A Celebration of Women’s Poetry on International Women’s Day 2019

Image: Srilata Krishnan

Poethead has been celebrating the achievements of women writers, editors and translators for over a decade. International Women’s Day 2019 is no exception. This year I have decided to highlight the work of women poets from my international index and to introduce my readers to some new Irish poets. I am very grateful to all the poets who submit to the site, especially for their patience. I do not think we would be heading into eleven years this March 2019 without the generous support and uplift that comes from my daily correspondence.

Thank you,

C. Murray, March 2019

‘Birth Mother’ by Srilata Krishnan

We are standing in front of the mirror,
my daughter and I,
brushing our hair and being vain
when I think of the doctor’s question:
“What was her birth cry like?”
I don’t know and never will.
She is fine, or will be, I know.
But looking in the mirror and into her almond eyes,
I wonder what she is like – her birth mother –
if she too, was once, afraid of words
and of the fluttering of pigeons,
if she has nicely formed arches on her feet
and whether or not her eyebrows make a bow
for good luck,
if she is small and slender-waisted,
if she is anything like my daughter,
or was.
Strange, but I don’t wonder at all about the father.

I tug at her pony.
“Amma, let’s go”, she urges into a mirror
that is slowly
her birth mother.

Our eyes meet in that eye of a little god
and she smiles
the sort of smile that is like mine.

Birth Mother” is © Srilata Krishnan

A poet and fiction writer, Srilata Krishnan is a Professor of English at IIT Madras. Her four poetry collections include Bookmarking the Oasis, Writing Octopus, Arriving Shortly and Seablue Child. Her novel Table for Four was long listed in 2009 for the Man Asian literary prize. Srilata is the co-editor of the anthologies The Rapids of a Great River: The Penguin Book of Tamil Poetry, Short Fiction from South India (OUP) and All the Worlds Between: A Collaborative Poetry Project Between India and Ireland (Yoda), and the editor of an anthology of women’s writing from the Self-Respect movement titled The Other Half of the Coconut: Women Writing Self-Respect History (Zubaan). She is the translator of R.Vatsala’s Tamil novel Once there was a girl (Vattathul).

‘A Glass of Tea, a View of the Atlas’ by Shadab Zeest Hashmi

You give me Fez honey on Fennel cakes
in a ceramic saucer because you
say, to eat from this bitter clay (glazed and
caressed with geometric precision), will
draw me into the shapeless sob of the
future. You read invasion’s epistle even
in the smoothness of ebony— ashes
of ancestor acacia on your lashes—
I raise my tea glass to level with your
eyes, the snowy Atlas scintillates behind
you— cream on your dish of weeping clay.

Untying the knot of ker-chiefed bread in a cedar grove
she would shudder, your mother, child of exiled
Andalus, memory embossed with two kinds of
histories— one flitting like a citron
butterfly, the other wrapped in linen,
knotted, turned to cinder over a cedar
flame— tongue of the grand inquisitor
leaping from Spain to Morocco, night-sweats,
door-chains, the informants and their fistfuls
of gold, the choke-hold of banned prayers.
Tender, the bread sponges the lava of fear.

Only the footed teapot’s shadow
on the wall dismantles its truth, its rigid
stance and military-medal-silver
muted in the bounty of the skylight
flecked with pheasant foot-stains from nightly rain.
Its handle forms the shape of a perfect
heart, if there is such a thing, and between
breath of Konya and bloodbath of empire,
furs of sable, mink and squirrel, and the
soft grasp of a baby around the planet’s future,
there are names for the divine in every tongue.

A Glass of Tea, a View of the Atlas” is © Shadab Zeest Hashmi

Shadab Zeest Hashmi is the author of poetry collections Kohl, Chalk and Baker of Tarifa. Her latest work, Ghazal Cosmopolitan has been praised by poet Marilyn Hacker as “a marvelous interweaving of poetry, scholarship, literary criticism and memoir.” Winner of the San Diego Book Award for poetry, the Nazim Hikmet Prize and multiple Pushcart nominations. Zeest Hashmi’s poetry has been translated into Spanish and Urdu, and has appeared in anthologies and journals worldwide, most recently in Prairie Schooner, World Literature Today, Mudlark, Vallum, POEM, The Adirondack Review, Spillway, Wasafiri, Asymptote and McSweeney’s latest anthology In the Shape of a Human Body I am Visiting the Earth. She has taught in the MFA program at San Diego State University as a writer-in-residence and her work has been included in the Language Arts curriculum for grades 7-12 (Asian American and Pacific Islander women poets) as well as college courses in Creative Writing and the Humanities.

