Image by Niamh Convery

Kate Tempest

b. 1985


Tempest has forged her own voice, unlike anything else in the mainstream poetry world – The Independent


About Kate Tempest

Born in south-east London where she still lives, Kate Tempest made her live debut as a spoken-word artist at sixteen. Having initially conceived of herself as a rapper, Tempest found her work was also extremely popular at poetry slams; she now comfortably straddles the notional divide between the two art forms (and indeed several others). In 2014 she was selected as one of the Poetry Book Society’s Next Generation Poets. Her already formidable body of work encompasses both stage and page and includes Everything Speaks in its Own Way, a first collection of poems published under her own imprint; the verse epic Brand New Ancients, which won the 2012 Ted Hughes Award for innovation in poetry; the plays Wasted and Hopefully Devoted (published by Methuen); the acclaimed poetry collection Hold Your Own (published by Picador in 2014) and her Mercury-Prize-nominated debut album Everybody Down. She also has a forthcoming novel, The Bricks That Built the Houses (Bloomsbury, 2016).

Tempest is a spellbinding performer, as the reviews of her live work attest. ‘While she moves casually across the stage, she often seems to be vibrating like a tuning fork with the urgency of the telling’, wrote the New York Times of her performance in Brand New Ancients, which it describes as a ‘thrillingly good, genre-bending show’, noting the ‘gorgeous streams of words’ and the way in which ‘both as writer and performer, [she] stitches together words with such animate grace that language acquires an almost tactile quality, and the drama she unfolds […] soars to operatic dimensions.’ Meanwhile Lyn Gardner wrote of her experience of seeing the show, that ‘it feels as if we are not in a theatre but a church...gathered around a hearth, hearing the age-old stories that help us make sense of our lives. We’re given the sense that what we are watching is something sacred.’

The oracular quality of Tempest’s poetry is particularly evident in Hold Your Own, her most recent collection. This sensitive, tender, yet political examination of contemporary society is built around a reworking of the myth of blinded prophet Tiresias, asking questions about issues such as gender, class and capitalism and their impact on an individual’s search for identity. In so doing ‘the majesty and mystery in ordinary lives’ are brought vividly to life. ‘Myths used to be “the stories we used to explain ourselves,”’ Tempest has observed, ‘[they] remind us that every person, every passer-by on the street, has an “epic narrative” within’ (New York Times). As the Independent has noted, ‘Tempest has forged her own voice unlike anything else in the mainstream poetry world.’

The recordings available here were produced by Dan Carey at Mr Dan's Studio, London 2014. The unabridged audiobook of Hold Your Own can be purchased on iTunes. 

Hopelessly Devoted (Methuen, 2014)

Buy

Wasted (Modern Plays, Methuen, 2013)

Buy

Brand New Ancients (Picador, 2013)

Buy

Hold Your Own (Picador, 2014)

Buy

Prizes

Ted Hughes Prize (2012) for Brand New Ancients

Prize website

Mercury Prize (shortlist) for album Everybody Down

Prize website

Books by Kate Tempest