Book review: Hold your Own by Kate Tempest

Yesterday I finally read Kate Tempest’s poetry collection, and I’m so glad I did. Kate talks about lots of different things, including gender, violence, love, and much more. The themes are quite dark in general. The book is based on the myth of the blind prophet Tiresias, and throughtout the poems he changes gender – at first I found it a little confusing and didn’t understand what was going on, but it becomes clear very quickly. The whole collection is fairly easy to understand, as Kate is very straight-forward in her writing. Some people prefer very flowery poetry, full of images and metaphors, but honestly, I prefer a text that’s raw and honest. I don’t have a problem with metaphors, I like them, and there are quite a few in here as well, but I can’t really enjoy a poem if the whole damn thing is a metaphorical mess. Because of her straight-forward style, I think this is a good collection to start with if you’re new to poetry.


5 stars white

Her writing style is a good mix between irregular rhyming and free verse poetry. I am personally more a fan of the rhyming kind, as long as it doesn’t get tacky, and I don’t like poems that are so free they basically become prose. There were quite a few of the latter in here, which I didn’t particularly like, but I had enough favourites to make up for it. The book has a total of 43 poems, which are all pretty short except the first one – it’s called Tiresias, and occupies almost half of the book. It tells the story of the prophet in an almost epic way, and is one of my absolute favourites from the collection.

Other favourites of mine are “The woman the boy became”, “Man down”, “Fine, thanks” and “Radical Empathy”. “Ballad of a Hero” is my absolute favourite. I may be a little biased though, because I actually watched a video a while ago of Kate performing that particular poem – that is what made me want to buy this collection in the first place. If you want to check out the video, you can do that here (if you’re confused about the title, the poem used to be called War Music). Out of the 43 poems, I have marked 11 with tabs – those are the ones that stood out to me, that I thought were especially beautiful. But the entire collection is fantastic, really.

What I find interesting about Kate is that I’m used to seeing poets who look rather elegant and fancy, and then you look at Kate and she just looks so metal.


Maybe that has to do with the fact that, besides being a writer, she’s also a rapper. Her poems have this kind of wild side, a sort of fuck-you vibe. I feel like I’m making no sense, but you get the idea. I love her.

For this collection I also overcame my “fear” of underlining quotes. I underlined lots and lots of sentences, sometimes entire paragraphs. I just think that’s such a wonderful thing to do with poetry, and I will definitely keep my new habit up. Here is my favourite quote from the collection, to give you an idea of just how freaking great she is.


It must be getting nearer.

We can feel it shake within us.

While the echo of each violence done

Pulls out our teeth and breaks our fingers.


I will definitely check out more work by Kate Tempest. I believe she has written some plays and maybe some other stuff to.

In the meantime, I hope I could get you interested in picking this collection up. It’s truly delightful, and a good place to start with poetry.

‘Till next time and happy reading!



5 thoughts on “Book review: Hold your Own by Kate Tempest

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