Penn Kemp

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Penn Kemp
BornPatricia Penn Anne Kemp
1944 (age 78–79)
Strathroy, Ontario
OccupationPoet and playwright
Years active1972—pres.

Patricia Penn Anne Kemp (born 1944), better known simply as Penn Kemp, is a Canadian poet, novelist, playwright, and sound poet who lives in London, Ontario.[1] Kemp has been publishing her writing since 1972 and was London's first poet laureate, serving since 2010 to 2013.

Early life and education[edit]

Kemp was born on August 4, 1944, in Strathroy, Ontario, to parents Anne Kemp and James "Jim" Kemp. She was raised in the nearby city of London.[1][2] Her father was an advertising and publicity executive at London Life, painter, and war artist.[3][4][5] Penn says she wrote her first poem when she was six years old.[6]

She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and literature from the University of Western Ontario in 1966 and received certification as a teacher in 1968.[7][1] In 1988 she received an Ontario Graduate Scholarship to complete a Masters of Education degree at the University of Toronto.[1]


Kemp taught high school English in Timmins and North York, Toronto for several years.

Kemp's first book, Bearing Down, was published by Coach House in 1972. In 1973, it was performed as a radio show for four voices in Seattle.[6] In 1984, Kemp 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.[1] In 1994, Kemp'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."[1] In 1995 the Indian Institute of Canadian studies sponsored her tour of Mumbai colleges and universities.[1]

She was London's inaugural Poet Laureate,[8] serving from 2010 to 2013[9] and University of Western Ontario's Writer-in-Residence (2009-2010).[10] Kemp runs Pendas Productions.[2]

In 2021, Kemp was commissioned by Brescia University College to deliver their inaugural Women's Day Poem. During the university's fourth annual Dr. Colleen Hanycz Leadership Lecture, Kemp performed her poem "Choose to Challenge" as a riff on the theme, "Choose To Challenge: Finding Common Ground Through Dialogue."[11]

Personal life[edit]

Kemp's left London, Ontario after graduating from Western University. She returned in 2001 and her mother had a stroke.[12] She now lives in London and considers it her home.[13] Her husband, Gavin Stairs, developed vascular dementia[14] and died in fall 2021.[15]



  • '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)
  • The Dream Life of Teresa Harris (2013)[16]

Individual poems[edit]

  • "Simultaneous Translation" in West Coast Collective, ed. (1984). Women and Words. Madeira Park, British Columbia: Harbour Publication Co.[17]
  • "The Dream Life of Teresa Harris" in Possessions: The Eldon House Poems. Eldon House. 2013.[16]

Poetry collections[edit]

  • Kemp, Penn (1972). Bearing Down. Coach House.[6]
  • Kemp, Penn; Stairs, Gavin (2001). Quand cesse le temps [Time Less Time] (in French). Translated by Gillard, Claude. Pendas Productions.
  • Kemp, Penn (2001). Incrementally. Pendas Productions.
  • Kemp, Penn; Keeney, Patricia (2001). Vocal Braiding. Pendas Productions.
  • Kemp, Penn (2001). Suite Ancient Egypt. Salt Spring Island: (m)Other Tongue Press.
  • Kemp, Penn; Hryniuk, Angela (2002). Sarasvati-Scapes. Pendas Productions.
  • Kemp, Penn (2002). Poem for peace in many voices. Vol. 1 and 2. Pendas Productions.
  • Kemp, Penn; Mulcahy, Gloria (2002). Gathering Voices. Pendas Productions.
  • Kemp, Penn (2003). C'Loud. Pendas Productions.
  • Kemp, Penn (2004). Poemas escolhidos de Penn Kemp [Selected poems by Penn Kemp]. Translated by Neneve, Miguel. Pendas Productions/Abecan.
  • Kemp, Penn (2006). Re:Animating Animus. Pendas Productions.
  • Kemp, Penn (2011). HELWA!. London ON: PigeonBike Press.[6]
  • Kemp, Penn (2012). From Dream Sequins. Lyrical Myrical Press.
  • Kemp, Penn (2016). Barbaric Cultural Practice. Quattro Books.[18][19]
  • Kemp, Penn (2018). Local Heroes. Insomniac Press.[20][5]
  • Kemp, Penn (2019). River Revery. Insomniac Press.[20][21]
  • Kemp, Penn (2018). Fox Haunts. Aeolus House. ISBN 978-1987872149.[22][23]
  • Kemp, Penn; Thesen, Sharon (2018). P.S. Toronto: Product Photo.[24]
  • Kemp, Penn (2021). A Near Memoir: New Poems. Beliveau Books. ISBN 9781927734315.[25][26][27]


