The Bunker // Meet Hollie McNish
Can you take us through the first time you performed your poetry on stage? Where were you? Who was there? How did you feel?
The first time I ever read in public was at a poetry reading in London, England called Poetry Unplugged at Poetry Café. I was petrified but fairly determined to do it as I’d already gone there about five times and chickened out. The first time I didn’t get through the door. The second time I went I got as far as asking one of the bar staff if this is where the poetry readings are, then I ran away. The third time, I watched but didn’t read. The fourth I watched and signed up and chickened out again. The fifth time, I drank some cider, which helped. There were about thirty people there and I remember vividly seeing a poet called Raymond Antrobus read before me. I also remember the host telling everyone I was a ‘poetry virgin’ and then when I got up this older woman from the back shouted out ‘she doesn’t look like a virgin’ really fucking loudly. An excellent start I’d say! x
What is the number one piece of writing you think everyone needs to read?
I think that totally depends on the person and the century / year they live in. Also, on their age and life. There have been so many words which I’ve found helped me. When I was little, the book The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, opened my life up to time travel and made me feel invincible. At age fourteen, the line ‘look at my breasts they’re small and humble, so you don’t confuse them with mountains’ from Shakira blew my small chested mind! At eighteen, it was Wilfred Owen’s Dulce et Decorum Est to understand what my grandad had been through. And on and on. I’d love for our politicians currently to read a book called ‘Natives by Akala; also Don’t Touch My Hair y Emma Dabiri and Poverty Safari by Darren McGarvey. There are too many.
Do you have any pre-performance rituals?
Yeah, I get really nervous, feel like being sick and then tell myself to stop being overly dramatic and go and read some poems. I never did theatre at school or anything so I’ve not got any breathing techniques or things like that. Someone tried to teach me a few once, but it’s not really me. I just go with the nervousness and, if my daughter’s with me (which she has to be a lot of the time) I hope she doesn’t need a wee half way through the set!
What inspires your writing?
Mainly other writing. The more I read, the more I write, whether that’s poetry or fiction or non-fiction. Or films and music. Reading is definitely number one on the list. After that, life. The more I do, also, the more I write.
Who is your role model, and why?
I don’t have a role model. I think everyone I know can be amazing at times and also a right arsehole at times, like everyone. Except my friend Jodie. I’ve never known her to be an arsehole and she has had one of the hardest lives I know. But yeah, I think you learn different things from different people at different times. If that’s a bit long, then my mum. She is too.
If you weren't a poet you would be…?
Still writing loads of poems I’m sure because I’ve always loved writing poems, and probably, I think, I hope, working in some sort of organisation concentrating on the economics around forced migration, which was partly what I was studying to do. Maybe.