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Brand New Ancients

Electrifying performance poet finds the majestic in ordinary life

Calling every teenager that thinks poetry is boring! Shelve your prejudices and open your mind to Kate Tempest, who honed her craft ‘rapping at strangers’ on night buses and all-night raves. In Brand New Ancients, she has created a poem in the tradition of the epic myths, and fused it with a tale of urban angst in south east London.

Intrigued? Designed to be read aloud, or with accompanying audio, it’s also available on vinyl, which surely ticks every self-respecting teenager’s cool box. A humdrum house on a London street, a fatally bored husband and wife. Jane burns for the touch of another man, Kevin pretends he doesn’t know, and sits alone at night ‘while she gives herself away’. He is ‘majestic in smallness and quiet and no fuss.’ The seeds of tragedy are sown in this mundane infidelity when baby Tommy is born. Knowing that Tommy isn’t his, Kevin crumbles inside, and carries on. The repercussions ripple outwards, bruising other lives, and tempting cruel and dramatic fate.

Kate Tempest is aptly named. Her poetry is a maelstrom of images and powerful language. Myths are the stories we use to explain our lives, and she believes that somewhere along the way, we’ve forgotten this. The gods are still with us, the myths are written into our DNA.

Jane, the unfaithful wife, becomes the ‘Brand New Pandora, with the lid off the box,’ and a later spirited female character burns’…brighter than any of Zeus’s daughters.’ Brand New Ancients shows us that our modern lives contain just as much drama and power as those of our old gods.

‘We’re the same beings that began, Still living in all of our fury and foulness and friction.’

Performance poetry is cool these days, every festival worth its salt having a Spoken Word tent. Buy your teenager the book and audio, and feel the fire. 

‘The stories are here, the stories are you.’

Be impressed also by The Bricks That Built the Houses, and Let Them Eat Chaos.

Brand New Ancients is published by Picador, 64 pages.

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