British poetess Kate Tempest’s new book

This video from Britain says about itself:

20 May 2009

Kate Tempest formerly Excentral Tempest performs her poem Best intentions at the lizard lounge night, hosted by Scroobius Pip.

By Solomon Hughes in Britain:

Poet of the struggle for the struggle

Friday 2nd January 2015

Solomon Hughes finds the poetry of Kate Tempest a revitalising antidote to the present political climate

If you got any book tokens for Christmas, can I suggest you spend £9.99 of them on Kate Tempest’s latest book of poetry Hold Your Own?

Tempest is better known as a performance poet, holding her own in the halls alongside the John Cooper Clarkes and Scroobius Pips of this world.

But Hold Your Own sees her stepping into the world of traditional “slim volume verse,” publishing a book of poems to be read as well as heard.

And she steps in with style, bringing the grit of performance poetry as well as working with the more formal world of written verse.

The book is based on the myth of Tiresias’s encounter with the gods told as if on the grimy streets of London. The tension between the down to earth and divine drives the poems.

The first poem tells Tiresias’s story — which is a typically barmy Greek myth about a boy who becomes a woman and then a man (thanks to some magic screwing snakes), in which he is asked by the Gods for his opinion on whether men or women enjoy sex more and gets made into a blind prophet for his honest answer.

It’s a 14-page narrative poem with crazy god-driven stuff happening among the “cigarettes and spit” of the contemporary back streets.

The contrast between the wasteground filled with shopping trolleys and used condoms and the miraculous transformation is dramatic and comic and moving. The parallel contrast between the demotic language and the formality of the poetry adds bite. Tempest’s rhymes are fluid, although very occasionally thud a bit hard for the page.

The rest of the poems use the Tiresias myth to riff on what it means to be a girl or a boy or a man or a woman, and to play with some prophecy.

They often mix gritty realism with passionate romanticism — love poems have furious arguments in them as well as fervent love and are the more moving for it. There is a constant battle between the human heart and the “hatred” and “boredom” of regular life.

All of the poems are about the struggles of real life and so in that sense political. But the last section — Blind Profit — is of particular interest to Morning Star readers. Tempest ends her book with a series of direct, political poems.

They include my favourite Progress, which is a great retelling of 300 years of human history, including the move from feudalism to capitalism, the existential crisis caused by the death of god and the prison of the “free market.” Only Tempest does it in sharp, economical, aphoristic couplets.

If you didn’t get a book token but do have some Christmas cash left over, then Tempest is also playing live in Britain through February.

Either in person or on the page, she shows she’s got sharp, important things to say and the poetic skills to say them.


7 thoughts on “British poetess Kate Tempest’s new book

  1. Pingback: Kate Tempest Review - Gorilla - 12th Feb 2015 » Paul Flint

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