Book Review: Read My Lips

UK poet-rapper Kate Tempest screams in both prose and meter

Read My Lips
Read My Lips

Brand New Ancients

by Kate Tempest
Bloomsbury, 64 pp., $15 (paper)

Hold Your Own

by Kate Tempest
Bloomsbury, 128 pp., $17 (paper)

These two poetry collections don't pertain to music per se, but their unabashed attitude and fierce energy screams "rock & roll." Poet, playwright, soon-to-be novelist, and spoken word artist/rapper, Kate Tempest took SXSW 2015 by storm, exuding heartfelt sincerity coupled with an in-your-face delivery. Live, she's riveting. Likewise, her written words fly off the page with a verve and cadence that provides its own beat-driven soundtrack. In fact, narrative poem "Brand New Ancients," winner of the coveted Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry, was written as a performance piece and meant to be read aloud. Set in Tempest's southeast London 'hood, it arcs a contemporary tale of two intertwined families with more than a passing confluence to "the ancients." Similarly, Hold Your Own blends the myth of male/female, Greek prophet Tiresias with Tempest's personal history, and insightful social commentary. Its haunting anti-Iraq War "Ballad of a Hero" and wise-beyond-her-29-years "These Things I Know" are particularly memorable. At their best, Tempest's poems evoke a knowing universality that connects us not only to our own foibles and humanity but also to those of our forefathers. (Kate Tempest's Holy Mountain appearance on Saturday, May 30, is sold out.)

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Kate Tempest
Jesse Sublett's Top Reads of 2016
Top Books to Cover the Good, the Bad, and the Doomed
A list of memorable lit that includes a philosophical gumshoe, an irredeemable tycoon, and ill-fated whalers

Jesse Sublett, Dec. 30, 2016

More Music Reviews
<i>Me & Mr. Cigar</i>
Me & Mr. Cigar
Butthole Surfers singer Gibby Haynes debuts a deeply weird and wonderful young adult novel.

Alyssa Quiles, Feb. 21, 2020

Revenge of the She-Punks
Revenge of the She-Punks

Rachel Rascoe, Dec. 6, 2019

More by Jay Trachtenberg
Turning the Page on the Year in Books
Turning the Page on the Year in Books
New works by Cormac McCarthy and Sarah Bird make for a memorable year in literature

Dec. 16, 2022

What We’re Listening to This Week
What We’re Listening to This Week
Angela Strehli, Quentin Arispe, and an improvisation supergroup

Nov. 11, 2022


Kate Tempest, Ted Hughes, poetry

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle