My initial thought upon reading the poetry book ‘Plum’ by Hollie McNish was that I didn’t like it at all. Upon first impressions I felt that the poetry was mediocre and just didn’t hit me with a profound light bulb moment, but then it is not the usual style I enjoy so I gave it a chance to steep. My favourite genre is Magical Realism where writers mix the mundane with the magical however Hollie McNish’s poetry is very simple, piercingly candid and at times rude. The reason why I bought this collection of poems was because I wanted to try a different style of poetry and throughout Plum, McNish allows her childish poems to be interrupted by her adult self in the form of commentaries talking about how bad these early poems are which I thought was rather sweet and humble. The collection of poems acts like a timeline as we follow Mcnish grow up from girlhood, to the teen years, to womanhood and finally motherhood and I did find that very beautiful.
I think because her poems are so raw and gritty- you can almost hear her ‘working class’ voice seep through the pages; it broke down this construct within my own mind of how a poet should behave. There is a perception that poets are to be poised, well educated, soft spoken upper middle class beings who write elegant prose and after reading McNish’s poetry, that perception came tumbling down and I began to relate to her and read the messages she is trying to convey hidden deep within her words.
On the surface McNish talks about her daily life as she rhymes in conversation with you as though you are a close friend meeting up with her for a brew at the local market. However there is an eerie political undertone that almost screams in your face in regards to the treatment of women, sexual abuse, the ironies of how society treats the female body, social constructs in regards to success and materialism and global issues.
She writes with honesty, humour and curiosity as she reflects on the absurdities we’ve all grown accustomed to such as asking why there are so few words for Penis yet numerous for Vagina? Why do we talk about living healthier lives yet our children are begging for us to play with them in the park and we ignore them and thus ignore our body’s needs to be healthier? And why rich people are considered brave for making working class builders build them huge houses when we’re all going to die anyway?
Upon finishing Plum I did fall in love with Hollie’s poetry. Her words are alchemic in which she fuses innocence with the wisdom of a sage as she peeks out at the world with huge inquisitive eyes, a free spirited mouth and an urgent, questioning voice.
I can now say, I absolutely loved Plum and it’s been a favourite read of this year, so much so that I wanted to research more as to who Hollie is and I just loved her even more. I did not realize she was the spoken word poet in the video “Embarrassed” which is a conversation about Breastfeeding in public. When that video came out I thought it was incredible! I have further gone on to watch more of her spoken word poetry, and actually I did reread Plum having now heard what Hollie sounds like which now gives her poetry more life, a voice and her personality shines through. I am so in love with her work, I want to watch her perform, I want to meet her so she can sign my copy of Plum and just chat with her about life and I want to purchase more of her poetry collections. Needless to say I am now a huge fan.
If you want to purchase Plum, visit the link here: Plum by Hollie McNish
To watch her spoken word poetry visit her channel here: Hollie McNish
Visit her website here: Hollie Poetry
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Review of Candlestick Press Poetry Pamphlets
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