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.
The first page of this poem begins by describing our sun, drawing our attention to the fact that, “amongst all this space” it is nothing more than a “speck of light in the furthest corner”. Kate Tempest then moves on to the planets circling the sun, “held in their intricate dance”, capturing our attention once more with the notion of “our Earth“.
A place that is home to over 7 billion people and yet, despite being nothing more than a grain of sand in the infinity of this universe, is one of the loneliest places to be. This Earth is ours; it doesn’t belong to me or you, or the guy down the road. Hell, it doesn’t belong to Donald Trump, although I’m sure he would like it to. It is ours. This Earth is a gift to all 7 billion of us and yet, looking around , you wouldn’t think that, would you? Tempest talks about the “myth of the individual”, something that has rendered us “disconnected, lost and pitiful”. We’re divided by race, religion, gender and class and there are those who deem themselves above all others and focus only on themselves and their own. The rich get richer and sit glued to their wide-screen TVs, blind to the suffering of the billions of others around them. The world is crumbling around us and we sit by and do nothing, believing that if we’re okay, everything is okay.
In Kate Tempest’s Let The Eat Chaos, her message is simple; nothing is okay. This poem, a piece written to be read aloud and which has an album accompaniment, strikes its listeners down with the brutal honesty of its message. Throughout the 72 pages of this poem, we meet seven seemingly different individuals, all living on the same street and all unable to sleep. They’re of different genders, different ages and different sexual orientations, and yet they are all alike in a way that they cannot imagine.
They are all damaged and lonely and they’re too wrapped up in their own lives to realise that others are as well. The whole Earth, our Earth, is damaged, in fact and we vehemently deny this, “staring at the screen so we don’t have to see the planet die”.
Tempest ominously warns that “a roaring storm is coming” but people – such as the seven individuals of Let Them Eat Chaos – “are too concerned with their own thoughts to think about the weather”.
Delivered in fast-paced, emotive and engaging verse, Let Them Eat Chaos is a stark warning of the dark future we face if we don’t change our ways.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Song: Not so much a song, but check out the album trailer here.
This book is available on Amazon in e-book and paperback format.