Hollie McNish

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Hollie McNish
Background information
Born1983 (age 37–38)
Reading, Berkshire, England
GenresPoetry, Memoir, Spoken word, Non-Fiction
Years active2009–present

Hollie McNish is a poet and author[1] based between Cambridge and Glasgow.[2][3] She has published four collections of poetry: Papers (2012), Cherry Pie (2015), Why I Ride (2015), Plum (2017) and one poetic memoir on politics and parenthood, Nobody Told Me (2016), of which the Scotsman suggested “The world needs this book...and so does every new parent” and for which she won the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry.[4][5] The latter has been translated into German, French and Spanish. McNish's sixth publication - a second cross-genre collection of poetry, memoir and short stories - Slug, and other things I've been told to hate, is published in May 2021 with Hachette[6] with a further collection Lobster, due to come out in 2022, also with Hachette. In 2016, she co-wrote a play with fellow poet Sabrina Mahfouz, Offside, relating the history of British women in football. This was published as a book in 2017.[7][8]

McNish has also released an album of poetry and music, Versus (2014), which made her the first poet to record an album at Abbey Road Studios, London.[2]

As well as her own publications, McNish has written and performed poems for various campaigns and organisations, including The Economist Education Foundation, Durex's campaign for orgasm equality, and The Eve Appeal. She is a patron of Baby Milk Action, a network of over 270 citizens groups in more than 160 countries whose aim is 'to stop misleading marketing by the baby feeding industry... protect breastfeeding and babies fed on formula to prevent unnecessary death and suffering'.[9]

Early life[edit]

Born in Reading in 1983 to Scottish parents,[10][11] McNish attended the local comprehensive school, Bucklebury Primary with a brief two year scholarship to Prior's Court School for the final years of this primary education.[12] For secondary school, she attended St Bartholomew's Comprehensive School, Newbury, during which time she worked part-time at Little Chef, Chieveley Services and Boots the Chemist, Newbury, both of which she has written about in her fourth collection, Plum.[13] She studied Modern and Medieval Languages at King's College, Cambridge, with a third year abroad teaching English in Guadeloupe, French West Indies, where she learnt Guadeloupian Creole to English translation. She went on to take a part-time master's degree in international development and economics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.[10][14][15]


Before becoming a full-time writer in 2014, McNish worked in Boots the Chemist, Soul Tree nightclub, Little Chef services, Mayhem Clothing Store and for five years as Administrative Assistant and later Education Officer with the East of England Urban Design Centre, Shape East.

Her first live poetry reading was at basement open mic night Poetry Unplugged, Poetry Café, Covent Garden, London.[16] She has since performed worldwide at a number of UK and international events, alongside a variety of artists at Edinburgh's Neu!Reekie! events including Charlotte Church, Young Fathers, Jackie Kay and Kae Tempest. She tours most regularly with poets Vanessa Kisuule and Michael Pedersen.

In 2014 McNish adopted to pseudonym Hollie Poetry after online abuse led her to fear using her surname. She released one album, Versus, in September 2014 under this pseudonym, recorded it at Abbey Road Studios and making her the first poet to do so.[2] A second album Poetry versus Orchestra (2016) was later released, featuring McNish's poetry "in combination with music written by composer and conductor Jules Buckley and played by the Metropole Orkest."[17] which was performed in a one of live concert at Cadogan Hall, London. In 2017 McNish returned to the use of her surname for all published works.

In 2016 BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour broadcast a 7 part radio short documentary series hosted by McNish entitled Becoming a Mother: A Hot Cup of Tea with Hollie McNish[18] which explored motherhood from many angles, including poverty, linguistic barriers, mothering as migrants and teenage parenting.

In 2018, she was artist in residence at Chester's Storyhouse.

As well as live events, McNish is also an advocate for online poetry readings and a number of McNish's YouTube videos have gone viral. By 2015 her youtube account had had over 4.1 million views.[2][19][20] In 2020, during the coronavirus lockdown, McNish began her regular online event: Poems in Pyjamas, streamed each Sunday night between 9.30-10pm for free on her instagram and facebook channels.

Critical response[edit]

McNish has split critics over her work, with one PN Review going so far as to refuse to review her 2018 Picador publication Plum, because 'to do so for a poetry journal would imply that it deserves to be taken seriously as poetry'. Following an online response from McNish,[21] this article received coverage in several national news outlets such as The Guardian[22] and the BBC.[23] In the same year, Emma Watson named McNish, alongside other poets Rupi Kaur and Sabrina Mahfouz, as having reignited her love for poetry.[24]

Commentary on her work has included:

"But even by the standards of the defiantly lawless world of performance poetry, McNish, the English-raised daughter of Scottish parents, must seem – to some, at least – like a bewildering law unto herself."

