Kate Tempest storms next generation poets list

By Tim Masters
Arts and entertainment correspondent, BBC News

image copyrightKatherine Leedale
image captionTempest's Brand New Ancients, an epic poem set to a live score, won the Ted Hughes Award in 2013

A once-a-decade list of the brightest talents in poetry in the UK and Ireland has been unveiled.

The youngest of the 2014 crop is rapper, performance poet and playwright Kate Tempest, 28, chosen for her epic performance piece Brand New Ancients.

Women make up 12 of the 20 names - all of whom have published their first collection within the last 10 years.

Previous lists - in 1994 and 2004 - have included Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, Simon Armitage and Alice Oswald.

Ian McMillan, the poet and broadcaster who chaired the judging panel, said the poets would "be leading our national cultural conversation" for many years.

Tempest, who started out aged 16 rapping at strangers on night buses, is also a recording artist who has featured on songs with Sinead O'Connor and Bastille.

Her solo album Everybody Down has just been nominated for the Mercury Prize for the best UK and Irish album of the past 12 months.

Brand New Ancients, which re-imagines ancient gods as two South London families, saw Tempest become the youngest ever winner of the Ted Hughes Poetry Award in 2013. She performed the work in several venues including the Royal Opera House.

Her second volume of poetry is due out next month while her debut novel, The Bricks That Built The Houses, is published in Spring 2015.

Tempest said she felt "humbled and terrified and proud... to be included on a list with such wonderful poets".

"Poetry is still such an intimidating world for me," she told the BBC News website. "I kind of went into it through the back door, yet I found myself accepted.

"I realised how warm that environment is - how excited people are by language, and how excited they are by the things that excite me.

"I feel extremely lucky to be in a situation where I can indulge all the different parts of my creative personality."

image copyrightPoets
image captionThe list includes Helen Mort (left) and Annie Freud (right)

At 66, Annie Freud, the daughter of painter Lucian Freud, is the oldest on the Next Generation Poets list. Her first full collection was 2007's The Best Man That Ever Was.

Also on the list is the youngest TS Eliot Prize winner, Jen Hadfield, and five-time winner of the Foyle Young Poets Award, Helen Mort.

Adam Foulds, who was shortlisted for the 2009 Man Booker Prize for The Quickening Maze, also appears. He is no stranger to literary Top 20s, having been named as a Granta best young novelist last year.

The 2014 Next Generation Poets list in full:

  • Tara Bergin (This is Yarrow, Carcanet)
  • Emily Berry (Dear Boy, Faber & Faber)
  • Sean Borodale (Bee Journal, Jonathan Cape)
  • Adam Foulds (The Broken Word, Jonathan Cape)
  • Annie Freud (The Mirabelles, Picador)
  • Alan Gillis (Here Comes the Night, Gallery)
  • Rebecca Goss (Her Birth, Carcanet)
  • Jen Hadfield (Nigh-No-Place, Bloodaxe)
  • Emma Jones (The Striped World, Faber & Faber)
  • Luke Kennard (The Harbour Beyond the Movie, Salt)
  • Melissa Lee-Houghton (Beautiful Girls, Penned in the Margins)
  • Hannah Lowe (Chick, Bloodaxe)
  • Kei Miller (A Light Song of Light, Carcanet)
  • Helen Mort (Division Street, Chatto & Windus)
  • Daljit Nagra (Look We Have Coming to Dover!, Faber & Faber)
  • Heather Phillipson (Instant-flex 718, Bloodaxe)
  • Kate Tempest (Brand New Ancients, Picador)
  • Mark Waldron (The Brand New Dark, Salt)
  • Sam Willetts (New Light for the Old Dark, Jonathan Cape)
  • Jane Yeh (The Ninjas, Carcanet)

The first list of 20 poets - dubbed New Generation - was announced by the Poetry Book Society in 1994 with the aim of bringing poetry to a wider audience. Its names included Armitage, Duffy, John Burnside, Michael Donaghy and Lavinia Greenlaw.

The 2004 Next Generation list included Jane Draycott, Sophie Hannah, Owen Sheers and Jean Sprackland.

image copyrightCharla Jones
image captionAlso on the list are Daljit Nagra (left) and Adam Foulds (right)

McMillan said of the 2014 line-up: "The Next Generation Poets are the visible and vocal evidence that poetry is on the crest of the wave at the moment. These poets will be leading our national cultural conversation for many years to come.

"In this group of writers we find an exhilarating mix of style and subject, reflecting a truly diverse range of voices: poetry is in excellent hands."

Fellow judge, poet Clare Pollard, said: "As evidenced in our extraordinary list, female poets seem to be particularly fearless at the moment, with names such as Emily Berry and Melissa Lee-Houghton shaking up and reinvigorating the poetry scene.

"In addition, I was struck by how many of the collections are in fact sequences, heralding a return to book-length narratives: long-poems. There are some incredible storytellers in this list, with tales about family, loss, drugs, madness, colonialism, love or war every bit as gripping as any novel.'

The other judges were playwright Caroline Bird; Robert Crawford, who was on the 1994 list and Paul Farley, from 2004.

image copyrightRobert Crawford
image captionRobert Crawford was on the New Generation Poets list in 1994

Robert Crawford, one of this year's judges, tells the BBC what it was like to be one of 1994's New Generation Poets. The author of six collections of poetry, he is professor of modern Scottish literature at the University of St Andrews.

It takes a long time before you believe in yourself as a poet - so getting a pat on the back helps.

I wasn't good enough to be modelling clothes, which is what happened to a lot of the New Generation Poets in 1994, so I sat by jealously while all that went on.

But it's good to be linked with other people on that list. There is a sense that it was a pretty good generation with people like John Burnside, Simon Armitage, Kathleen Jamie and Don Paterson.

I remember coming down to London when the photograph was taken. There was a bit of hype with it, some nonsense, but it was good fun and it sold some books.

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