Susan McCaslin commented: “Just listened to this very deep and engaging interview with Carmelo Militano, Penn. You two are a good team as interviewer and interviewee. I think his term “archeologist of the heart” is very fitting to describe you and your work, but I would add “sonic delver” to the mix. I appreciate your poetics of stepping into the unknown and moving into the transpersonal, inclusive, larger fields rather than getting stuck in the merely personal. At this stage of our lives and of history, we are lured, compelled, drawn by the call to expand, deepen, and serve the larger world, the earth, Gaia.”
Join in and become part of the story! And people, let’s talk about River Revery, let’s start talking about the beauty of our river, its natural environment, and our community of London, Ontario!
River Revery began with a tiny idea, and in the excitement that collaboration can inspire, the whole of River Revery was born. River Revery is a collaboration of poetry commingling with visual, moving art. Poetry becomes fluid through transmedia storytelling, through visualization, through animation.
Your story about our river will become part of our story and will be featured here, on the Story Wall.
River Revery expands print publication in employing innovative transmedia platforms to engage and inspire new audiences, youth in particular. River Revery reflects our ongoing concerns as artists deeply involved with our particular place and cultural community.
As a writer, I’m interested in exploring the natural world as it impinges on urban realities. Outside my window, jackhammers awaken the day, digging up a city road to reveal an underground stream. Medway Creek at the end of my street flows into the Thames, which swallows it whole and continues through the city and on, to debouche into Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie and the Atlantic Ocean.
The river Thames winds through the city of London, forking into two streams; thus it was named Askunessippi, “the antlered river,” by the original Algonquin inhabitants. For our Indigenous communities, it is“Deshkan Ziibiing” or “Antler River”. French explorers called the river “la tranche”, the ditch. Its current name derives from its colonial progenitor, a river goddess called “Tamesis”, the Celtic word for “Dark Flow”. The name is a palimpsest: in calling the river a familiar, comforting name from the Old Country, English settlers colonized the forbidding new territory. The name reflects life as a pale imitation of ‘home’, rather than embracing the vibrancy of this river as it is. The Thames waters my garden, real and imaginary, “with real toads in them”.
I was first inspired to write about the Thames when taking part in the Kuhlehorn project in 2008. A group of artists and environmentalists recreated painter Paul Peel’s 1877 journey with his mentor, William Lees Judson, down the Thames. Present day canoeists paddled from London’s pump house to the mouth of the Thames. Our art show, “The Thames Revisited,” was exhibited at 1st Hussars Museum in London ON.
In my writing on local hero and global explorer Teresa Harris, the river symbolized Teresa’s escape route from her home at Eldon House in colonial London. I envisioned her turning to the river as a child and returning on her death bed.
For me, River Revery began with images. I walk daily in London’s many natural areas around the river. As I walk, I notice small details — suspended moments that catch my attention with their beauty.These small moments of beauty remind me, as do Penn’s River Revery poems, of the impermanence and flux in which we live.
Still images are translated into movement as the images are layered, superimposed upon other still images or video — transfigured. Using digital editing, montage and stop motion techniques these separate images flow together, creating my animated response to Penn’s poetic words. I hope that these poems and artistic interpretations call us to value and protect the glorious natural world that surrounds us every day, here in our home, along our beloved River, in London.
View across the heart
River Revery is a collaboration between Penn Kemp and Mary McDonald.
River Revery is supported by the London Arts Council through the City of London’s Community Arts Investment Program.
“To the western world, the word Thames is a mystery that even a sage cannot solve. In the past, places like the routes of rivers were known to everybody. And language always held a clue, especially in oral culture. The River Thames of London, England leads us back to Sanskrit….To Penn Kemp and the people of Southern Ontario, it reminds them of their heritage in ‘stealing’ a name for their beautiful home.
Poetry also refreshes the dream. So sit by the trees of your Carolinian Forest and make a wish. I will join you in this. Wishes lead to hope. Hope leads to action. So let’s hope that the waters of River Revery can feed the forests of blue ash, Fraxinus quadrangulata, whose blue dye was once used in the popcorn wedding baskets for the First Nations of Canada. Let us all wish and hope together that we can protect this environment for Ula and Kai. Amen.”
- Diana B. Beresford-Kroeger, Author of The Global Forest