Hold Your Own | Book Review

★★★★/★★★★★ Hold Your Own by Kate Tempest.

“Language lives when you speak it. Let it be heard.
The worst thing that can happen to words if they go unsaid….
Sometimes things are as simple as they seem.
It is as much about instinct as it is intellect….
The world is getting stranger every day; you’re not strange for noticing.
You don’t have to be young to be good at what you do. You just have to be good at it…
The pain of having fucked up things up so bad will never leave us…
If you’ve been an arsehole today, acknowledge it.
Try not to be one tomorrow…
If some people don’t hate your work, you’re not doing it right.”-These things I know

This book has a focus on the story of the ancient Greek prophet Tiresias, a modern retelling of his life from childhood to prophet-hood, with the first poem trailing his most famous story, his change from a man to a woman and back to a man, and how he gets screwed over by the gods. The first poem in the selection, and some consecutive others in the different chapters, tell of his life before, during, and after his pains and loves, known as “childhood, womanhood, manhood, and blind profit,” and they were so wonderfully written I was sadden once more by his story. However, my favourite poems were the ones that show universality between our society’s issues today and Tiresias’ struggles. Themes of war, love, school, gender, and sexuality, surround the book, mingling and using the myth as a basis, and leaving us in awe at the way Kate Tempest managed to do it all in such a small book.

There’ll be fires in the forests, floods in the cities.
And men too rich to swim will die.

The skin on our children will toughen and harden.
And still we will debase ourselves
For that piece of land or mineral
That rock or bomb or golden egg
That might allow one dying person to imagine
They are worth more than another.“- Cruise Control

Whenever Tempest writes, I can feel her meaning like a punch in the gut, all of her poems have that impact, and I read all of these in one sitting. And I have yet to decide whether it was a good option or not. It ended when I wanted to prolong it, but on the contrary, I was unable to stop myself from digesting everything, and the poems seem more connected when read nonstop. 

Won medals for his bravery,
But just wants to forget it….

Not in the name of good or evil-
But in the name of home…
Your dad believes in fighting
He fights for you and I,
But the men that send the armies in
Will never hear him cry.
I don’t support the war my son,
I don’t believe it’s right,
But I do support the soldiers who
Go off to war to fight….
Please don’t go fighting wars,
But fight the men that start them
Or fight a cause that’s yours.
It seems so full of honour, yes, 
So valiant, so bold, 
But the men that send the armies in
Send them in for gold,
Or they send them for oil, 
And they tell us is for Britain
But the men come home like Daddy,
And spend their days just drinking.“-Ballad of a hero

When I read this poem, I kept thinking of “Hero of War” by Rise Against, and when I do that, while reading a poem about the horrors of war, I get upset, and a tear might have slipped from my eyes. This is a topic that I’ve read a lot about, whether form history books, to psychology books, to articles, to novels, to poems. And after having read so many of them, it is harder for me to feel as if it is the first time I am reading about it, this poem did it without pause. Every sentence was understood, and recalled a memory of something else I’ve read, or seen, or heard. This beautiful verse will be added as a favourite on my list ” war things to continually read.”

Soon we’ll learn to disappear in pubic.
We’ll learn that getting by is good enough.
We’ll learn the way it feels to see injustice,
and shut our mouths in case it comes for us.
We’ll learn to never think but copy blindly.
To ally with the mean and keep them near.
We’ll learn to not be talented or clever,
and the most important lessons
for success in a career.
How to follow orders when you’re bordering
on nausea and you’re bored and
insecure and dwarfed by fear.“-School

This is another poem that spoke to me. We have all gone to school, we have all had horrible teachers, and horrible classmates, some of us have experienced at least one of the things mentioned in this fragment. This is the true story of a student told through verse, when so many authors cannot manage to do it with four-hundred page novels, Tempest delivers.

Aside from the main poems I gave excerpts off,  check these others out: “Radical Empathy”,”Fine, thanks”, “Man Down”,”The old dogs who fought so well”, and “The woman the boy became.” 

This is an interesting book that will show a modern debate about sex between jealous Hera and cheating Zeus, a mother telling a child about her father’s PTSD, a transgendered person becoming who they truly are, and the story of God fearing people to television loving ones. It is not a collection  for people that loves Greek mythology, it is for all people that love the poetry format. You should read it. Really, really, read it. 

I believe so far, this is my favourite of her poems, and she did magnificently performing it. 


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