Tate Modern: One to watch Keisha Thompson’s Lunar

A vibrant tale of love, distance and forgiveness

“Did you know that LOVE=9?”

(10. The Conversation)

We get to know Keisha through her unforgettable poetry: masterfully delving into physics, mathematical theorems, diagrams and numerology, the author slowly unfolds the weave of her past, the mysterious, distant and almost mythological figure of her father, and her experience as a Black woman in the familial, personal and public space.

Language acquires a completely new range of meanings: Thompson invites us to abandon the certain but often lacking matter of words to employ new, irreverent and unexpected symbols. In “Tessellation of burden”, she explores the relationship with her father with four sentences and a diagram. The intensity, pain and relentlessness of their bond leave a more vivid mark than a thousands-page-long essay on parenting and trauma.

Memories are heavy and the Devil is in the details. Thompson slowly lets the readers in with  cautious but rampant openness, allowing us into the personal space of a human being made of symbols, language(s) and trauma. She has words to describe what’s plenty, familiar, safe, and she has words to describe absence, distance and the inextricable past that haunts us all, the lack of something that became something else; silence, a private code, an algebraic function.

And then personal melts into political: in “Algebra” she dissects the problematic shades of British educational system and the difficult implications of its curricula – “[…]obsessed with getting the right answer without looking for the truth[…]The inconvenience of a black human spirit led to the biggest bail-cut this country has ever seen”. In “Obscurantism” she offers a rhythmic critique to the hypocrisy of power and the emptiness of public grief while in “False Cause” she tackles religion, inequality and propaganda.

Coupling stylistic bravado with passionate combinatorial theory, Thompson summons science and dissects language in a glorious melancholic parade of symbols and signs, surfing on the perfect weave of meaning and the lack therein. Letters lose their descriptory functions and come to existence into a new, courageous space of doubt and questioning.

With every sentence Keisha Thompson not only paints a picture so vivid to blind but scatters bread crumbs for us to follow, in a quest that mirrors her journey towards the second part of the book: the award-winning solo show Man on the Moon. Following the success of her I Wish I had a Moustache in 2012 and the debut EP, Abecederian, the versatile wordsmith and performer brings to the stage – and to the page – the complex, rich and intensely moving relationship with her father, whose names, presence and mind resemble unsolvable equations.

We follow Keisha on her quest to visit her father through the dynamic and frantic landscape of North and South London. Among crowded buses, suspicious security guards and painstaking groceries, the author navigates the twists and turns of her relationship with a father who changed his name twice, married – and divorced – twice, and communicates with his only daughter merely through books and repetitive letters. His obsession with repetition follows Thompson throughout her works and enriches the meaning of her words; something inescapable about the memories we save and the ones we let go.

Holding our breath until the last, dreamlike scene between them, we live in perpetual awe, tension and tenderness. Her words strike, dance, lie down and dissipate, crashing against each other and building the portrait of a man whose entirety no language alone will ever capture. It is not pity that Keisha Thompson is looking for. Nor our tears. With its concerto of words, silence, proximity and distance, numbers, mathematical and physics formulas, and virtuosity, Lunar challenges us to employ new languages, embrace complexity and allow doubt, uncertainty and forgiveness to find their space, because sometimes those who don’t fit in on Earth are the Kings and Queens of the moon.

Part of Manchester Science Festival
Thursday 18 October – Sunday 28 October 2018

NOT TO MISS! On 13th October 2018, Commonword will launch Lunar as a part of the National Black and Asian Writers conference. Keisha Thompson will headline the event with her debut book.

Last year, Keisha premiered solo show, Man on the Moon, to a sell-out audience in Manchester. The show went on to receive the Manchester Theatre Award for Best Studio.

Please note that following the launch, Keisha will be presenting the book and the play at a number of events around the country. The show tour will start with a five-day run at STUN studio as a part of Contact’s In the City programme. The book will be available to purchase after each show,

 

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