Kate Tempest: A lesbian poet of our time
People can’t seem to stop talking about the poet, spoken word artist, and hip-hop rapper Kate Tempest. Anyone who’s heard her perform has become instant devotees.
Kate combines her passionate spoken word performances with bouncy hip-hop music to push this art form to the contemporary world. For Kate, poetry is best listened to rather than just being read.
Kate Tempest: A South East London girl
Born Kate Esther Calvert on December 22, 1985, Kate described Brockely, South East London where she grew up as as “a shitty part of town, but in a nice house where there was always food.”
Likewise, she expressed pride in her father, a laborer who put himself into night school to become a criminal lawyer. This kind of dedication was very influential for her.
While she wasn’t very fond of school and was a wayward teenager, she was introduced to poetry and books by her English teacher. She also worked in a record shop from the age 14 to 18.
“I stopped going to classes in Year 9. I took my GCSEs but I didn’t go to school. I just didn’t really have a good time there. But I would be reading all the time and studying lyrics and studying music,” she described her life back then.
From Thomas Tallis School, BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology, she graduated from Goldsmith at the University of London with a degree in English literature.
Kate Tempest, hip hop, and open mic
It was at Deal Real, a small hip hop store in London’s West End where Tempest first performed at age 16. Pushed by her friends, she did one of her verses and it blew the minds of the hip hop crowd.
She adopted the name ‘Kate Tempest’ from ‘Excentral Tempest,’ a rap name she had been given as a teenager. ““Tempest is the storm. It’s not putting on a persona, but it’s acknowledging a part of myself,” she said.
She went on to perform at festivals where people who didn’t know her was swept away as she began speaking. She would also rap to people on the street or those riding the night buses.
Tempest described her early days: “It happens all the time because I’m not wearing make-up or because I don’t really look like a woman should look onstage, or, ‘Oh, she’s f—king rapping.’ And then suddenly the words carry, and then people are like, ‘Oh, no, this is real!'”
She would later go on to tour Europe, Australia, and America with her band, Sound of Rum, and was soon performing in places and events like Glastonbury and Latitude.
In 2012, she had her first poetry book published, Everything Speaks in its Own Way.
Kate Tempest: Award-winning poet and lesbian
With her hard work, she was soon winning accolades and acclaim. In 2013, Tempest won the Ted Hughes Award, the first one under 40 to win it. That same year, she also won the Off West End Award.
Later on, she was selected to be part of the 2014 Next Generation Poets by the Poets Society and was a nominee for the Mercury Shortlist.
She also came up with the theatrical spoken word piece “Brand New Ancients,” at the Battersea Arts Centre in 2012, which she dedicated to her then-girlfriend.
However, Kate jealously guards her private life, except what she expresses through her poetry.
Check out her performance of “Brand New Ancients” below: