Poems & Plays for Sale, by the Book-full!

Books are the best gift for a time of self-isolation!  A shout-out to Canadian small press publishers and indie bookshops.  Long may you thrive! Your health all round!

Here are my recent offerings for your wish list, to share with poetry- and play-loving pals.

If you order the books from me, I’ll sign them for you!

Penn Kemp
525 Canterbury Road
London Ontario N6G 2N5
pennkemp@gmail.com

Or order from Amazon*. Details below.

From Insomniac Press*, $2O + tax + postage:

River Revery front back cover

Celebrating local writers! https://lfpress.com/entertainment/books/new-books-by-london-and-area-authors-just-in-time-for-christmas

Local Heroes cover good

From Quattro Books*, $2O + tax + postage:

FoxHaunts-Cover

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Also, prose to celebrate Jack Layton: Love, Hope and Optimism, Ongoing!*

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Travel to Ancient Egypt with me for $6 + tax +postage!

Helwa cover

Or this fabulous hand-made chapbook from Mother Tongue Books for $50 + tax +postage!

Suite Ancient Egypt

If you love plays and local history, two of my plays about Victorian explorer Teresa Harris are available: https://www.canadianplayoutlet.com/products/the-dream-life-of-teresa-harris and https://www.canadianplayoutlet.com/products/the-triumph-of-teresa-harris.

And this anthology,  available only from me. $20 in this format.  But for $12, without the colour, order from https://www.canadianplayoutlet.com/products/performing-women.

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* Find my books on https://www.amazon.ca/s?k=Penn+Kemp&ref=nb_sb_noss.

You can also find them in your Library, I hope. Certainly London Public Library has them all, plus CDs and DVDS.

Blessings for a Joyous Holiday! 

Penn
http://www.pennkemp.weebly.com

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

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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,

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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

Pendas Productions

Pendas Pan            Since our first production of Penn Kemp’s play in 1977, Pendas Productions has been developing multimedia works, often in collaboration with other artists and art forms. Our micro publishing company in London ON has produced plays, CDs, DVDs of sound opera, as well as hand-made art books of poetry, art and drama, often in combination with CDs. The company started in 1977 with the production and publication of Kemp’s first play, The Epic of Toad and Heron (Black Moss Press), a drama written to save Toronto Island homes. Pendas continued with poetry/cd combination books, featuring more than twenty authors and producing anthologies in several languages.

Pendas published 136 translations of Penn’s “poem for peace” in two volumes, with CDs. Our literary magazine, Twelfth Key, begun through London publisher Applegarth Follies, continued from 1976 in twenty issues, often of Penn’s workshops and students’ writing. Twelfth Key culminated in 2005 with an anthology and CD of Pendas Poets.

For the last decade, Pendas Productions has collaborated with Saby Siren Productions in producing several videopoems for Penn Kemp’s poetry as well as documentation of numerous live performances of her larger works. Our collaborations have been generously supported by the London Arts Council.

“Translation”, a videopoem with Dennis Siren, 2019:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMqzgfLJtws&t=22s

“Among the Parasols”, with Dennis Siren, 2019, q.r. code in RIVER REVERY. https://youtu.be/uomD6YEVkLo

“Heart P’Art”, with Dennis Siren, 2019, https://youtu.be/tqnwecUmSHI

“Between Between”, with Dennis Siren, 2019, https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=rm#sent?projector=1

April 2018. Launch of Local Heroes: video by Dennis Siren: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-zCVUjonwk

Video by Dennis Siren: Couplets#15: November 2017, London. Featuring Penn Kemp & Marta Croll-Baehre. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKiUCHy_Hjs&feature=youtu.be

PennandDenn Collection #1, 2016: Five Eerie Pieces
“On the Other Hand of Time”
“From Dream Sequins”
“Heart P’Arts”
“Between Between”
“For Me It Was Foxes”

“In the Words of Penn Kemp”, 2012

Dennis Siren’s Arts Doc Compilation. Penn: 20.46-26.25, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDa2HF6YDAM

Luminous Entrance: a Sound Opera performed at Aeolian Hall in 2009 with Anne AnglinRuth DouthwrightBrenda McMorrowRobert Menegonini, video by Dennis Siren

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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.

 

Altar Ego, a poem for “What is Now?

Altar Ego

“Altar Ego”, from composer Bill Gilliam’s DVD, Memory Vision (2008). Images by Arnold Wytenburg. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLHrRn98w4w

Delighted to perform this piece with Bill Gilliam on Sat. May 9 at 345 Gallery, Toronto. https://pennkemp.wordpress.com/2015/04/29/what-is-now-saturday-may-9-8-pm-gallery-345-toronto/

JimkempMoth1967

Altar Ego

Something has happened to

the I on this passage. I is

no longer a point of view,

stuck to this emotion or that,

the site of accumulated

experience. I has shed

the necessity of self defence.

I is a floating centre of perception.

I has widened to include

you and you and you be-

cause no barrier intrudes

between us.

I has become compound,

many-faceted. Complexity

leaps to a larger simpler

system. I is surprised

the words continue even

here. I is resting in

a continuum Am.

The diphthong of pain

Aeiii ground down

to seed syllable AUM.

Have you noticed that if you stay

with an image long enough

the fear you felt dissolves

into a live love you can embrace?

Penn Kemp

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Painting by Jim Kemp
Photo by Gavin Stairs