parliamentary Poet Laureate

“Penn Kemp, a poet at the peak of her powers, casts a loving gaze at poetry’s purpose, at our planet and all sentient beings. Through loving attention, wordplay, whimsy and wit, dream and prophecy, Kemp transforms the ineffable into an elegant expression of life deeply envisioned. Through metaphoric shape-shifting, Kemp shows us that “My work is the translator’s, to move one/ sense into another’s realm.”(“Blow by Blow”). This gift of synaesthesia heightens her calling for us to take our earthly stewardship to heart: These are poems to meditate on, to incorporate into the interstices of our layered lives. In the book’s title, Kemp transforms a political gaffe, “barbaric cultural practices”, into an elegy for earth and heart-song for each other. Above all, Love is this exceptionally talented and seasoned poet’s guiding light.”
– Katerina Fretwell, author of Dancing on a Pin

“In Barbaric Cultural Practice we are treated to some of the most clear-eyed, keenly felt articulations of the present moment, as well as Penn Kemp’s boundless capacity for play: the simmering, tangling, rocketing, warbling, wooing, cooing, and joyful boogieing of her poems working themselves onto the page. Kemp’s feet are so sure, dancing on that lip. Through this book we learn all that’s at stake between the poem’s lines. ”
– Laurie D. Graham, author of Settler Education

“Penn Kemp’s work is profoundly mystical, a tour into otherworldly realms but informed by this world’s concerns, the depth of poetry, and the ability of her language to cross borders into metaphysical realism.”
– Leona Graham, author of Cloudbank Across the Fens

“Kemp walks the line, exploring a new syntax of language, whether celebrating the goddess or the dance between voice and machine, hand to iPad, to transmit this map of her mind and dreams.”
– Dennis Maloney, author of Listening to Tao Yuan Ming

“Penn Kemp’s Barbaric Cultural Practice brings together etymological, sonic, and cultural layerings of the words “barbaric,’ “cultural,” and “practice.” This electric new volume distinguishes the truly creative and evolutionary from what impedes a fuller engagement with each other and with planet earth. In these poems, the source of true wildness (wilderness) calls heart to heart: “I has widened to include/ you and you and you.”
– Susan McCaslin, author of Painter, Poet, Mountain: After Cézanne

“What happens when the lyric power of a highly experienced and galvanically charged poet dances in the electron stream? Barbaric Cultural Practice collects a decade’s poetic exploration of digital absurdities, of earth’s vitality and grave needs, and of community. Penn never just reads: she performs, even on the page; we can’t help but listen. Connect with the surging circuit of her energetic and eclectic words, connect and recharge.”                – Susan McMaster, editor of Waging Peace: Poetry and Political Action

“Penn Kemp’s Barbaric Cultural Practice is a stunning and magical tribute of travel wisdom of vision of longing of voices and of Goddess ways of seeing into and circumnavigating the heart of old ways of ancient catapulting into futures of tech-knowledge-able dancing back and forth of swaying of seeds of truth gardening matter of otherworldly mantras singing of the everyday made extraordinary. what movement in stillness what stillness in motion. what beauty what love!”
– Sheri-D Wilson, author of Open Letter: Woman Against Violence Against Women

“What is it like, writing a poem? Penn Kemp knows. She has spent her life performing poetry, publishing poetry, being poet-in-residence, Poet Laureate, poster-person for other poets. Now she stows her yellow pencil, fingers the keys of her computer, opens a new window and waits for a poem to find its way onto the desktop.

This is the poem and I

take no hand in it. I

want to write a comedy.

That’s rich. That’s fun-

ny laughs the voice in

my head that keeps

right on talking the poem

down the tree and onto

the screen.

That is from “Cogito Ergo Sum” in the first part of Penn Kemp’s new collection of poems, Barbaric Cultural Practices.  Penn likes to play jokes with words, but it’s no fun finding familiar words playing silly tricks under the direction of the electronic impersonal:

How have I come to man-

ipulate this trackball

with fingers on a keyboard?


                                                            We are beyond the mouse.

My Spell Checker would change Cogito to Caught.

For someone’s        Suggest salmon’s.

For trackball               Suggest traceable

For Change all            Ignore

For Add                       For Options

For Delete                                                                        Close.