  • On Our Own Spoke. Penn Kemp, Toronto: Pendas Productions, 2000. (CD/CD-ROM)
  • Two Lips. Penn Kemp, Anne Anglin, and Susan McMaster, Toronto: Pendas Productions, 2001. (CD)
  • Time Less Time. Penn Kemp, Darren Copeland, and Claude Gillard, Toronto: Pendas Productions, 2001. (CD)
  • Souwesto Words: 25 poets in Southwestern Ontario. Includes recordings from Penn Kemp, John Tyndall, Molly Peacock, Emily Chung, Paul Langille, Sheila Martindale, Roy McDonald, Sadiqa Khan, Jan Figurski, Jody Trevail, Beryl Baigent, John B. Lee, Cornelia Hoogland, James Reaney, Colleen Thibaudeau, Michael Wilson, Aimee O'Beirn, Jason Dickson, Marianne Micros, Skot Deeming, Victor Elias, David J. Paul, April Bulmer, Julie Berry, Don Gutteridge, Ergo Books, 2002. (CD)

As editor[edit]

  • Kemp, Penn, ed. (2013). Jack Layton: Art in Action. Quattro Books.[28][29]
  • Kemp, Penn, ed. (2016). Women & Multimedia, Poetry Collaboration/Elaboration. League of Canadian Poets.[30]
  • Kemp, Penn, ed. (2016). Performing Women. League of Canadian Poets.[30]
  • Kemp, Penn; Sitoski, Richard-Yves, eds. (2022). Poems in Response to Peril: An Anthology in Support of Ukraine. Pendas Productions and Laughing Raven Press.[31]

Other works[edit]

  • Text and introduction to Kemp, James (2002). George the Purple Spotted Horse: A Graphic Tale. Pendas Productions. ISBN 0-920820-02-6.[4]


