A friend sent me a link to Hollie McNish on you tube, and I was stunned: she is the best poet I’ve heard perform for ages! I went to a lot of performance poetry events with Andy (Andy Postman, my missed by many super funny/ out there surreal/zany poet and artist husband) and I have seen some very good poets, call outs to Mark Gwynne Jones and Dave ‘Stickman’ Higgins, local stars Sue Allen and Michelle ‘Mother’ Hubbard, and the nationally acclaimed, truly amazing uncrowned poet laureate Benjamin Zephaniah (the ‘Naked’ album is outstanding…)

So this accolade is not given lightly.

She is human, witty, politically aware in a very “personal is political” way about the underpinnings of the system, but, as she says in ‘Mathematics’ she has done her research, she has found out for herself, she has checked her sources. Like Zephaniah she is on the side of life, the overflowing cornucopia of  delight it can be, that is imperilled by thoughtlessness and greed. Like him, she knows WE have the power to change the unquestioned into the unthinkable. She engages us, and leaves us wanting more – I’ve checked with friends and I am far from the only one to repeat play immediately, with a “wow, that was good!”

She appeals to the part of everyone who knows what is fair, but may have been gaslighted (manipulated) into silence or denial, shouted down or isolated to the point of self doubt. She knows when to be positive and affirming; we must protect the wild places, honour the mothers doing the best for their babies, stand up for our right to be ourselves…

She is an original thinker, with fresh imagery and an ability to set out clearly the issues that may have been niggling at the back of our own minds – the school uniform fetish has always set my teeth on edge and I’ve been able to articulate why quite easily. The cloying cutesy cupcakes/vintage housewifey thing has annoyed me ever since it came in, but I assumed it was an age thing that these girls/women had no idea how much physical hardwork and brain numbingly boring real housewifery was in the 50s, whereas I could remember my aunt talking about getting her first hoover: in a pit village, dusting and sweeping was a twice a day job and depressingly pointless. Hollie joins the dots and holds up an image that makes me shocked, yes, little girls playing house are little girls with no power and could be depressingly easy targets for the predators waiting to pounce, but more importantly they are women missing out on their own lives. They are missing the now, the only place where we have power to respond to what happens in our life, to set aside the endless daily lists to make the memories that will sustain us, and if we are caring/parenting, making happiness for others too. No one at my memorial will stand up and say I was always on top of the dusting (friends rock with laughter at the very thought!!) but they will remember fruit smoothies in the garden with laughter as we made bunting to cheer up a friend moving to a new city, they will remember calls to say, the chestnuts are ready, fancy a bike ride? Paints and fabrics at the ready, seeds and trowels, and yes funky food….though pesto scones, 20 ingredient salads and lemon and marzipan cookies are what happened this week, not cupcakes, and duster, no, fraid not  😉
She breaks down the barriers of political thinking that run on rails, with no room for manoeuvres… if ever there was a time when we needed fresh, heartfelt thinking, humane values and clearheadedness, this is it. And the best news: she is young, all being well we have years ahead of us of her work, her questioning eye and clear voice calling society out and inspiring us to find a better way. Viva Hollie!

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