Brand New Ancients
London, Picador, 2013, 47p
I had the privilege of seeing Kate Tempest at the O2 in Oxford last Friday - apparently her first headline tour as a rapper. She was incredibly appreciative towards her audience, and her excitement was infectious.
She is not just a rapper and a performance poet; she is a writer. Brand New Ancients won the Ted Hughes Prize for innovation in poetry - it is a modern, honest story about characters that Tempest says live and breathe in her mind.
Tempest's narrative poem argues that we are all heroes of our own lives. She draws on traditional ideas about gods from classic mythology - heroes who were human, flawed, real. Then she creates her own contemporary heroes: men and women struggling with relationships; young people feeling disenfranchised; artists looking for their big break and barmaids seeking fulfillment.
Within just a few pages, these characters become fully rounded beings. They feel anger, regret and love; lines between good and bad are blurred.
Brand New Ancients is so clever and relevant. It tells the story of the kinds of individuals that young people can relate to; it is solid and grounded, avoiding all the abstract ideas and images we are spoon fed in the curriculum.
And if this doesn't convince you to find out more about Kate Tempest, watch this video - how can you not want to read the genius that comes from this mind?!