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Friday Poem: Kate Tempest – Hold Your Own

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Kate Tempest is a force to be reckoned with. Her spoken word poetry has the ability to enrapture whole crowds, leaving even the most cynical audience members permanently stunned.

At first glance, she may look like a missionary given a microphone outside WHSmiths. But don’t be deceived – Tempest manages to turn what could easily descend into blind prophecy into pure art.

As a teenager, Tempest started out by performing at open mic nights and in her early 20s went on to support big name acts such as Benjamin Zephaniah. Since then, she’s published three poetry collections, one of which won the Ted Hughes Award for poetry, and released two studio albums, including the Mercury Prize-nominated Everybody Down. In addition to this, she’s written several plays and published a novel.

Yet despite these impressive credentials, Tempest still manages to convey a distinct ‘woman-of-the-people’ aura. Her approach is bold and highly literary – she is allegedly inspired by Beckett, although it is her relationship with Greek myth which is perhaps most obvious – but never to the point of becoming inaccessible. I’ve known friends usually averse to poetry drop their jaws in awe after watching her dazzling performances.

Hold Your Own is the title of her 2014 poetry anthology and she ended her 2015 Glastonbury set with a poem of the same name. It is some of her best work – raw, witty, evocative. Just by looking at the silent faces in the crowd, you get the impression that many of those people won’t look at poetry the same way again.

Watch the clip below:

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