On Saturday, April 2, 2022 at 2 p.m. Eastern Time, Penn Kemp, Susan McCaslin, and host Richard-Yves Sitoski presented thirty Canadian poets in response to precarious events in the world for a special Oh!Sound online celebration of poetry. What better time than National Poetry Month?
In his famous elegy for W. B. Yeats, W. H. Auden says, “poetry makes nothing happen.” And he adds: “it survives, / A way of happening, a mouth.” Penn and Susan first reflected on Auden’s line in “A Dialogue: Reflections on W.H. Auden’s ‘Poetry Makes Nothing Happen’”, a blog published by Inanna here. We returned to question the line in light of the current situation in Ukraine. Susan writes: “On Feb. 24, 2022, when the world woke to the shock of the catastrophic bombing of Ukraine, I asked myself and a few of my fellow poet friends how they would respond to Auden’s words, especially in these perilous times.”
Penn continued curating this project with many more contributing poets, up now at: https://pennkemp.wordpress.com/2022/03/04/a-gathering-of-poets-in-response-to-peril/. There you can read how the poets have responded. See also The London Free Press column, “Piercing Hearts”: https://lfpress.com/entertainment/local-arts/poets-are-talking-tough-and-their-words-make-a-difference.
POETS IN RESPONSE TO PERIL, is now up, thanks to Richard-Yves Sitoski. Truly a labour of love, from Canadian poets to Ukrainian poets and people. The anthology, all 125 pages, is at the printers now! The book is edited by Penn and Richard. More here. Order [email protected]: $25 plus post.
What a profound and poignant event, gathering 100 poets and participants coast to coast— holding fast for over three hours of words that we so needed to hear. Poetry is the ability to respond, and the poets did, in voices eloquently and powerfully expressed. This blog is intended to keep that community vibe flowing.
Part 1 of our zoom features Penn Kemp, Richard-Yves Sitoski, Susan McCaslin, Svetlana Ischenko, Russell Thornton, Albert Dumont, Bänoo Zan, Celeste Snowber, Blaine Marchand and Marsha Barber.
The Zoom recording Part 2 features Caroline Morgan Di Giovann,i David Brydges, Diana Hayes, George Elliott Clarke, Charlie Petch, Harold Rhenisch, Jennifer Wenn, Karl Jirgens, Kate Braid, Katerina Fretwell, Kim Fahner, Lorri Neilsen Glenn, Marianne Micros, Murray Reiss, Patricia Keeney, Peggy Roffey, Solo and RL Raymond. Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-XxPmrqMhE&list=PLDARA01MjoyW7WccH9j6yGtI3XZhcE0BD&index=43&t=18s.
Part 3 features Richard-Yves Sitoski, Robert Girvan, Robert Priest, R. Pyx Sutherland, Sharon Thesen, Sheri-D Wilson, Susan McMaster and Akinlabi Ololade Ige, Susan McCaslin, Susan Wismer, Tanis MacDonald, Tolu Oloruntoba, Yvonne Blomer. Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkkLB2mso7E&list=PLDARA01MjoyW7WccH9j6yGtI3XZhcE0BD&index=45 .
Kudos to Rico (Richard-Yves Sitoski), our indomitable host, along with Owen Sound Public Library! Rico continues to gather our voices in poetry here. 49 so far! Send your videos to him, [email protected]. And please take a listen when you can, when you need to hear these poems. Here’s celebrating National Poetry Month, #npm22.
Cover for POEMS IN RESPONSE TO PERIL, designed by Rico.
Here’s to the community of poets! Gathering voices: so many ways of maintaining connection.
May the conversation continue! For updates, please see Gathering Voices, https://www.facebook.com/groups/PendasProductions.
And here’s my poem, “Toward”, written on the day of the Zoom: https://share.icloud.com/photos/0b2Kvbbwo24LY4DdFhsgtDt6g
Gathering Voices: poets and participants respond to our Zoom
A wonderful event! Still glowing from the sense of purpose generated when poets come together for an important cause. Poetry forever!
Thank you all so much for what was an amazing event. Penn, Susan and Richard for your dedication to this cause, and all the poets and audience. It was deeply moving.
– it was deeply moving, and healing. Thank you all!