After you push the “Page Down” button, you can move to other sections, less high-tech, dealing with topics like “House – Hold – Man – Age – Meant.” Or with hearts, and strokes:

His mind is air-brushed
to a whiter, more spacious landscape
reflected in such snowy waste outside.
So we sink into sweet reverie fireside,
unthinking, unburdened, cuddled and
coddled warm by flame and the scarlet

beauty of this moment in flower here
only once but all the more present in
daring our ambivalent future dissipate

fear for now. Say it straight. For now.

Happier moments flower in poems like “Dream Visit, in Tune, In Time.” The rhythms, the internal rhymes, the spaces, work against logical walls:

Brilliance resounds all around. Redbud, mock-orange boughs
bow in the heightened breeze. Resonance ripples and whirls
to restore, re-story this walled garden.

But against the whimsical sequence of “Dream Sequins” Penn Kemp sets TV realities

I fall through the screams . . .

Women and men cleaving, cleft, bereft.
Dispossessed of a West they thought they knew.
Dis/oriented, where do they turn?. . .

Then another twist, and Penn Kemp launches a final fantastic essential plea for light:

Let us eat light like
plants. Let us chew
the bright air till we can

swallow light like
fire-eaters. Let us
assimilate light . . . .”

– Elizabeth Waterston, author of Readying Rilla: L. M. Montgomery Reworks her Manuscript

“Penn Kemp is an icon in the cultural landscape. Her biography page on her blog states she has over 25 books of poetry and drama published, plus six plays and numerous works recorded on different electronic means. But this new work is brilliant in its form… Kemp has done something enlightening for readers by using the term for this collection of poetry. She has crafted her personal thoughts and views in this work and given all of us something to consider about our own actions… Literature should cause a reader to consider their world and their actions in the world around them. Penn Kemp has done that for me with her collection Barbaric Cultural Practice. No doubt I will be reading it again and quoting it here.”
– Steven Buechler, https://pacifictranquility.wordpress.com/2016/08/02/making-us-consider-our-actions-discussion-of-penn-kemps-barbaric-cultural-practicequattro-books-to-be-launched-autumn-2016/

Cover Painting of Barbaric Cultural Practice by Anne Anglin









Barbaric Cultural Practice

Poetry from Quattro Books:

Barbaric Cultural Practice

Paperback | October 1, 2016

by Penn Kemp

In praise and rant, the poems in Barbaric Cultural Practice pay tribute to our dear Mother World’s enchantments as well as her upheavals. They confront the stresses of urban life as juxtaposed to nature’s round, and deal, for example, with the effect of computers on our psyche and with the imprint of electronic media upon perception, consciousness and dream life. They are a response to the need for action against climate change and a humorous protest against overwhelming technology.

Quattro Book Launch, Wednesday, October 5, 2016; doors open 7:00 pm; start time 7:30. Toronto, Supermarket Restaurant, 268 Augusta Ave. (event room at rear of dining area) Free. Contact: info@quattrobooks.ca, http://www.supermarketto.ca/


Barbaric Cultural Practice Transporting.jpg

Cover Painting, “Transporting” by Anne Anglin

Q&A: https://pacifictranquility.wordpress.com/2016/08/21/what-made-me-a-poet-curiosity-the-thrill-of-adventure-of-new-worlds-qa-with-poet-penn-kemp/

Sample poems: “Tip Line”, “The Nature of Food”, Tuck Magazine,


“Synaesthetics”, “Filling the Cart” and “Giving Your Word”,  Tuck Magazine, http://tuckmagazine.com/2016/09/05/poetry-512/




A poem for Lammas

The Tale and Trial of Tailtu

Here’s to Tailtu, foster mother to deity Lugh
whose day Lammas is. Tailtu prepared Ireland
for cultivation, clearcut demolishing all forest

so Lugh as Wind, as Lightning could open ways
to invention, new worlds of agriculture— laying
waste the trees to feed folk now at first harvest.

Tailtu lay down to die, exhausted. If she hadn’t
sacrificed herself, great Druid oak and ash groves
would still be flourishing to protect and teach us.

