Monday, 27 June 2016

The Old Gods and the New

I had the pleasure of hearing Kate Tempest speak at the Sydney Writers' Festival in May 2016, and was impressed by her poetry, presentation and ideas. When she recited the poems of Christopher Logue, I marvelled at her ability to elicit the passion, humour and drama of his War Stories. I had also seen her on television, delivering one of her works at the end of QnA.  

I grabbed a copy of her Brand New Ancients (2013) without knowing what it was about. The cover attracted me with its depiction of ancient Greeks holding ipods and cigarettes. All I knew was that this poem had won the Ted Hughes Award for Poetry and was conceived as a performance piece with instructions to read it aloud. And so I did. Reading it aloud brought forth a rhythm and pace in the work which would have been missing had I read this quietly on a bus. The lyricism of each stanza comes forth, especially in the almost sing-song verses about the gods. 

Brand New Ancients reminded me of Willy Russell's Blood Brothers in that it is a tale of two boys, growing up side by side,  and the different paths their lives take. Over the course of this 50 page poem, their families experience the ups and downs of life - the mundane everyday existence peppered with moments of love and tragedy. It is a moving story told in a moving way.

I have always enjoyed poetry, but most of the poems I am familiar with were written a long, long time ago. It is wonderful to find a new poet, who speaks with an urgency on contemporary themes. I look forward to reading her collection Hold Your Own (2014).

There are numerous extracts of Kate Tempest performing on YouTube.