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!


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


Another Invocation

                   for all those missing and murdered

Come say hello, women. While the veils are still

thin, we welcome your presence, no longer missed

but present, with all the disappeared you stand for.


As if you were in the prime of life now. As if

your daughters bloomed full-grown around you.

As if your mothers were crying delighted tears.


And if you were here to see what has changed

and what has not, would you hide your eyes in

shame for what has been done, what has not?


Come into the light and tell us how you are. As

if you have life beyond what we recall or remember

before this dark December claims its own again.

Penn Kemp

Renegade98 Photo

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Photos of the poem by {poetry in Cobourg spaces} .

An Exercise in Erasure

Scuffed! Effaced!

a Poem without Posterity, a Poem in Pics

Cuz Fuzz As lovely (and acceptable) and welcome as Penn Kemp‘s words are … someone found them unpalatable (for some unknown and impossible to discern reason). Sometime between Noon and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 17, 2017, someone had defaced the lines.

They scuffed many of the words away, plus they employed the little bit of water from a small bowl left out front of Meet at 66 King East for dogs to drink as they pass-by. That was used to wash away certain words — no one could make rhyme nor reason about why they picked certain words instead of others; in addition, they wrote and drew there what were taken to be words and symbols of a religious zealot. Was this the work of an actual religious zealot’s mind, or, was someone was pulling some sort of “performance art” put-on against against the purple rectangle … hoping we would give them a reaction, etc. … as if “trolls” emerged from online existence into the real life of King Street, Cobourg?

It is impossible to think of anything about the lines from Penn Kemp that would produce this response.

People can be odd.

The rectangle was washed clean. The first things removed by sweeping and with water were the add-ons of zealot-nature. It was only then that the thought occurred, “Oh, we should get photos of how it was defaced before washing it all away.” So, the slogans and drawings do not show in these photos. (That is probably just as well. Why broadcast the zealotry?) One of the photos shows outlined in red the spots where the drawings and religious sayings were shown.

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Jf Pickersgill

Jf Pickersgill Thank you, Penn Kemp. Thank you to Wally Keeler for taking (and sharing) the photos.

The defacing is bizarre. I believe it has little to do with Penn (zero to do with her, actually) or anything in her words. There have been other recent instances on two or three occasions, where someone has spit on a word and then scuffed it with the sole of their shoe, and, where someone spilled the full contents of a slushie (purple and red in colour — grape & strawberry flavour, perhaps) all over Stanza Room Only when there were no words there at all. This purple rectangle of sidewalk may have become the focus of someone’s mental obsession (for whatever reason) … through no fault of Stanza Room Only’s own.

I saw the expressions of zealotry in the couple of hours that they showed before they were erased.

One was a drawing of a church with a Cross on the steeple.

Another proclaimed that “The end is near!”

Another was a hard-to-figure drawing that might have been a poorly drawn attempt at the ichthys (“Jesus fish”) — which ended up looking more like a shark circling around on itself to bite its own tail (now that I write that description, I think, “Hmmm. Maybe the best ichthys ever”).

There was something else there, too, that I cannot remember right now.

It was weird, not eerie in the context of every day life but strange in the context of some beautiful words of poetry presented for the public to read. Not an overly provocative act, even in comparison to some of the words people have chalked in Stanza Room Only during the past 3 years.

Because I am fascinated by the workings of human minds, I thought some clues might arise from examining which individual words were the target of the attempt to not-only-scuff the chalk but also to wash letters away with the tiny amount of water available in the bowl-for-passing-dogs.

“fare” “unjaded” “beans” “Three” and “thrive.” If there are clues there, I cannot uncover the meaning of the clues. It might be that there was no focus on specific words but a late dawning about the fact that the water was not going to go as far as was thought.

Penn Kemp
Penn Kemp Anti-feminist?Anti- Indigenous? (“The Three Sisters thrive”). Or random…Odd they left my name unscathed. I’m grateful for the documentation, visual and verbal! And for the opportunity to be inscribed on your sidewalk, momentarily:)!
Jf Pickersgill

Jf Pickersgill Well, your words were there for more than 24 hours. That is good, actually. Sometimes weather conspires to rinse away words earlier than that with rain or to erode the chalk with wind and non-deliberate scuffing from the shoes of passers-by can be the cause of early erasure, too.

Someone else with whom I had this discussion immediately came up with similar thoughts, Penn … “Is it because the words are pro-woman? Is it the call-out to First Nations traditions?”

Nina Grigg

Nina Grigg Well at least Facebook allows evidence of the original work to be preserved. The emotional impact of the words combined with the setting may be what led to its defacement. I wonder if the offender had any clue about the meaning of the poetry? It’s feels like a violent act, makes me feel a little nauseous. I think it is directed towards both the feminine and the indigenous (which are impossible to separate, I think.)

Jf Pickersgill
Jf Pickersgill Yes. That is an important point. It did cause distress to see this deliberate defacing activity. It did come across as deliberate aggression. Penn‘s words appearing in Stanza Room Only had strong impact, no doubt about that. It is difficult to conceptualize anyone taking these lines as having negative impact, though. Clearly that view might be naive.

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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

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How we are (in)formed!

Listening to

Robert Harris’s choices are interesting, and all too telling!

The delicious Rosalind Russell sings, “Just throw your knowledge in his face… that’s the second way to lose a man…” And then George Gaynes sings for “his gentle girl, his quiet girl…” from On the Town, 1949. “We need no words./ She sees— she knows… Where is that special girl/Who is soft, soft as snow/ Somewhere /Somewhere, my quiet girl”.

Bernstein’s lyrics enforce the notion of ‘a gentle, quiet’ girl who is “a different kind of girl” from the “sharp, intellectual kind” usually picked. And so stereotypes are deeply embedded from childhood on… On the Town heralds in the ‘50’s!

Oh how things have changed… or not!

“It happens over and over
I pick the sharp intellectual kind
Why couldn’t this time be different
Why couldn’t she – only be
Another kind – A different kind of girl

I love a quiet girl
I love a gentle girl”

Ah, the songs were out of context…I stand corrected, though I still question Robert Harris’s choices:)! “It was Betty Comden and Adolf Green who wrote the lyrics, Not Leonard! and if you watch the play, the hero changes his mind about the unquiet girl and gets Ruth! The song ends up being almost satirical in its proper setting.” Good to hear. 

Penn Winnipeg bear

Photo: Heidi Greco


Performing Women: an Anthology


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,  92pages.

And as a copyscript for $12 from Playwrights Guild of Canada, 416-703-0201,


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,
“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!”
Interviews with Featured Playwrights Q & A


















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, With Eugenia Catroppa, Lyre Alice Jameson, Angela Rawlings (on Skype) Natalie Zina Walschots.and Brian Walsh, Transac Club, Toronto.

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