This is a late review. I’m not sure why I didn’t write it up last month, I can only think that I had too much on. But anyway, last month I saw Kate Tempest read from her new novel, The Bricks That Built the Houses . Tempest is better known for her spoken word poetry, and was up front about this being her first novel. Up front is very much her style, uncompromising, and it made for a slightly awkward interview. Tip: if you are talking to Kate Tempest on stay, find an interviewer more empathetic to her style than a middle aged man. The question and answer session was stilted and awkward, with Tempest only finding her flow when she ad-libbed with the audience. (Interestingly, I pick up the same vibe from an interview with Tempest in the May issue of Vogue… doesn’t seem to be online but you can see the photoshoot here.) She brought her dog to the event and there was a nice moment when he let her know he wasn’t too happy to only see her from a distance.
This isn’t a review of the book, I haven’t read it yet – busy month, long pile of books to read, and in many ways I don’t want to read it. Instead, like a member of the audience requested, I want to hear Kate herself read it. In her hands, a page of prose became poetry, because transformed, became music. The way she performs the words dance off the page. This is a book that begs to become an audiobook, read by the author. There’s a review of the book in the New Yorker if you want an insight from someone who has read it. Interestingly, at the New York launch, the audience wanted her to keep reading from the book.
So, what have I learned from Kate Tempest? I’m just about to embark on reading some of my work out loud at a small event. In watching Kate Tempest I was totally inspired about finding the rhythms in my work when I read it out loud. I think for every writer, performing work changes it: when practising for my event I see extraneous phrases to cut that look fine when they lie unspoken on the page. I’ve always been a writer, but not the person on stage. I need to find the performer in me.
The Bricks That Built the Houses costs £8/9/10 depending on format at time of writing.
This is a really interesting perspective on reading your work out loud. Most writers write for their work to be accessed via the page. If you can find extra meaning/rhythms from performing work out loud this is indeed a bonus. As a performance poet, I work in the other direction. I tend to write for performance, and then approach the work to see if it will stand alone if left on the page.
And I think that might be a difference between Kate Tempest and other novelists, and it might be why her work begs to be read out loud: she writes for the voice before the page. It’s a good thing for all of us to consider both ways I think!
That’s curious. A friend brought Kate Tempest to my attention this morning, and here she is again on the #whatimwriting linky! I am clearly going to have to find out more about her (and spend some quality time with YouTube I suspect!
I write for the page myself, but I do read my work out (to myself) when I’m editing, and it’s really useful, especially for dialogue, and somehow I notice more easily the overused words when I do that too.
Recently I read some of my poems to an audience of strangers for the first time (in Burns’ actual cottage – in the kitchen where his mother would no doubt have read to him!), and it was terrifying, but interesting as well. I took everything and was glad I did because I changed my mind about what to read. One of the other poets only had her poems in her head. She was amazing. I need to practice more until I learn them, because she could really engage with the audience when she did her poems like that. She’s called Katharine MacFarlane, and she doesn’t have much of an online presence, but she does spoken stuff, especially in Scotland, if you get the chance.
Thanks for the poke about Kate. She’s added to my list of poets to check out now!
Hope you enjoy listening to her.
I really love Kate Tempest. Apart from the fact that she’s taking up ALL of my agent’s time at the moment… 😉 I have a real thing for spoken word in general. I did a lot of performance poetry stuff with kids when I was teaching, and in fact my first novel is about a girl who is basically saved from the monotony of a broken education system by discovering her talent for speaking her truth! I haven’t read Kate’s novel yet either. It is very much on my list, but if she released an audio book that would be super awesome… xx
You have the same agent as Kate Tempest! #jealous … Apart from the bit where you get no time!
I love spoken word poetry, I think it has such power! I also like hearing authors read from their books as it isn’t necessarily at all how it sounds in your head and can add a whole other flavour. I always read my picture books out loud to myself though haven’t got as far as reading my (half written) novel. I do think you become aware of issues when you hear the words rather than just see them. Thanks for linking to #whatImWriting xx
Thanks for commenting Maddy.
Having read my stuff out this week I’ve been busy cutting out lines as I practised. I think it helped!