In 2012, Kemp was awarded the League of Canadian Poets’ Life Membership Award.[2] Kemp received a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2013 for her service to the arts.[32][33] In 2015, the League of Canadian Poets awarded Kemp the Sheri-D Wilson Golden Beret Award, which honoured her as a spoken-word poet.[34]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Penn Kemp: Biography". Canadian Poetry Online. University of Toronto Libraries. 2000. Retrieved 18 December 2010.
  2. ^ a b c Haas, Kelsey (2018). "Western Archives Finding Aid for Penn Kemp fonds" (PDF). Western University. Retrieved 2022-08-22.
  3. ^ Brown, Dan (2022-01-28). "Tony Urquhart left indelible mark on London's art scene". London Free Press. Retrieved 2022-08-21.
  4. ^ a b Curnoe, Lynda (December 2022). "Review: George the Purple Spotted Horse: A Graphic Tale". Pouch Cove. 8 (2): 9. ProQuest 215229631 – via ProQuest.
  5. ^ a b Belanger, Joe (2018-05-01). "Poet celebrates London's cultural heroes in new book". London Free Press. Retrieved 2022-08-22.
  6. ^ a b c d Mockler, Kathryn (2012-07-28). "Penn Kemp: Performance Poet, Activist, and Playwright". The Rusty Toque. Retrieved 2022-08-22.
  7. ^ Winders, Jason (2016-07-19). "Cull named Poet Laureate for London". Western News. Retrieved 2022-08-22.
  8. ^ Belanger, Joe (2020-04-11). "It's time to embrace London's poet laureate, Penn Kemp, and all artists". London Free Press. Retrieved 2022-08-22.
  9. ^ Jennifer Sproul (October 2010). "Introducing London's First Poet Laureate: Penn Kemp". The Londoner. Retrieved 18 December 2010.
  10. ^ "Former Writers-in-Residence". Retrieved 1 July 2021.
  11. ^ Belanger, Joe (2021-03-05). "London poet Penn Kemp marks Women's Day with call to action". London Free Press. Retrieved 2022-08-22.
  12. ^ Montanini, Chris (2021-04-27). "Latest work from poet Penn Kemp published by Stratford micropress Beliveau Books". The Londoner. Retrieved 2022-08-22.
  13. ^ Buechler, Steven (2016-08-21). ""What made me a poet? Curiosity. The thrill of adventure, of new worlds." | Q&A with poet Penn Kemp". The Library of Pacific Tranquility. Retrieved 2022-08-22.
  14. ^ Belanger, Joe (2021-09-03). "Our poet laureate's financial plight, and a call to help". London Free Press. Retrieved 2022-08-22.
  15. ^ "PENN KEMP". PENN KEMP. Retrieved 2022-08-22.
  16. ^ a b Meyer, Sean (2013-08-29). "Former poet laureate gives insight into Eldon House history". Retrieved 2022-08-22.
  17. ^ von Flotow, Luise (2006). "Feminism in Translation: the Canadian Factor" (PDF). Quaderns. Revista de traducció (13).
  18. ^ Montanini, Chris (2016-10-28). "Penn Kemp as barbarian". The Londoner. Retrieved 2022-08-21.
  19. ^ deRango Adem, Adebe (2016-12-06). "Review: Barbaric Cultural Practice". Quill and Quire. Retrieved 2022-08-22.
  20. ^ a b Lederman, Marsha (2021-01-22). "Independent publisher Insomniac Press cancels 12 book deals". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2022-08-22.
  21. ^ Belanger, Joe (2019-10-30). "London poet helps explore identity at Wordsfest". London Free Press. Retrieved 2022-08-22.
  22. ^ Chan, Sunny (2019). "Rewilding Poetry". Canadian Literature (238): 151, 183. ProQuest 2306205380 – via ProQuest.
  23. ^ Howell, Stevie (2018-11-22). "Review: Fox Haunts". Quill and Quire. Retrieved 2022-08-22.
  24. ^ Wenn, Jennifer (2022-06-26). "P.S. by Penn Kemp and Sharon Thesen". The Miramichi Reader. Retrieved 2022-08-22.
  25. ^ Fretwell, Katerina. "Review: A Near Memoir: New Poems by Penn Kemp". League of Canadian Poets. Retrieved 2022-08-22.
  26. ^ Belanger, Joe (2021-05-01). "Poet Penn Kemp celebrates growing up in London in new book of verse". London Free Press. Retrieved 2022-08-21.
  27. ^ Stioski, Richard-Yves (Summer 2021). "Memoria Tenere: Penn Kemp's A Near Memoir: New Poems" (PDF). Sage-ing (37): 25–27.
  28. ^ Belanger, Joe (2013-05-20). "London launch of the book, Jack Layton: Art in Action, edited with contributions by Londoner Penn Kemp and published by Quattro Books Inc. of Toronto". Calgary Herald. Retrieved 2022-08-21.
  29. ^ "JACK LAYTON: ART IN ACTION". London Free Press. 2016-06-15. Retrieved 2022-08-21.
  30. ^ a b Belanger, Joe (2016-11-23). "Literary events feature poems, wartime letters". Calgary Herald. Retrieved 2022-08-22.
  31. ^ Lederman, Marsha (2022-06-17). "Ukrainian art in Canada reflects the war and our responses to it". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 2022-08-22.
  32. ^ Robertson, Becky (2015-04-01). "League of Canadian Poets 2015 awards finalists revealed". Quill and Quire. Retrieved 2022-08-22.
  33. ^ "And the winners are . . ". London Free Press. 2013-10-30. Retrieved 2022-08-21.
  34. ^ Tobias, Conan (2015-06-03). "League of Canadian Poets announces annual award winners". Quill and Quire. Retrieved 2022-08-22.