'When it's done it's done. It's not yours any more': Kae Tempest on a new collection and the creative process

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“Once the poem’s finished, the poem’s got nothing to do with me. You put everything into it and you work on it and you work with it, but when it’s done it’s done. It’s not yours any more. It was never yours in the first place.” The award-winning poet and performer Kae Tempest has spoken about the creative process in an interview with their publisher, to accompany the publication of their new collection Divisible by Itself and One.

Tempest, whose work includes the Mercury Music Prize-nominated Let Them Eat Chaos and the Ted Hughes award-winning ‘Brand New Ancients’, said of the new collection’s title, which comes from the definition of a prime number: “I am interested in patterns and sequences, and I’m really taken by repetition. I find it endlessly recurring and repeating in my work: I’m always coming back to this idea of how to break cycles, or how to acknowledge and find peace with cycles.

“I’m not really invested in the maths of it, that particular description is just extremely poignant to me: ‘divisible by itself and one’. Quite often, when I hear a phrase that doesn’t belong to poetry, but belongs to something like maths, I find it so beautifully poetic. I’ve just been taken by that phrase for a long time.”

In an interview with the Guardian last year, they spoke of coming out as non-binary, two years earlier, in an Instagram post. In 2022 they said: “Coming out has been huge. A beautiful but difficult thing to do publicly … It’s hard enough to say: ‘Hey look, I’m trans or non-binary,’ to loved ones. And I have this twin life beyond my friends and family.”

They added: “Trans people are so loving, so fucking beautiful. I think of my community, and how much strength I’ve got from people telling me I don’t have to go through this alone. If I hide, and I’m ashamed of myself, it’s [as if] I’m ashamed of them.”   



◄ The Spaces Between Us, eds. Kathleen Morgan, Jamie Stewart and Oz Hardwick,  Indigo Dreams

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