We’ve decided to interview some of our past performers to find out what they’re up to now, hear about their enduring memories of the festival and whet your appetite for the new Poetry&Words line up in 2013. Here’s an interview with the first of our featured artists – Hollie McNish. (Photo by Gary Death.)
What is your connection with Poetry&Words?
I have been invited to perform once at Poetry and Words. I entered and won the Glastonbury Slam during that time. The prize was to perform at the next year’s festival, so I got to go again. Was pretty damn chuffed. On the way to the festival that year I found out I was pregnant and spent three days with morning sickness in a single tent wandering around in a haze and trying not to be ill on stage. I didn’t want to tell my partner over the phone so had three very strange, surreal and amazing days! But I definitely have a special relationship to the festival now!
Ed: Hollie also contributed to the BBC Radio 4 show, Glastonbury Poetry Diaries, while she was on site with us in 2010.
If you had to describe the Poetry&Words stage in just three words, what would they be?
A Poetry Pocket
How would you describe Glastonbury Festival to someone who’s never been there?
It is not what you expect – unless you only stay in the main areas. Glastonbury is one of the most diverse festivals there is. You can spend 3 days getting massages and healings in the Green fields or completely mashed in the dance arenas. I reckon a balance is good. There is so much more to the festival than you can ever imagine and instead of sticking to the areas you know, you should explore it all. Take a two hour break to just walk around and find stuff. Like the Poetry and Words Stage. It’s right at the end. Next to the most amazing areas, like Green Fields and Arcadia. Arcadia. Arcadia. I’ll say it once more. Go to Arcadia! Fire bass monsters.
Can you name two other poets who you admire?
My current favorite poets to watch are Keith Jarrett and Dan Cockrill (of Bang Said the Gun). I like them because they talk to you. They don’t shout at you. I like poets that shout too but right now, I’m leaning on the side of talking with quiet passion. I’m trying to stop shouting so much myself. I don’t shout off stage at all so not sure why I always seem to start on stage!
What kinds of things inspire you to write?
I think, honestly, mainly, newspaper articles, adverts, magazines, studies, my daughter and food. I’m not so deep! I’m quite easily inspired to write, generally when I don’t have enough space inside me to fit the aggravation some things cause me, or, on the other side, the love and amazement. I like to get them both off my chest or I feel overwhelmed by things a lot of the time. The world is so messed up and so amazing all at once.
Where is the most unusual place you’ve performed your work?
On a public bus in Paris banlieue at rush hour. I had to do it for a festival to ‘include the town’, which is good in theory, except I think some people genuinely do not want poetry on their bus to work and that perhaps sometimes poets forget that! I finished one poem and an old man tapped me on the back and said, “merci, je n’ai rien compris, mais merci. (Thanks, I didn’t understand a word but thanks). That made up for it a bit!
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on how to balance an amazing toddler, sleepless nights, relationship, day job and a growing amount of poetry work! But in terms of poetry, a few things at the mo. I’m developing a set of poems into a show called ‘Something we don’t talk about’ with Battersea Arts Centre, being shown on November 23rd and 24th for the first time. I’m also working on putting together a lot of my poems into another set about immigration, emigration and scones. I’m project managing a Walking Tour of Cambridge, looking at the history of women through poetry, photography, art and architecture. That’s with my day job. I work at an Architecture Centre. Apart from that, I’m still writing a lot, some for kids now, and just wondering what to do with it all other than save it on my computer and leave it there!
What’s the closest rhyme for ‘orange’ you can find?
Je mange. Can we use other languages cos that works well? Je mange // une orange!
Can we have a poem please?
Here is one I wrote at Glastonbury, which might be most relevant. The video also shows the greener side of the festival which some might miss. Hope you enjoy it x
Where can we find out more about your work?
I have finally set up a website, here… www.holliemcnish.com.