Faber & Faber Social
For some 20 years Tempest has been a writer and performer – plays, poems and a novel have been printed. Spoken-word shows incorporate music and poetry, there are book-length single poems and recorded albums that share titles with printed-word publications. To me it’s all exquisite. A quite singular voice – and I’ve been in the audience twice at two very different shows; both jaw-dropping, both powerful evocations of what an artist can give and be – and how an audience can be so actively participatory in that experience.
Earlier this year Tempest announced a change of name and pronoun – they would be Kae and they are non-binary. They wrote candidly about struggles to be the person they were expected to be, the pressure, the anxiety, the inability to feel as if they fitted in.
All of that is explored further in this new book, Tempest’s first under the name Kae – it’s also their first non-fiction book; though it’s being referred to as a pamphlet, it is better described as a book-length single essay.
On Connection was like many projects this year, a Lockdown gig, but you get the feeling this essay, though maybe not quite in this exact shape, was going to happen regardless of Covid’s plans. It’s mentioned in the book – but if it hadn’t happened, if 2020 had played out a little differently it’s fair to assume everything else in this book would have played out much the same and the message remains: Now is the time to seek connection. We’re all seeking it. Many of us run from it – hide in our devices, bury ourselves in work, distract ourselves with drugs, with booze and other vices; cope our best to strangle other voices.
Tempest’s call to arms is both a passionate treatise for the arts – for following the dream of connecting and it’s also a memoir of their life with and through the artform of poetry; of finding it and burying themselves in it to be reborn to be re-found, to connect. Because the alternatives were drink and drugs and depression and misery and though some of those things still happen (or are never permanently called to bay) a life lived through the arts and in support of performing, publishing, sharing…connecting is a life that Tempest wants and needs and owns. A life they have.
There’s a lot of conventional wisdom in the book – plenty you’ve read before, or already know. But there’s also a great line or two or four on every page. Because it’s Tempest. There is the power of their voice – sympathetic, passionate, brimming with humility, all but tear-stained with experience. And there’s also some very fresh thoughts. And it’s a very disconnected world – for all our daily reminders to ourselves and anyone that will half-listen that we’ve never been more able to connect. So this essay, this book is a balm for right now. And it was no doubt a part of 2020’s transition for Tempest. There is so much joy in their work, such elation in the live experience, such wisdom in the printed words – but it arrives on the back of years of being so unsure, seeming unworthy and unloved. Maybe especially by themselves. There’s a part of On Connection that feels, too, like an emotional and philosophical corner being rounded, the fresh page turned with excitement. What’s next? More poems I hope. Of course. More shows one day maybe and more recordings. But more non-fiction too please!
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