Mercury Music Prize 2014: Street poet Kate Tempest tipped for the top after double accolade

28-year-old nominated for major music and poetry prizes

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The Independent Culture

A street poet who started rapping on night buses is set for mainstream success after her debut album was nominated for the Mercury Prize - and then a few hours later she was hailed as the future of UK poetry.

Kate Tempest, described as a mix between “WH Auden and the Wu Tang Clan”, was named on the 12-strong shortlist for the 2014 Barclaycard Mercury Prize Albums of the Year, alongside musicians including Blur frontman Damon Albarn and Anna Calvi.

Shortly after, it emerged that the 28-year-old poet, rapper, novelist and playwright was named on the once-in-a-decade Next Generation Poets list drawn up by the Poetry Book Society, which backs 20 writers as the future of UK and Irish poetry.

Kate Tempest said: "I feel extremely excited, a bit shocked and proud. This is such a huge deal personally.

"It feels incredible. I've been working hard at different things all my life, and I don't favour one over the others."

Tempest, who grew up in south London and started rapping at strangers on the bus at the age of 16, performed at raves before touring with poets including John Cooper Clarke and Benjamin Zephaniah. As well as the poetry and the album, she has written three plays and has a novel coming out next year.

"I'm at the beginning of something and I will not stop working. For my poetry growing in one sense and my music in another feels the perfect place to be."

The bookies installed her album Everybody Down, which deals with social issues from poverty to consumerism, as third favourite for the Mercury Prize. It was described by the judges as “compelling and moving rap poetry”.

William Hill made Albarn’s Everyday Robots and the eponymous album from Brighton-based rock band Royal Blood joint favourites. Big-name musicians including Lily Allen, Morrissey, Jake Bugg and Ed Sheeran all missed out on a nomination.

Tempest was hailed for her double accolade. Ian McMillan, chair of the judges of the Next Generation Poets 2014 list, said: “Kate is remarkable. She is part performance poet and part poet for the page. She is crossing the boundary and showing the way forward. Those barriers are starting to break down.”

Her poetry breakthrough came with Brand New Ancients, which was published last year and she toured the work with a live score. It would go on to win the Ted Hughes Award for innovation in poetry.

Mr McMillan said: “Kate stands and delivers. Poetry is a broad church; the feeling that a line in rap can’t be as good as a villanelle is breaking down.”

It is the third Next Generation list to be released, and previously talents including poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy and John Burnside have been named.

Women make up 60 per cent of those named this year. Judge Clare Pollard said: “Female poets seem to be particularly fearless at the moment, with names such as Emily Berry and Mellissa Lee-Houghton shaking up and reinvigorating the poetry scene.”

The oldest poet on the list predicted to dominate UK and Irish poetry is Annie Freud, 66, the daughter of acclaimed artist Lucian Freud.

Everyday Robots is Albarn’s first solo album and the judges hailed the singer as “a master of melodic texture and songwriting” adding it was: “Melancholic, wise and beautiful”.

Calvi’s “inspiring” second album One Breath and Bombay Bicycle Club’s fifth album So Long, See You Tomorrow are among the better-known nominees.

The shortlist includes debutants such as East India Youth who recorded Total Strife Forever at home, and Jungle, a duo who self-produced and released their eponymous album in July.

Dancer turned singer-songwriter Tahliah Barnett, known as FKA twigs, is also on the shortlist for her electro-pop debut called LP1, described as “artful, restless and seductive” by the judges.

Nick Mulvey, previously shortlisted while a member of Portico Quartet, has also received the accolade for his debut solo album First Mind.

The shortlist is rounded out by Manchester-based trio GoGo Penguin’s album v2.0, Polar Bear’s In Each and Every One and debutants Young Fathers with Dead.

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