Words: spoken, sung, read and written at Wenlock Poetry Festival 2016

It seems like a quiet and pretty village in the Shropshire Hills, a place where walkers, tourists and locals stop for a pint of real ale or a cream tea. This is why it’s such a happy surprise to encounter challenging and urbane contemporary poetry and spoken word performance art in Much Wenlock. The Wenlock Poetry Festival served up a treat: from more traditional verse, to writing and walking workshops, to an open mic-style Poetry Busk, a children’s tent and a host of other poetry related activities that aimed to appeal to poets and readers alike. The line-up included Andrew McMillan (who recently won the Guardian First Book Award), Jonathan Day (who was launching an anthology of song lyrics/poems titled Lyric), Lemn Sissay, Don Paterson, Gillian Clarke and Liz Lefroy, among many others.


Hollie McNish’s performance was a highlight for me. Her words about motherhood, spoken with passion, humour and humility at The Edge auditorium last Sunday, made me laugh and cry in empathy and recollection. Nobody Told Me-the title of her new book-sums it up; Hollie bravely tells of the unexpected, harrowing, hilarious, tragic, baffling and unfair aspects of becoming a mother. In raw, sometimes harsh, language she says out loud what surely many mothers can recall all too vividly, but rarely have a safe space to discuss, even amongst other parents. Certainly nobody tells you, perhaps to avoid scaring you, or perhaps out of embarrassment or shame at admitting the less-than-perfectness of it all. She acknowledges the whole gamut of experiences and emotions, somehow finding beauty and laughter in even the darkest places. And she reminds her audiences that mothers aren’t credited with being the awesome, real-life Transformers that they are, and that the marks left on female bodies by pregnancy and birth are marks of strength rather than flaws.


It was an amazing Sunday afternoon in Shropshire. I’m so glad that poets and performers like Hollie are invited to perform at Wenlock Poetry Festival.  


See more from Hollie McNish at https://holliepoetry.com and the Wenlock Poetry Festival team at http://www.wenlockpoetryfestival.org


Photo of Hollie McNish by Emily Wilkinson


Laura Noszlopy Laura Noszlopy

Laura is a writer, editor and anthropologist, as well as a keen gardener and cook. Besides blogging for Love Shrewsbury she runs an editorial and communications consultancy.

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