Why all Men (and Women) Should Read This – Or, How to Avoid the Authenticity Trap, Holly McNish “Nobody Told Me” (Review)

Gesa Stedman was nearly overwhelmed by the quality of the poetry, the potential to move her readers, as well as the topic of Holly McNish`s award-winning poetry collection and memoir “Nobody Told Me”.

flowering tree

photo by Acabashi (CC-BY-SA 4.0)

All men should read this. Holly McNish’s poetry will teach them things nobody tells you in advance, and about which women rarely talk or write in quite such a way.

All women should read this – those with babies to give them a sense of belonging, those without babies to give them a sense of the nether-world that parents enter.

Everyone should read this because it teaches us a lot about contemporary Britain: how body-shapes and gender affect every day (working) life, how high art and popular art are opposed to one another institutionally, how important spoken word art has become, what working life for younger women and men feels like, how family-friendliness (or unfriendliness) spells itself out in the UK in the 2000s, what the artist’s life is like in a neoliberal, austerity-driven society, how consumerism kills, how home life and work life are at war with one another, how non-human parts of our societies have become.

But most of all, everyone should read this because the poetry is forceful, unforgettable, rich in images, passion, talent, rawness – performed or read. Actually, I prefer Holly McNish in writing, even if it is at times unfinished like some of the poems, as she admits in her foreword – and even though she is a performance star and regularly does shows at Glastonbury and similar festivals.

Read her memoir cum poetry collection for the content and for the writing, it is worth it! And if you need public endorsement: Holly McNish won the Ted Hughes poetry prize in 2017 for the collection.

Whatever topic she will turn to next, I will follow her work – even if this time, the content is completely beyond me and there is no chance at all of identifying with her lyrical I.


Nobody Told Me: Poetry and Parenthood by Holly McNish (Little Brown), £13.99.
www.holliepoetry.com (last access 17 September 2017)