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Culture, Literature

Hollie McNish

What Makes Me

Hollie McNish

Hollie is based between Cambridge and Glasgow and has published five collections of poetry and memoir. Her most recent work ‘Slug...and other things I’ve been told to hate’ covers topics from grief to otters, grandmothers to masturbation and body image. With fellow poet Sabrina Mahfouz, Hollie co-wrote Offside, a play about the history of UK women’s football and she has just completed a modern re-imagining of Sophocles’ Greek Tragedy Antigone.  

What Makes Hollie…


Making a big oven tray of nachos for my daughter or my lover or my friends and family at my place and sitting with them on our laps watching comedy on tv. I don’t mean the sort of nachos you get in some pubs where there’s like a drizzle of squeeze bottle salsa and some grated plastic cheese. Like a full trough piled with garlicky chopped tomatoes, avocado, lemon, more garlic, cheese melted all the way through (otherwise there’s just a load of dry crisps underneath and that’s shouldn’t be legal). Other things of course. Love, reading stories, learning new things, kissing, masturbating, sex, hugs, dancing, leaves, birdsong, hollyhocks, blackberry bushes, laughing, watching people do things really well that I can’t do, trying on dresses for parties I’ll never go to, singing, going out in strong winds on rollerskates with an open umbrellas to windsurf on the cheap.


Many things, of course, but current specifics in my life include: sweet shops beginning to sell sweety flavoured vapes to target children because the generation below me aren’t smoking enough for the tobacco industry; us letting that happen; the phrase ‘gin o’clock’ being used by every tired mother, as if gin’s the solution; school kids at school bus stops all staring at their phones like safety blankets; adults around pub tables all staring at their individual phones; realising how many people in this country are obsessed with a very rich family who live in a palace that could be made into a youth club; adults still stumbling over whether we should allow the word vulva to be used in schools, as if this body part is better just ignored for another hundred years; the note from my daughter’s school for the kids to watch out for a sixty year old man trying to coax school girls into his car being exactly the same as the notes from my school telling us the same; that there are still enough people who demand it that there’s still a global trade of children and young people; watching young people look at beauty adverts; places that serve nachos with five layers of dry crisps and toppings only on the top; death.


Waking up. Watching the news. Watching my daughter and her friends grow up. Looking in the mirror.


I feel most confident when I’m either being useful or doing things I love (sometimes these overlap of course): making my neighbour a cup of tea and chatting, rollerskating (on smooth services) holding my daughters less steady hand; making nachos or leek and potato soup; jumping into a swimming pool to splash my cousins; writing poems at night when everything is quiet and the moon is in view; being in the bath with my boyfriend; masturbating, so I can learn about my own body in my own time with no-one else around; orgasms; sleeping.


For me, I think anger and sadness come fairly hand in hand. Most of those things which make me sad are actually things which make me angry too. I think those two emotions are curled up together in the pit of my mind. Perhaps there’s a new word we could forge. Like hangry, but with sadness instead of hunger.


The main thing that makes me feel poetic is reading other poems. And looking around me.

Hollie is a fan of online readings and accessibility and has a large online following, her poems having garnered millions of views worldwide. She is the first poet to have recorded an album at Abbey Road Studios, London and tours extensively. Current dates can be found online.


  “I honestly wondered if poetry would continue to feature in my life outside of an academic context. Enter poets like Hollie McNish, Sabrina Mahfouz and Rupi Kaur- I demolished whole books in single sittings” – Emma Watson 

“like Pam Ayres on acid” – Lemn Sissay 

   “The best defence EVER of breastfeeding in public” - Claire Sibonney, The Huffington Post Canada 


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