Scuffed! Effaced! Erased!

September 22, 2017 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

Kristina Flour photo

 

By

Penn Kemp

 

 

a Poem without Posterity, a Poem in Pics

 

 

Photo – Wally Keeler

 

A few lines of poetry were quoted by someone who chalked in Stanza Room Only on Saturday. The words are from Penn Kemp, who is well known in the Canadian scene as a poet and as an activist for literature, a mentor for writers and a cheerleader for literary events. She also happens to have been the 1st Poet Laureate of the City of London, Ontario.

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 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. – Cuz Fuzz

 

Poetry’zown Editor JF Pickergill responded: “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: 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:)!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penn Kemp

Penn Kemp is an activist Canadian poet, playwright and editor.  Her latest works are two plays celebrating local hero and explorer, Teresa Harris, produced in 2017 and published by Playwrights Guild of Canada. Recent books include Barbaric Cultural Practice (quattrobooks.ca/books/barbaric-cultural-practice/) and two anthologies edited, Women and Multimedia and Performing Women (http://poets.ca/feministcaucus/livingarchives/). See www.pennkemp.weebly.com.

Editor review

2 Comments

  1. Penn Kemp September 22, at 13:23

    Nina Grigg writes: "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 agrees: "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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