- The Scotsman[13]

"...abundant in expletives and unintimidating to anyone who considers ignorance a virtue."

- PN Review[21]



  • Papers. London: Greenwich Exchange, 2012. ISBN 978-1906075675.
  • Cherry Pie. Burning Eye, 2015. ISBN 978-1909136557. Illustrated by various artists and illustrators.
  • Why I Ride: Because a Bike Pedal Lasts Longer Than a Gas Tank. Brattleboro, VT: Green Writers Press, 2015. ISBN 978-0989310482.
  • Nobody Told Me: Poetry and Parenthood. London: Blackfriars, 2016. ISBN 9780349134352.
  • Plum. UK: Picador, 2017. ISBN 9781509815760.
  • Slug...and other things i'm told to hate. London: Fleet Publishing, 2021. ISBN 9780349726359



  • Versus (2014, Yup! Records) – Double album as Hollie Poetry
  • Poetry versus Orchestra (Mo Black, 2016) – with Jules Buckley and Metropole Orkest


  • 2009: Winner, UK Slam Poetry Competition and went on to finish third in the global Slam Du Monde contest.[2][25]
  • 2015: Winner, Fellowships 2015, The Arts Foundation[26]
  • 2016: Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry, for Nobody Told Me[4][5]
  • 2019: K Blundell Trust Award from Royal Society of Authors


  1. ^ Presenter: James Naughtie (15 June 2017). "Meet the Author: Hollie McNish". Meet the Author. BBC. BBC News Channel. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d e Bromwich, Kathryn (29 March 2015). "Hollie Poetry: woman versus world – one poem at a time". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  3. ^ O'Keeffe, Alice (16 June 2017). "Hollie McNish: the politics and poetry of boyfriends, babies and breastfeeding". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Ted Hughes Award". poetrysociety.org.uk. Poetry Society. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  5. ^ a b "Hollie McNish wins the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry". poetrysociety.org.uk. Poetry Society. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  6. ^ "Fleet signs 'searing' collection from McNish | The Bookseller". www.thebookseller.com. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  7. ^ Love, Catherine (20 March 2017). "Offside: the shocking moment female footballers were banned for 50 years". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
  8. ^ "Offside". Futures Theatre. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  9. ^ "Our mission | Baby Milk Action". Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  10. ^ a b Dunleavy, Hannah (2 October 2014). "Rhyme and Reason". Standardissuemagazine.com. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  11. ^ The Guardian: Poetry, breastfeeding and sex, by Emma Cook, 13 February 2016
  12. ^ O'Keeffe, Alice (17 June 2017). "The books interview: 'I always attracted mums and midwives. Now I get poetry lovers' Hollie McNish". The Guardian (Review section). London. p. 9. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  13. ^ a b "Book review: Plum, by Hollie McNish". www.scotsman.com. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  14. ^ "Interview with Hollie McNish, poet and spoken word artist". Voice Magazine. Retrieved 22 June 2017.
  15. ^ "Hollie McNish - LinkedIn Profile". LinkedIn. LinkedIn Corporation. Retrieved 22 June 2017.
  16. ^ "The Poetry Café – The Poetry Society". poetrysociety.org.uk. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  17. ^ "New release – Poetry versus Orchestra: Friday October 7 2016", Metropole Orkest. Accessed 23 January 2018
  18. ^ Presenter: Jane Garvey; Producer: Erin Riley (25 October 2016). "Felicity Kendal, Icelandic feminism, Clothes on TV, Hollie McNish". Woman's Hour. 26:20 minutes in. BBC. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 21 June 2017.
  19. ^ "News Release - Arts Foundation Awards 2015" (PDF). Arts Foundation. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 February 2015. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  20. ^ "Hollie McNish". YouTube. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  21. ^ a b "PN Review". Hollie Poetry. 21 January 2018. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  22. ^ Flood, Alison; Cain, Sian (23 January 2018). "Poetry world split over polemic attacking 'amateur' work by 'young female poets'". the Guardian. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  23. ^ "Paapa Essiedu, Rebecca Watts and Don Paterson, A J Finn, Front Row - BBC Radio 4". BBC. Retrieved 13 June 2018.
  24. ^ Eden. "Emma Watson picks Rupi Kaur's 'Milk and Honey' for Our Shared Shelf". Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  25. ^ "Hollie McNish, Poet & Spoken Word Artist". Arts Award Voice. Archived from the original on 17 February 2015. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  26. ^ "Shortlisted Artists of the Fellowships 2015", The Arts Foundation. Accessed 23 January 2018.

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