‘Colourful Language’ by Lisa Ardill

your words are like flowers that come alive in a cold spring
shooting from the ground with a gentleness
that encumbers a hidden force

they unearth their surroundings
and mask others with their wondrous scent
but sometimes
their beauty is only soil deep

the meaning tucked away between those pretty petals,
which sometimes are secretly colourful little blades.
they cause my heart to tremble and wither
as though it were a snowdrop made of glass,
and it will shatter.

“Colourful Language” is © Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill is a twenty-something-year-old woman with a passion for feminism, human rights, neuroscience, literature and film (roughly in that order!). She writes poems and prose to entertain herself, cheer herself up on gloomy days, and keep the spark for creative writing in my brain alight.


‘sunday DARTS and my phone’s dead’ by Alicia Byrne Keane

sunday darts away from me
into a corner, becomes
an imagined dampness

like when you can’t tell whether
clothes on the line are still wet
or just really cold

I was meant to ring you tonight,
but I’m sitting in various places.

sunday DARTS and my phone’s dead” is © Alicia Byrne Keane

Alicia Byrne Keane is a spoken word artist and poet from Dublin, Ireland. She has performed at festivals such as Body & Soul, Electric Picnic, Castlepalooza and F Festival. Her poetry has been published in magazines such as Bare Hands, Headstuff, and Impossible Archetype, among others. She is a long-time performer at poetry events around Dublin such as Lemme Talk and Come Rhyme With Me, and was more recently involved in the Science Gallery’s INTIMACY exhibition. She is currently a PhD candidate at Trinity College Dublin researching translated literature and placelessness, more specifically in the case of authors who self-translate. Her work explores the absurdity that arises from losses in translation, even when interacting in one’s native language. She is interested in the effect of unexpected sincerity afforded by short, snapshot-like poems.

‘This Year’ by Rhiannon Grant

we have rebuilt
in our gathering
an anywhere temple

we spill ourselves
practising our faith
with a smile

giving small acts
(and large) in service
a ready sacrifice

we have come up
to see our faces
through God’s eyes

“This Year” is © Rhiannon Grant

Rhiannon Grant lives, writes, and teaches in Birmingham, UK. Her writing engages with questions about religion, philosophy, how we understand the world, and how we communicate with one another. Most of her published work so far has been in academic journals, but she has a book on Quaker theology forthcoming and some poems recently appeared in the magazine A New Ulster.

‘Vulnerability’ by Wasekera C. Banda

Raise the fallen, walk over them.
Fear the consequences of a kind action,
undermine the impact of a bad deed.
Maybe there’s more to life, maybe there isn’t.
Fight the oppressor, break the chains.
remain slaves?
These haunting memories,
these hopeless days,
These hopeful dreams.
Light a candle, say a prayer.
Close the door, cry in silence,
wear a mask.
These scattered pieces-
break me up, then make me whole.
I have no power over my thoughts.

“Vulnerability” is © Wasekera C. Banda

Wasekera C. Banda is a twenty-three-year-old Psychology student at City College in Dublin, Originally from Malawi, she has lived in Ireland for three years and was the 2016 winner of the Irish Times Africa Day Writing Competition. Wasekera enjoys writing and reading poetry, she is inspired by the late Maya Angelou.

from ‘Émigrés’ by Maria McManus


What is going on in your heart?

Prisoners of war live here

Throw off your gaudy vestments,
spring’s best and brightest fig
and let me see you naked
and then, more naked still —

Put your heart
in my hearts cavity.
Slip it in.

Bring your worry beads if needs be.
It’s not too late
to shred all documents
of denunciation.


Now we must
hunt by ear and
put our trust

in gossiping swallows,
the hooded crows, the herring gulls,

the wryneck’s potent drum.


Between silences
take notice
of the imago
of your stolen self.

Sold back
but at what price?


Collect wishbones,
place them in charnel houses,
quarter the ground
to make sure and certain
none are missing –
these things bring a plan to grief.


The song-birds are drowning,
the sea is now a cemetery. 
     The song-birds are drowning,
     the sea is now a cemetery


Life’s comforts
are honeycombed
and treacherous,

   and moths
  appear to drink your tears
  while you are sleeping

from ‘Émigrés’ is © Maria McManus

Maria McManus lives in Belfast. She is the author of Available Light (Arlen House, 2018), We are Bone(2013), The Cello Suites (2009) and Reading the Dog(2006) (Lagan Press), she has collaborated extensively with others to put literature into public spaces. She is artistic director and curator of Poetry Jukebox and an active organiser and founder member of  Fired! Irish Poets.

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