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SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2017 MERCURY MUSIC PRIZE
Let Them Eat Chaos, Kate Tempest's new long poem written for live performance and heard on the album release of the same name, is both a powerful sermon and a moving play for voices. Seven neighbours inhabit the same London street, but are all unknown to each other. The clock freezes in the small hours, and, one by one, we see directly into their lives: lives that are damaged, disenfranchised, lonely, broken, addicted, and all, apparently, without hope. Then a great storm breaks over London, and brings them out into the night to face each other - and their last chance to connect. Tempest argues that our alienation from one another has bred a terrible indifference to our own fate, but she counters this with a plea to challenge the forces of greed which have conspired to divide us, and mend the broken home of our own planet while we still have time. Let Them Eat Chaos is a cri de coeur and a call to action, and, both on the page and in Tempest's electric performance, one of the most powerful poetic statements of the year.
English poet, playwright, and novelist Tempest (The Bricks That Built the Houses) traffics in modern existential malaise in this book-length poem, portraying the depressing predawn thoughts of seven individuals residing in the same London neighborhood. One woman pines for a life free from her past mistakes, while another laments imperialism and wonders what's wrong with kids today. An addict stumbles home from a night of carousing, while a PR man wonders if there is more to life than going to work every day. Tempest's characters cleverly denounce gentrification ("I don't speak the lingo/ Since when was this a winery?/ It used to be the bingo) and ponder the past and the way it shapes the present. They assert the need for community spirit in the face of rampant corporatism and plead for mass mobilization and rejection of materialism. Tempest, with her background in spoken word, traffics heavily in rhyme "We're Sisyphus pushing his boulder// The kids are alright/ But the kids'll get older" and her political screeds come across as generic outrage: "pacified/ Staring at the screen so/ we don't have to see the planet die." The book is too short for much character development or deep political exploration, but Tempest does capture a yearning for something better that resonates in this early 21st-century political climate.