Top Poet and Spoken Word Star Chats to Y8s

Top Poet and Spoken Word Star Chats to Y8s

Y8s got to quiz ‘one of the best poets we have’ (according to author Matt Haig) after reading two of Hollie McNish’s poems for this term’s Diversity and Poetry topic, Mathematics and An English National Breakfast, and being inspired by the power of poetry to challenge unacceptable views. Their teacher, English Faculty Lead Mrs Caplat, got chatting to Hollie via email and the poet generously agreed to answer some of the students’ questions, recording her answers in a video to them. Hollie is an award-winning poet, best-selling author and performer, who went to school locally.

The students asked Hollie a variety of questions, from what her favourite sweet was (who doesn’t want to know that – ‘the sour ones that make your face go funny’) to who her favourite poets were. Hollie’s current favourites include Selena Godden, Harry Baker, Vanessa Kisuule, Yomi Sode, Laurie Bolger, Jackie Kay and Michael Peterson. She said ‘you can find their books easily or go to a gig, and Harry Baker is easy to find on Instagram and TikTok.’

The students then got down to the serious stuff, wanting to know the inspiration behind the two poems, Mathematics and A British National Breakfast. Hollie replied that it was down to ‘frustration and anger. I studied things like migration, the movement of people, jobs and trade in Economics after University; and I got so angry that a lot of the stuff that I read in newspapers and saw elsewhere was xenophobic and racist. It was not only horrible, it was not correct and not right! And it makes other people more prejudiced – so I wrote Mathematics. Hollie wrote A British National Breakfast after being annoyed by a very racist neighbour. ‘I don’t always like having arguments with people. I prefer to think about it, write something down and really sort of work out what I want to say.’

Hollie’s last piece of advice to the students was revelatory, too: ‘if you read a poem and you don’t like it, don’t let that put you off poetry altogether. I think a lot of people do that. But imagine if we did that with other things; if you saw one painting or listened to one song and then are like, ohh, I don’t really like art, or music. We don’t do it with other things, but we do it with poetry. So I hope you find some poems that you like and thanks so much for reading mine!’

Mrs Caplat said, ‘Hollie McNish is exactly the type of poetry hero our students need. She’s confident, funny, intelligent and unashamedly determined to change what young people should accept. She does this in a way that is accessible and feels possible for them to achieve too. That’s golden.’

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