In her end is our beginning. Lughnasadh is called
Brón Trogain (Sorrow of Sorrows) to honour all
that’s gone before, all that dies so we may eat.

You can watch our Tales of Tailtu performance, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xg6PB6E9cHw. With Eugenia Catroppa, Lyre Alice Jameson, Angela Rawlings (on Skype) Natalie Zina Walschots.and Brian Walsh, Transac Club, Toronto.

Vocal Braidings.hmtb.front cover.200

Cat a Gory by Penn Kemp

My very strange tale is up today, featuring pumas, Ronald Wright and Ira Glass among family members and lions!  From ongoing DREAM SEQUINS, of course.
Catch the visual of tiger cubs on https://jellyfishreview.wordpress.com/2016/01/26/cat-a-gory-by-penn-kemp/

Thanks, ed. Christopher James!


Cat a Gory

November-27-15: I come upon mom and dad in the living room of my childhood home, sharing something private. Dad’s chest is bare, revealing two huge breasts. I don’t know how to respond, so I joke: “Lucky you. Now you have your own breasts to play with.” Neither parent replies.

My baby sister is just a few months old, but she is precocious. “Hi, Jenny,” she greets me in a high treble. When I correct her, she points to herself and says another coherent phrase. She has been lying alone in her bassinet all night, so she must be wet, cold and hungry. I bring her in to mom, who’s lying in her bedroom, sleeping off labour by herself. The poor baby seems to dissolve into a puddle in the bed, with swirls of scarlet in a viscous liquid.

Though it’s night, I lead mom by the hand to the swamp outside our door. We traipse through…

View original post 867 more words

Poems: “Wild Crafting”


Wild Crafting

by Penn Kemp

Kore, Ostara, Flora, sing slight intimacy
of air, flights imagination will lilt with.

Goldfinches float above the daffodils,
hang upside-down on the stalk of old
sunflower to catch last fall’s last seed.


A flash of cardinal lilts down
to settle in a cloud of Creeping
Charlie, Gill-over-the-Ground
and sky-blue Forget-Me-Knot.


My daily bouquet of dandelion
satisfies the neighbour’s need

for desert of green grass and mine
for wild.

The yellow vibrant heads last
just a day, and then plunge sodden
into compost, to rot and feed more

flowers, not to go to seed and
propagate as they are raised to do.

Daily, the flowers bloom closer
and closer to the ground, as if
to speed the cycle, to seed before

the lawn mower lops off their
vibrant unmistakeable heads.

In thwarting their will to reproduce,
I celebrate their evanescent charm
and serve their leaves for lunch.

penn %22For Me it was Foxes%22small(1)Photo by Dennis Siren

Stirring Not Stirring

Honey drips from my nose, coats
my hair in blond stiff strands.

I am standing very still calling
bees by scent.  Pheromones draw

them to collect on me, hiving off
to a giant new temporary queen,

spun down from my chin in a grand
pharaoh’s beard.  My eyes, my ears

are bee-shut, open only to their buzz.


What I don’t know is that I’m here
in front of a bear’s cave on the first
warm day of summer, attending

emergence, as the swarm births
from entrails of bull and bear.

Bee goddess, bear goddess, mid-
wife, be with us mid-life and beyond.

Homing to the Given

I am moving into old time
Fire embraces my shadow,
absorbs darkness into heat.

Friends linger, huddle under
our circular warmth.  10,000
years melt away in the current

climate shift.  There goes snow.
Too late for comfort, too late to
reverse trends toward entropy.

Decades, centuries speed past
future possibles into the past as
currencies of passable presents.

How to turn this tendency around.
Rapidly, rapidly.  Restraint is not
enough.  Constraint does not serve.

That’s not the story.  I’m drifting.
The ceremony commenced while
attention was off in is own helium.

I am standing before the entrance
of deep cave, a cave I recognize
only by the dark its shadow casts.

Fire gleams.  Fire climbs the walls.
Shapes dance into consistent form.
The sense of bear emerges into three

dimensions.  Someone from behind
must be holding up the bearskin for
Orsel, Artemis, Bear Woman, shape

shifter.  There is no one there but
this bear shape is now my contour.
Bear shape becomes me.  Becomes

my own, new comfort large enough
to roam back, large enough to call home.

