Nobody Told Me: Poetry and Parenthood Poetry Reading Q and A with Hollie McNish review Calum Maclean
The Mitchell Library 17/3/16
Aye Write 2016
I was really looking forward to this festival appearance, and happily was not disappointed. Hollie McNish is one of my favourite poets. Her verse tackles subjects as diverse as racism, politics, gender, hypocrisy, love and family, but the focus in her latest collection Nobody Told Me is on parenthood.
Including diary entries as well as verse, the collection examines the first three years of motherhood with unflinching emotional and physical detail, highlighting day to day realities that are rarely expressed in public or in print. One such poem, Embarrassed, drew a huge amount of attention after being posted on Youtube, as it explores society’s hypocritical attitudes toward breastfeeding in public. Another, Marketing Motherhood, criticises the promotion of fear in new mothers by corporations, while Kick Me speaks of the anxiety between signs that the baby is still alive and the pleasure that comes with each painful motion.
The breadth of experience and subject matter over the 454 pages of Nobody Told Me is unique for a poetry collection, and could have been wearing if McNish’s writing weren’t so consistently rhythmic, accessible, honest, and engaging. I was interested to find out how this would translate in the live setting, and the effect was exactly the same. In discussion about the origins of the book, and answering questions from the largely female audience, McNish was warm, funny and direct, while selected readings from the collection showcased her rapid fire delivery and humour, particularly Banana Baby which satirises online pregnancy updates.
A final indication of the event’s success was the length of the signing line afterwards. McNish took the time to chat to everyone in turn, resulting in a 25 minute wait I was happy to experience as I had the opportunity to hear the positive comments of the mother in front of me, and to make a start on Nobody Told Me which continued through my journey home.
A very enjoyable hour in discussion of a vital collection of poetry, and one of the highlights of Aye Write 2016.
Calum Maclean, March, 2016.
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