It seems a bit strange to be reviewing Let Them Eat Chaos as a book when it was written as a performance piece, but I read it as a book and so it shall be reviewed as a book. I’d love to see/hear it being performed one day though, because it was stunning on the page, and I can only imagine it’s even better performed.
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 neighbors 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 own 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 cœur 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.
I love poetry, but I don’t read a lot of it because there always seems to be another novel to read. Let Them Eat Chaos has reminded me that I should make an effort to read more, because when it’s done well, poetry can be so powerful, and that’s the best word to describe this. In the stories of seven people in London who are all awake as the clock hits 4.18am, Kate Tempest paints a picture of today’s society that is often uncomfortable but always honest. You may not agree with the opinions voiced by the characters, but you will recognise the hopelessness they’re feeling because we’ve all had moments like those. However, despair and hopelessness are not the message the poem leaves us with. Instead, a rare moment of connection restores our hope as it does the characters’, and Tempest exhorts us to wake up and love more. That’s the message I’m taking away from this work.
The poem is so beautifully written that I cared about the people we met within a couple of lines. More than that, I understood them, even when I didn’t agree with their ideas. It doesn’t matter that it’s set on a London street, because it speaks to everyone’s experiences. It’s a wonderful piece of writing that once again I haven’t done justice to in my review, but I urge you to find a copy, read it, and take its message on board. There is still hope – we just have to find it. Wake up and love more.
Copy of the book received from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.