Culture Shock and Smooth Return

The mothers are washing their babies
in municipal tanks that reek of slime
and brackish river water.  “All water’s
holy,” you proclaim, “in Mother India,”

and I regard again the women flailing
laundry white against broad river stone.
Sun glints gold threads in scarlet saris.

I step into the current till cotton wraps
wet around my knees, willing to float
and submerge, until from the shore you
wave me back for the next shift of scene.

we’re swimming our lake toward the city.

Water falls off us like liquid wings of teal,
murky and lukewarm that should feel frigid
given the lacy fronds of ice creeping from
shore.  Are we drifting into hypothermia?

Not in this dream dimension where elements
mingle.  Joy beyond perception propels our
arms’ strong crawl toward Lakshmi, Devi Ma,
and the Kali who changes us all.

Last August Light

Wasps and bumblebees scheming for nectar
dip and swim through the haze, yellow and
black, carrying home their burden of pollen.

Seasons have their hues: ours is sun-steeped
translucence lit from within till it brims over.

Females dun beside their bolder mates, gold-
finch cross the sky in graceful loops of liquid

flight and song, sway on green fronds that bow
under light weight to the doctrine of signatures.

River carp leap and fall, rippling circles the stream.
Like calls to like through bright air before sunset.

Celebrating Ceres, celebrating Demeter, goldenrod
scimitars flash solid arabesques of late summer, late

afternoon, late in our lives for such luminous entrance.

Brooding Night Mares

A family of Clove horses roams through
nightfall.  Spice of life, ground but not blown

on turbulent winds.  Settled in green paddock,
grazing the surface, content to browse.

Not Clydesdale but Clove.  Feathered
but flightless, smaller than Percheron.

Coralled there to breed
more handsome foals

that will pepper fine
familiar pastures
of the past

their gorgeous black sheen.  None
of those cloven hooves
cleft in
summers gone

disturb the dust as they
wing their way through dream
dimensions toward
now at nightfall

toward the feast of Epona,
the stables of Rhiannon.

Tall Poppies 481948_10151091650089402_1953963330_nPainting by Jim Kemp

Recurring Dream Theme

Night rustles outside our window, murmurs
and squeaks.  Whimpers follow outraged
raccoon yowl.  Orange and black streak

across the dark pane I can’t see through
into night creatures’ world, conjuring
interlaced smells of skunk, mouse, bat

disturbing our neighbour hound’s nose.
Scent leads a trail to territorial war, deep
enmities nurtured throughout the long wee

hours before dawn lifts that velvet cloth to
reveal grey, seeping shade back to clarity.
Daylight cicada notions begin threading a

brightening air.  Dragonflies wing-web
the pond.  Inside I still dream of prowling
tigress, White Goddess stalking the dark.

Dream Sequins Cover

 “Wild Crafting”, Goddess Pages, Issue 8, http://www.goddess-pages.co.uk/wild-crafting/,.
Some of the poems were published in Dream Sequins CoverFrom Dream Sequins, with Steven McCabe

All above ©Penn Kemp

Poetry for Lit erRacy!

My poem, “Rash Talk”, is up on http://thelitteriseeproject.com/.

Fun!  Terrific project for Lit erRacy!  Congrats, Carin Makuz and Frontier College​.

(t)(r)(a)sh talk

Posted: July 20, 2015 in penn kemp


Litter begets
more litter—

ah, sure when
litter it, we re
itter ate it.

I / it


the literal

The ill litter it
refuse refuse
and garb age.

I utter a light
little iteration

against litter
alluding to

allusion, all
iteration and

assonance off
the road, on

the road and in
to ash, rash,


London ON performance poet, activist and playwright Penn Kemp is the 40th Life Member of the League of Canadian Poets and their 2015 Spoken Word Artist of the Year. She received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal for service to arts and culture. As  inaugural Poet Laureate for the City of London (2010-12), she presented poetry at many civic functions. As Canada Council Writer-in-Residence for Western University for 2009-10, her project was the DVD, Luminous Entrance: a Sound Opera for Climate Change Action, Pendas Productions. Penn has published twenty-five books of poetry, prose and drama, had seven plays and ten CDs produced as well as several award-winning videopoems.

