Penn Kemp Reads Poem at Celebration Forest Event

Over one hundred people are attended the opening of the Celebration Forest on Sunday, May 29. Approximately 300 trees were planted in memory or celebration of loved ones!

The Celebration Forest was made in partnership between ReForest London, the London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), St Josephs Health Care (SJHC) and other partners with interests in Westminster Ponds lands. The health care organizations have dedicated this land as part of their ongoing commitment to the health of southwestern Ontario’s people and environment.

London’s celebrated poet, and City of London Poet Laureate, Penn Kemp was a featured guest, who read her poem “Commemorating in Celebration Forest.” Mary Kerr was also celebrated as ReForest London’s Tree Hero for 2011.

 Commemorating in Celebration Forest

 Here’s to trees that celebrate soul!
 We celebrate their verve. Here’s
 to tree as memory holder, tribute
 to our beloved’s ongoing presence.
 The Oak above Pond Mills hidden
 on a hillside of younger upstarts.
 The Beech behind Attawandaron
 where October puffball might pop.
 The Black Spruce and Tamarack
 that whisk us to clearer northern
 air as we walk through Sifton Bog
 like winds that wind along each limb.
 Trees we have known are trees we
 can meet by species. Once connected,
 always familiar, old friends to greet
 on any city street or in deep woods
 if we can slow down long enough to
 salute the Tree of Life in each. Light
 candelabra of Catalpa, Horse Chestnut,
 Pine, Balsam Fir, Juniper or Cedar cone.
 Sing a litany of names that belong here.
 Alder, Balm of Gilead, Willow galore.
 Glorious Maple, Butternut, sad slips of
 Elm, even intrusive Buckthorn now.
 Celebrate those graceful interlopers,
 the Carolinians (Redbud, Tulip Tree,
 magnificent Magnolia) sheltering here
 at comfort’s edge in Snowbelt country.
 Here’s to lacey Walnut, Honey Locust,
 whose canopies carry us off to African
 plains: Acacia giraffes might browse
 or Le Douanier paint above his lion.
 Sycamore is our memory tree, shedding
 its bark like arbutus, its winter silhouette
 a ghostly skeleton, reminiscent of that
 other London’s Plane-shaded streets.
 Mother trees surround us, the very
 few left over from original forest we
 long paved over, old rotten stumps
 that settlers burnt to clear their land.
 Trees know their season, their reason for
 being. How each tree reaches out to be-
 come World Tree. We have so much to
 learn from not living on but with our place.
 We who live in this Forest City must ensure
 a name never replaces the reality of canopy.
 Long may our trees flourish for we can only
 prosper with our elder brothers, our mothers
 down the long lineage of those gone before. 

–Penn Kemp, City of London Poet Laureate |