It was an extraordinary afternoon hearing all the poets read, relating to these dreadful events in Ukraine. The strange thing is that I didn’t realize how I needed to hear the human reactions, responses poetically—Facing this issue head on (through poetry) is, to my mind, part of the eventual reconstruction of world community.
Holly (& Allan) Briesmaster
Richard/Penn: Congratulations on an impressive Zoom launch! Of all the Zoom events in the past few years i have attended this was the most high profile and meaningful with poets caring about the Ukrainian crisis. Plus so many other topics that they are passionate about. I am so heartened Canadian poets are deeply engaged in the tragedies of the day. I look forward to seeing the anthology and am proud that when the history of these times is written there will not be a blank page for the poets.
Today, I spent almost two hours in zoom poetry reading for “Poets In Response To Peril” as organized by Canadian Poet Penn Kemp. When the invasion of Ukraine began, she wanted to put together a chapbook, but instead, the outpouring of Canadian voices created a full-length book.. within days.
This is a really remarkable and quick effort, and the reading had me in tears as a poetry and people lover. My cat enjoyed the reading as well.
The proceeds of the book sales will go to PEN Ukraine.
Please consider purchasing this book in support of the voices of Ukraine and PEN Ukraine. email inquiries and orders to:[email protected]
Sarah M. Daugherty
My sincere thanks to Penn and Richard and the Library Zoom meister for arranging a truly astonishing afternoon of poetry, coast to coast. It was an honour to take part. Our poems now go out like prayers to Ukraine and , sadly, other places in our world where people suffering in peril may find a measure of comfort in our words. Poetry does have power. With love,
Caroline Morgan Di Giovanni
Our time together yesterday reminded me of a statement I made years ago. This is it: “Time is the storage place of our memories. And the human heart is the storage place of our tears. I have gone to that place of memories and visited where tears are kept. What I retrieved was the notion that poetry is delightful to the human spirit.” I hope your Sunday is restful and emotionally uplifting.
Congratulations on this impressive mobilization of poetic force in support of our allies and fellow artists under attack in Ukraine.
These poets…so amazing…all of them.
What an event dear Penn, and such variety and diversity and even Ukrainian spoken! Brava! A huge life-changing Poets in Response to Peril event. Brava/bravo Richard and Penn!! The variety, poignancy, astoundingly creative and delightful videos all contribute to a masterful, memorable production.
Katerina Vaughan Fretwell
We were particularly interested in your latest book since it also benefits those affected in the Ukraine. What a beautiful endeavour that helps shed light on the dreadful situation expressed with poetry. It is so beneficial and of course, our residents love reading poetry!
Dear Penn, Rico, Susan and all who made this special event possible…It was an emotional gathering of coast-to-coast poets and poems and I was honoured to be part of the outpouring of love and grief and hope at this time of peril.
Here’s to peace and freedom indeed!
And thanks dear heart for all your continuing efforts. I love that the whole project began with the conviction that poetry makes everything happen…in its time.
Thank you Richard-Yves Sitoski and Penn Kemp for all the work you put into Saturday’s very moving “Poets in Response to Peril” event. It felt like a teaser for the upcoming anthology. Now I can’t wait to read “Poems in Response to Peril”.
Wonderful initiative, great event. And thanks to you Penn, to Richard-Yves, to Susan McCaslin who worked so hard to bring it to fruition. Thanks to Tim for the technical support. A great gathering. Splendid poetry. Now people should purchase the Anthology and help support Ukraine. But it was great to feel a part of the poetic community this afternoon. I look forward to reading the anthology. There were many powerful, moving poems this afternoon.
Dear Penn & Richard,
Thanks to you both for collaborating on this wonderful and meaningful event. I hope more books orders flow in. Thanks for all you are doing to get more poets’ voice out to the public, Penn. And thanks for the links you are providing to preserve people’s responses to Saturday’s amazing event. The event continues opening in ever-widening circles!
Yes, thank you Penn, Rico, Tim, Susan, and all of my fellow poets for a most intense and meaningful event. I’ll remember it!
