Kemp was born in Strathroy, Ontario and raised in the nearby city of London. She earned a degree in English and literature from the University of Western Ontario in 1966 and received certification as a teacher. She taught high school English in Timmins and North York, Toronto for several years and in 1988 she received an Ontario Graduate Scholarship to complete a Masters of Education degree at the University of Toronto.
Poet, performer and playwright Penn Kemp has been celebrated as a trailblazer since her first publication of poetry by Coach House (1972), and a “one-woman literary industry”. She was London's inaugural Poet Laureate and University of Western Ontario's Writer-in-Residence (2009-2010) as well as the League of Canadian Poets’ Spoken Word Artist, 2015. Kemp has been a keen participant in Canada's cultural life with thirty books of poetry, prose and drama; seven plays and ten CDs produced as well as several award-winning videopoems.
In 1984, Penn was writer in residence for Niagara Erie Writers in New York State; for the Labrador School Board in 1986; for Flesherton Library in 1988 and '89; and at SNDT Women's University in Mumbai in 1995.
In 1994, Penn's play, What the Ear Hears Last, was produced by Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto and, in the same year, she was featured on the CBC Radio show, "Sounding Off." In 1995 the Indian Institute of Canadian studies sponsored her tour of Mumbai colleges and universities.
- 'Homeward Bound (2015); The Spousal Song (2013). PlayWrights Cabaret, The Grand Theatre, London,
- 'The Dream Life of Teresa Harris, Eldon House, London (2013)
- 'Scenes from the Electric Folklore Machine, Aeolian Hall, London (2012)
- 'Mrtvolka, with Anne Anglin, Daniela Sneppova, Harbourfront Studio Theatre, Toronto
- 'The Space Between: A Transmorphous Journey, Wolf Performance Hall, London (2010)
- 'Re-Visions: a sound opera, with Brenda McMorrow, Bill Gilliam, Aeolian Hall, London (2009)
- 'What the Ear Might Hear, (2009); When the Heart Parts, Playwrights Cabaret (2007)
- 'Communication Breakdown, with Chris Meloche, McManus Theatre, London (2008)
- 'Re:Animating Animus: a sound opera, Aeolian Hall, London (2008)
- 'Xtra Text/ure. Symposium, Playing the Gallery: McIntosh Gallery Western U, London (2007)
- 'Darkness Visible: a sound opera, with Chris Meloche, Aeolian Hall, London (2006)
- 'Trance Dance Form: sound opera, with Bill Gilliam, Jean Martin, Brick Works, Toronto (2006)
- 'Vocal Braiding: an experiment in poetry and theatre (with Patricia Keeney, directed by Don Rubin, 2000.) Performed in Jaipur, India and for Indian television; York University
- 'Symposium on Canadian Theatre at the University of Rajasthan (with Don Rubin, 2000)
- 'Temporary Harmonies, The Music Gallery, Toronto; U. of Mumbai, India
- 'What The Ear Hears Last (The Gathering); Eros Rising, 1978, Theatre Passe Muraille, Toronto
- 'Angel Makers, Red Theatre, Toronto. Trance Dance Form, Harbourfront, Toronto (1976)
- 'The Epic of Toad and Heron: a play. Toronto Island Clubhouse and ON schools, (1977-2012)
- Time Less Time / Quand cesse le temps, Penn Kemp and Gavin Stairs, French translation by Claude Gillard.
- Vocal Braiding, Penn Kemp and Patricia Keeney, designed by Gavin Stairs. Chapbook/CD.
- Sarasvati-Scapes, Angela Hryniuk and Penn Kemp (Gavin Stairs Fine Editions, Fiddlehead Press, 2001).
- Two Lips, Penn Kemp, Anne Anglin and Susan McMaster, CD produced by PsychoSpace Sound, 2001. Design, Richard Payne.
- INCREMENTALLY: Sound and concrete poetry from Penn Kemp's participatory performances. Photos by Rachel Thompson. CD
- George The Purple Spotted Horse. Illustrator and author, James Kemp. introduction and story editing by his daughter, Penn Kemp. Fine art chapbook.
- SUITE ANCIENT EGYPT (2001) poetry. Mothertongue Press, BC
- WHAT SPRINGS TO MIND (2001), Pendas Productions
- FOR PEACE IN MANY VOICES, ed., Vol. 1 & 2 (2002), book and CD
- SARASVATI SCAPES (2002) with Angela Hryniuk, Pendas Productions
- C’LOUD (2003) poetry, Pendas Productions. Book and CD combo
- SARASVATI SCAPES: a sound opera, CD, Pendas Productions
- GATHERING VOICES (2002) with Gloria Mulcahy, Pendas. Book and CD combo.
- POEMAS ESCOLHIDOS DE PENN KEMP/ Selected Poems by Penn Kemp (2004) ABECAN,
- RE:ANIMATING ANIMUS (2006) Pendas Productions. Book and CD combo. London
- HELWA! (2011), PigeonBike Press, London ON
- FROM DREAM SEQUINS (2012), Lyrical Myrical Press, Toronto ON
- THE EPIC OF TOAD AND HERON (2012), reprint. Pendas Productions, London ON
- JACK LAYTON: ART IN ACTION (2013), editor, Quattro Books, Toronto. First & second edition.
- Penn Kemp - Penn, poet/playwright/performer
- Canadian Poetry Online - Penn Kemp: Biography
- Penn Kemp, Poet Facebook page
- Penn Kemp on Twitter
- Penn Kemp works on Canadian Play Outlet
- Mary McDonald collaborations with Penn Kemp
- "Penn Kemp: Biography". Canadian Poetry Online. University of Toronto Libraries. 2000. Retrieved 18 December 2010.
- Jennifer Sproul (October 2010). "Introducing London's First Poet Laureate: Penn Kemp". The Londoner. Retrieved 18 December 2010.
- "Former Writers-in-Residence". Retrieved 1 July 2021.