Follow her on Twitter or https://www.facebook.com/pages/Penn-Kemp/126450531030?fref=ts.
Updates: http://mytown.ca/pennkemp, https://pennkemp.wordpress.com/


Spring Readings!

Upcoming Events with Penn Kemp

Dream Sequins CoverFriday, May 29, 12:10- 12:50pm. Reading and launching Jack Layton: Art in Action and From Dream Sequins. The Aboriginal Resources section, Winnipeg Millennium Library, 251 Donald St., Winnipeg, MB R3C 3P5. Contact: Lauren McGaw, Customer Service Librarian. Sponsored by the League of Canadian Poets. http://downtownwinnipegbiz.com/event/poetry-reading-penn-kemp/  ReadingWinnipeg


Saturday, May 30, 2 pm. Reading “Double Vision” and “Recounted, ReStored, ReStoried: for Colleen Thibaudeau Reaney” to the Feminist Caucus, launching the new chapbook, Cautionary Tales, edited by Magie Dominic. 2015 LCP Annual Poetry Festival and Conference, Radisson Hotel, 288 Portage Avenuue. Winnipeg Downtown. Sponsored by the League of Canadian Poets.

Saturday, May 30. League of Canadian Poets Banquet, Radisson Hotel, Winnipeg. Penn Kemp is the recipient of the new League of Canadian Poets 2015 Spoken Word Award, the prestigious http://poets.ca/2015/04/01/golden-beret-2015-penn-kemp/. Also presenting the Colleen Thibaudeau Outstanding Contribution Award to an esteemed League member.

League of Poets Life Member award in Saskatoon

Sunday, May 31, 4:30-5pm. Interview with Carmelo Militano, host of P.I., CKUW Radio, 515 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg, MB R3B 2E9. https://ckuw.ca/programs/detail/p.i.-new-poetry


June 4-7, 2015. Creative Age Festival London. June 4th is Creative Aging Awareness Day in London. Creative Age Festival London. A four day festival to celebrate the creative spirit of older adults (50 plus) in the City of London, Ontario. Creative Aging programs and events focus on the positive and powerful role of the creative and performing arts in enhancing the health and quality of life of older adults in our communities. Updates are on http://creativeagelondon.ca/ and http://www.facebook.com/CreativeAgeLondon. The Creative Age Festival London is developing a creative community of arts instructors, volunteers and older adults (50 plus) who want to remain active, creative and engaged with their community. For information, contact Kathy, 519 697 2177, getkathysmith@gmail.com.

Thursday, June 4, 2-4 pm. London Public Library Central Branch, Reading Garden, 352 Dundas St., London N6A 6H9. Welcoming Reception & Refreshments! Enjoy musical interludes by Marque Smith, Joe Edmonds and June Cole. A reading and invocation will be performed by Penn Kemp, Creative Age Festival Writer in Residence, sponsored by the League of Canadian Poets. Find out more about National Creative Aging Day, creative aging programs and local initiatives from Suzanna Hubbard Krimmer, CEO London Public Library, and Brian Meehan, CEO Museum London. Keynote Remarks by special guest Pat Spadafora, Director of Research, Sheridan Centre for Elder Research.

Penn’s opening poem is up on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4B8DOIfinOs.

June 4, 7-9 pm. Wolf Performance Hall, 250 Dundas Street, London ON.

Saturday, June 6, 10:30 to noon. Landon Branch Library, 167 Wortley Rd, London N6C 3P6. “Reading and Workshop with Penn Kemp”. http://catalogue.londonpubliclibrary.ca/record=g1005385&searchscope=0&SORT2=R
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. Reading sponsored by the Guild of Canadian Playwrights.

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.

PennGaryBarwinMykonos2015Tuesday, June 16, 7:30 pm. The Supermarket in Kensington Market, 268 Augusta Ave, Toronto M5T 2L9. Teksteditions will be launching The Boneshaker Anthology, 1 416-840-0501. Penn is reading “Waving Not Drowning” and “Naturalized”. Contact editor Lillian Necakov-Avalos, l.necakov-avalos@sympatico.ca. Sponsored by the League of Canadian Poets and Toronto Arts Council, Metro Readings in Public Places.