One of the poets said that she was falling in love with the community of poets on the zoom. Certainly, it was a wonderful group of poets, both in terms of their poetry and also their humanity. In the midst of sorrow about the war, there was also much beauty in the poets’ words…The breadth and depth of the poems shared by the poets was emotionally moving. Thank you again for putting together such a phenomenal project.
I would like to order a copy of Poems in Response to Peril. I attended the Zoom event on April 2nd and it was phenomenal.
That was a very rich and varied collection of poems and poets. A delight to be a part of the gathering. Well done, organizers. Thanks!
Sorry Penn for not to be able to participate at event with my voice. I was just ear but not voice. Anyway, I already doing my best with colegues writer here in Bosnia to help some of Ukrainian writer to find temporarry home here in Sarajevo and to be evacuate with great help of German Goethe Institute. I hope I am doing right, aven I have Memory of myself rejecting to leave Sarajevo with my two Children on the beginnig of four years long siege of my city starting 1992.
All the best to you and friends making that event possible.
Because of a poor connection from Bosnia, Goran was able to be with us only “by ear but not voice.” How ironic, because the voices of those who have known war need to be heard! As this conversation points out:
Dear Mr Simic, (And Everyone else…)
I have not had the pleasure of meeting you, but I do know of your fine work, and have just now read two of your poems, https://www.calvertjournal.com/articles/show/13065/poems-about-migration-love-and-war-by-bosnian-poet-goran-simic. It does not seem right that you could not share your voice at this event, particularly because in addition to your gifts as a poet, you are much closer in many ways to the bloody events unfolding in the Ukraine than many of us here.
Dear Robert, thank you for kind words about my poetry. I will be glad to record one of my poems to participate for video Message as Canadian/ Bosnian contribution of poets who alarm the world about attack on Ukrainian state, culture and history. All of my friends writers who survived siege in Sarajevo still feel alive the same scars watching destruction of city and civilians in Ukraina. But with pride for people not to give up struggle. I will do video asap because I spend most of my day on the hill keeping company to the four street abandoned dogs we adopted five years ago.
Excellent! I look forward to seeing you and hearing your voice and words. The lucky ones who have not (yet) faced war, bow their heads to those who have endured it, and listen.
Goran has sent the video of his poem for https://www.youtube.com/user/veggiemeister/playlists.
I hope you do too. His greetings from Sarajevo and the poem: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mW1KSzzPQ9c&list=PLDARA01MjoyW7WccH9j6yGtI3XZhcE0BD&index=41.
I am still feeling the pleasure of seeing you in your great blue and yellow costume, and the
honour of being involved in the hours of poetic tension that was so invigorating, even in the perilous present.
All I can say is
Thank you and love to you.
You are a great inspiration,
your spirit, insights and grace
encourage me, inspire.
Please let me add my voice to those who have already thanked the organizers and all who attended yesterday’s reading. It was indeed a marathon and, as one of the final readers, it was gratifying to see how many people hung in through the whole reading in an amazing outpouring of solidarity, support and yes, love. As Richard has noted, if even a fraction of that positive reverse-bomb energy intervenes in places in the world where people’s lives are torn by violence, we will have done our bit for peace and for the sustainable future of humanity. I look forward to receiving my copies of the anthology.
Penn Kemp has been celebrated as a trailblazer since her first publication (Coach House, 1972). She was London’s inaugural Poet Laureate and Western’s Writer-in- Residence. Chosen as the League of Poets’ Spoken Word Artist, Kemp has long 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 videopoems. Her latest collaboration of poetry is P.S., with Sharon Thesen (Gap Riot Press, 2022). See www.pennkemp.wordpress.com and www.pennkemp.weebly.com
Susan McCaslin is a poet, essayist, scholar, poetry editor, and Faculty Emerita of Douglas College in New Westminster, BC who has published sixteen volumes of poetry, including her most recent, Heart Work (Ekstasis Editions, 2020). Into the Open: Poems New and Selected was published by Inanna Publications in 2017. A chapbook titled Cosmic Egg came out through the Alfred Gustav Poetry Series in Spring of 2021. Susan initiated the Han Shan Poetry Project in 2012, which helped save an endangered forest in Glen Valley, Langley. www.susanmccaslin.ca
*This piece combines two posts on the project first published on Penn Kemp’s blog here