On 10th October, poetry fans flocked down to Southbank’s Elizabeth Hall. Traveling from near and far they filled rows and started nattering to each other anxiously. With the energy levels in the room, it would have been easy to mistake it for an open mic night. However, fans weren’t waiting to debut their skills but to hear those of Kate Tempest. Tempest was reading from her new book, Hold your own. I can assure you that the Ted Hughes poetry prizewinner lived up to her reputation.
The show was introduced by Tempest’s editor. His stage presence was exciting in its own right but anti-climactic after the 10 min delayed start time. While he did not sell himself as a ‘supporting act’, he followed the traditional pattern of delivering a few immensely unfunny one-liners to a polite, chuckling audience. He addressed Tempest’s NME interview but all the audience were already aware of the media storm she’s been shaking up recently.
Finally, Tempest herself came on stage to enthusiastic applause. Her response was humbling. She looked completely overwhelmed and announced that it was “crazy” before cracking and saying how it’s “fucking mental”. There we go- that’s the Kate we all know and love, whipping out the profanities within minutes. Despite receiving immense praise and media attention, she’s still just a girl from south London. Humble, swearing and honest.
She even went on to apologize saying she doesn’t want to get all “best man about it”. Despite the prior statement, she’s not one for witty banter between poems. Admitting to this she apologized slightly then reminded us that she’s here to do poems, not banter. After she started going no one looked like they had any intentions of stopping her.
The choice of day took particular resonance with the thematic side of the show. Being both ‘day of the girl’ and ‘world mental health day’ one was left wondering if it was intentional. The book is based around the mythical figure of Tiresias. It starts with an introduction to him and is then split into 4 parts with a narrative entwined. It follows his journey as child, man, woman and blind prophet.
But there’s a sprinkling of Kate Tempest gold dust on it. This is no boring adaption of a Grecian myth. The words “condom” and “cunt” are spread sporadically amongst mentions of the god’s great workings. We even hear of Tiresias coming before Zeus to back him up that men enjoy sex more. If you think it sounds odd, that’s because it is. But that’s just half the beauty of it.
Tempest covers every nook and cranny that she could venture into. Poems range in severity from dogs to dogging. While it’s all in good nature, some sensitive issues are touched upon. Elements of Tempest’s own discovery of her body, being and sexuality come through aswell as an appreciation of how hard life can be for the ‘kids from the block’. One thing is for sure; she’s taking the world by storm.