Ted Hughes Award judges Jo Bell, Bernard O’Donoghue and Kathryn Williams have chosen Hollie McNish’s Nobody Told Me (Blackfriars) as the latest winner of The Poetry Society’s prestigious Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry. The winner was announced at an awards ceremony at the Savile Club in Mayfair on 29 March 2017. You can listen to an interview with Hollie on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row (from 23:30 minutes in) recorded straight after the announcement; and you can read her poem ‘Banana Baby’ taken from the book on our website.
Hollie McNish is a performance poet and writer known for her emphatic, heartfelt and straight-talking work, videos of which have garnered millions of hits worldwide. Nobody Told Me is a poetic memoir about becoming a parent, from pregnancy all the way through to her daughter being three years old. It is made up of entries in a range of styles written sitting on her daughter’s bedroom floor, in the gaps between cries, screams and laughs, on the loo, in the car and anywhere else she could find the time and space. It addresses all the things she felt, at the time, unable to talk about, including love, sex, feeding, gender, ice cream, race, commercialism and finding secret places to scream every once in a while.The book won Hollie McNish the 2016 £5,000 prize, which is funded by Carol Ann Duffy from her honararium as Poet Laureate.
Judge Jo Bell said:
‘Adrian Mitchell said that “most poetry ignores most people” but Hollie’s book puts things that most people ignore right back in the spotlight. This book is more than the sum of its parts, combining the immediacy of a diary with straight talking poetry from a spoken word tradition. This book is funny and serious, humane and consciousness-raising: it changed the way I think about women (and I am one). Should be given to every new parent, and handed to them along with their baby-care products.’
Bernard O’Donoghue said:
‘There is a long and honourable tradition since antiquity of works alternating between prose memoir and poetry based on it – works like Dante’s Vita Nuova and Basho’s Narrow Road to the Deep North. Nobody Told Me is a classic case of this mixed form. Hollie McNish describes the experience of pregnancy and young motherhood in a vivid language that brings both forms to life, and makes them real for readers to whom these things are new as well as those to whom they are familiar.’
Kathryn Williams said:
‘Nobody Told Me is a book that should be sold alongside Caitlin Moran and Bill Bryson. Honest and insightful, it will resonate outside the poetry world to reach a new generation of poetry readers. Hollie McNish skilfully tackles hidden agendas and political issues in our society such as public breast-feeding, non-waged care work and interracial relationships, as well as the love, joy and judging of mothers.’
Hollie McNish tours the UK extensively, and gives performances of her work for organisations as diverse as The Economist, MTV and UNICEF. She has a keen interest in migration studies, infant health and language learning, and has published two collections, Papers and Cherry Pie as well as co-writing the play Offside. Her new collection, Plum is published in June 2017 by Picador and she has a large number of upcoming performance dates all around the country, listed on holliepoetry.com/livedates.
Congratulations to the other shortlisted poets:
Jay Bernard for The Red and Yellow Nothing (Ink Sweat & Tears Press)
Will Eaves for The Inevitable Gift Shop (CB Editions)
Salena Godden for LIVEwire (Nymphs & Thugs)
Melissa Lee-Houghton for Sunshine (Penned in the Margins)
Harry Man for Finders Keepers (Sidekick Books)
Caroline Smith for The Immigration Handbook (Seren)