For Penn Kemp, poetry is magic made manifest. While her subjects are varied, and her interests and approaches have evolved over the years, Kemp has always understood the power of spoken word to evoke emotion, shift consciousness, and shape the world. Drawing on a syncretic blend of spiritual philosophy informed by Buddhist, Hindu, and Celtic wisdom traditions, Kemp’s work is imminent and transcendent, embodied and cerebral. The words on the page produce certain effects, while the voices in the air produce others altogether. How do these effects complement and contradict one another? How does literary sound produce bodily effects and altered states of consciousness? Where will the trance take us, as listeners?
Through conversation with poet Penn Kemp and SpokenWeb Researcher Nick Beauchesne, this episode invites us to explore these questions by tracing the threads of magical practice from Kemp’s early career to the present day. A clip from her performance of Trance Form at the University of Alberta (1977) is brought into conversation with more recent material from When the Heart Parts (2007) and Barbaric Cultural Practice (2017). The episode concludes with a live reading from Kemp’s brand-new Pandemic Poems (2020).
Penn Kemp, Nick Beauchesne, Nix Nihil, Ann Anglin, Bill Gilliam, John Magyar
Special Thanks to Adam Whitaker-Wilson for technical assistance and recording resources and Douglas Barbour for hosting the Trance Form reading at U of A in 1977.