Hollie McNish review: Poems that touch the heart and raise a laugh

Hollie McNish, appearing at the WOW - Women of the World Norwich 2018. Photo: supplied by Norwich Ar

Hollie McNish, appearing at the WOW - Women of the World Norwich 2018. Photo: supplied by Norwich Arts Centre - Credit: supplied by Norwich Arts Centre

Everything in Hollie McNish's life seems to end up in a poem.

Bad advice in teenage magazines, giving sex education to your grandmother, the evils of Grand Designs and what happens when you discuss the David Cameron pig incident with your young daughter were among the topics covered by the unflinching performance poet at The Norwich Arts Centre.

Hollie has reached a far wider audience than most poets with her witty and hard-hitting poems about motherhood, women's rights and other big political issues, making her a perfect booking for the Women of the World festival. She was joined by the equally powerful Deanna for a night full of humour, a celebration of life and a call to fix the world's problems big and small.

Deanna's poems drew on personal experience to get to the heart of the big issues and challenges facing today's society. Her bubbly introductory banter turned seamlessly into a tirade against the breakdown of society and democracy. Her passionate delivery kept the audience captivated during her short set and left them fully warmed up for the main act.

Hollie may be a superstar on the spoken word circuit but she was so casual as she wandered on stage in baggy jumper and torn jeans that no-one was sure whether to applaud. However she immediately struck a rapport with the audience as she mocked her poor parenting – keeping her daughter up late watching Netflix during the show.

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Her poems, drawn mainly from her latest collection Plum , took the audience on a candid journey through life from her naive teens, through wedding dress shopping for friends in her 20s to parenting struggles in her 30s.

The material was deeply personal but regularly hit on wider issues and situations we could all relate to. Her opening poem about her relationship with her conservative grandmothers revealed changing social attitudes as she recalled: 'My pregnancy without a wedding ring was something we had to talk through'. In Beautiful she attacked modern perceptions of beauty as her friends tried to look more like Victoria Beckham.

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Hollie has always had a natural talent for performance poetry, strong words delivered with a pace and energy that gives each line full impact. Now she is completely at home on stage and her poems woven among anecdotes and witty observations effortlessly drew laugh after laugh. Nothing was off limits as she revealed how conversations about her sex life with her grandmother had prompted the elderly relative to reflect that if she had been born in Hollie's generation she would have been 'more kinky'. The audience collectively cringed as another poem described how a teenage friend's boyfriend was hospitalised after she misinterpreted advice in Just 17.

Hollie's poems may not be the most sophisticated but her intelligent and prolific writings that touch the heart and raise a laugh are sure to capture the public's imagination for a long time to come.

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