Book Reviews

Poetry review: Hold Your Own by Kate Tempest


Poet: Kate Tempest

Pages: 111

Genre: Poetry, Mythology, Feminist writing

Publication Date: 9th October 2014

Read: April 15nd – April 17th

Rating: 5-stars-new



I’ve been wanting to read more poetry recently, so when my sister asked me if I wanted to borrow this collection I jumped at the chance. And then couldn’t put it down. At all.

The anthology centres on the character of Tiresias, a blind prophet from Greek mythology who served Apollo, but there’s also significant focus on human nature and empathy. The collection is split into four sections: Childhood, Womanhood, Manhood, and Blind Prophet.

Kate Tempest’s writing style is nothing short of phenomenal. Her words are so evocative of different emotions that it seems like she’s lived all the lives she’s writing about. She has the ability to express feelings I’ve had in vivid detail even more eloquently than I could – and I lived them. Reading her poetry is like talking to a friend about a situation you both experienced. She understands. Every stanza is infused with such feeling that I found my own feelings resonating with them – I chuckled out loud, I teared up, I smiled wryly.

The rhythm is so intense in certain poems that it felt like my heart was pumping faster and faster in time to the beat. It’s easy to tell that Tempest started out as a rapper and spoken word poet because some of her poems lend themselves fluidly to the slam poetry style. So fluidly, in fact, that I found myself reading them out loud.

As a woman, reading poetry written by another woman, I found the womanhood collection to be the most powerful, but there were other poems that just spoke to me. My favourite was probably These Things I Know from the Manhood section.

Here are just a few lines (not in chronological order):

Language lives when you speak it. Let it be heard.
The worst thing that can happen to words is that they go unsaid.

Let them sing in your ears and dance in your mouth and ache in your guts. Let them make everything tighten and shine.

It’s as much about instinct as it is about intellect
And if you feel it, it’s alive.

Let it be magic.
These are not engines we’re making.

It’s OK to feel alone.
Usually you are.
That’s what poetry’s for.

It’s good to care about things so much you feel exhausted.
Don’t read women’s magazines. They’re bad for your stomach.

And don’t even get me start on the poem Tiresias. It’s epic poetry. It’s 24 pages long and absolutely stunning. This is just one stanza:

When she was complete again,
She’d wolfwalk into town.
And drink down every wave that came
To break her spirits down.
She was wild and wonderful
A star throughout the district.
A red light dreadnought.
Queen among misfits.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with writing my own poetry (I’ll write something, like it for a few hours, read it again, despise it, and scrap it a short while later), but reading this anthology has left me so inspired that I saw down and started writing some new poetry earlier today. Kate Tempest makes me want to write in a way that instigates the same depth of feeling in others that she instigated it in me.

Let's Discuss! FINAL

One thought on “Poetry review: Hold Your Own by Kate Tempest

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s