Reviews||

Hold Your Own by Kate Tempest

13th Nov 2014

★★★★★
Hold Your Own Kate Tempest Cover
Kate Tempest’s second book, Hold Your Own, manages to make painfully astute observations about modern society through retelling the ancient Greek myth of Tiresias (one of Tiresias’ awful punishments was being turned into a woman for seven years).

Split into four sections – Childhood, Womanhood, Manhood and Blind Profit – Kate Tempest passionately skewers a lot of things she abhors in modern life whist writing some beautiful poems about things she loves.

Tempest’s sensitive political commentary is especially seen in School, a place where “happy children” will become fully functioning members of our society by learning “how to follow orders when you’re bordering / on nausea and you’re bored and / insecure and dwarfed by fear.”

Tempest’s cultural observations often feel like a punch in the gut; she can say a lot more in a few words than some authors often say in an entire book.

Tempest’s cultural observations often feel like a punch in the gut; she can say a lot more in a few words than some authors often say in an entire book.Tempest also plays with the idea of gender roles, which you would expect from a narrative based on Tiresias (whose story has inspired authors such as Angela Carter).

In Man Down, a lover is told that “you are more man when you break and weep”, and that no man should feel the need to conform to society’s nonsensical masculine stereotypes.

Feminine gender expectations are unravelled in The Woman Tiresias when the female narrator unconfidently wonders if “she must be more than sex and body? / Sex and body’s all she’s got.” Kate Tempest articulates truths about the way women are often treated, particularly if they feel desperate.

In Blind Profit, Progress contrasts the past, a time in which all people were religious (and all had “a reason to be kind and jus”’) to the present, when all people have is screens and dreams of getting on the TV.

The fact that ‘Prophet’ has been discarded for ‘Profit’ in the final section’s name is representative of some rather sweeping observations about contemporary society in the final section (people have swapped spirituality for money).

Kate Tempest is at her best when she explores bigger themes in more detailed ways, and some of the poems in Blind Profit lack nuance compared to the more personal poems seen earlier in the book.

Ultimately, Hold Your Own is a wonderful achievement by a wise writer and it takes a woman of some genius to produce a book like this.