MT Inspiring Women in Business Conference had everything from digital pioneers to retail supremos, financial to football directors ………. and poetry. When so much is about how we express what we want in words, it was great to hear Jennifer Thomas of Direct Line play Maya Angelou’s recitation of Phenomenal Woman, while Scottish poet Claire Askew led a session to inspire the audience to articulate the sayings and advice they had been given.
Poet Claire Askew spoke at this year’s Accenture-sponsored MT Inspiring Women in Business Conference. She said: I have long held the belief that poetry — though it may seem like an unlikely choice — is an essential and versatile tool that can assist us as we navigate the sometimes difficult terrain of our daily lives. Poetry can offer a moment of stillness while all around us feels chaotic. It can also offer a concise and powerful way to understand or to convey difficult ideas.
Catalogue of my grandmother’s sayings
By Claire Askew
A bloody good hiding
Another egg chipped
Bent as a nine-bob note
Blood and sand
Blood and stomach pills
Broad as it’s long
Brought up in the bottle and seen nowt but the cork
Could ride bare-arsed to London on them scissors
Could’ve written slut in the dust in that house
Dogs in the same street bark alike
Good clip under the lug’s what he needs
Like a blue-arsed fly
Ninepence to the shilling
Not as green as he’s cabbage-looking
Queer as Dick’s hatband
Six of one and half a dozen of the other
Twined as a bag of weasels
Well go to the foot of our stairs
Well our Helen Judith Sarah Christine Claire
What a right bag of washing
You want nowt with that I tell you
You want nowt with that
If I move now, the sun
naked between the trees
will melt me as I lie.
– Adrienne Rich
Because I am the one who speaks English,
they call me outside.
In the street, in an elbow of weak light
thrown by our porch, two tourists
mumble like fat, white grubs.
The boy comes up the steps to me,
hand round a bad map someone drew.
His face is hot, red, wet as a tongue.
The girl is crying. They are looking
for a house that, when they find it,
will be shuttered, lime-scale white
and dry. I want to say
that crying is a stupid luxury
the island women can’t afford:
I trained my babies early
not to dehydrate themselves this way.
I know it will be morning now
before this girl, her massive backpack
full of useless things, can find
the market, buy a quart
and pull that water back
inside herself again. But I’m quiet,
pour a glassful for her from our fridge.
She sputters thank you in our language.
Things that thrive here: mules
and stones, crickets loud as fire alarms,
the harder vines. Old women
whose hands and feet are tough,
whose men worked boats or built homes
all day in the big heat,
and died young. The boring sun.
Slow flies the size of grapes.
My father finds the torch and guides them
down the street’s steep shoulder,
holding the light down round their feet,
until they are out of sight.
All night, under the chattering fans,
I think about the girl’s chapped throat,
the boy she lies beside,
their mouths. None of us sleeps.