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Conference of high-powered women


I tried the onion simile:
truth hidden under layers and layers…
Citied old clichés:

appearances are deceptive,
nothing is as it seems, in a desperate bid
to change their mindset.

Our women are not
like that at all! Came out as plaintive call.
They smiled down

at my diminutive form.
5 Feet nothing, against their 6 feet tall.
Big-boned, well-framed,

well-healed, with PHD’s
tightly notched into broad leather belts.
An all woman army,

of the mighty Dutch
and German Embassies, marched on our
third-world country,

to attend a seminar,
on the Empowerment of Women and to
bestow this puissant gift,

on their petite
counterparts. I’d attended the seminar
by default.

My job was to manage
the conference hall. Place thirty tables
squarely, rounded off

by thirty chairs,
+ 1 for me along the aisle. Count the requisite
number of water-bottles,

writing pads, pens.
Smoothen the folds of the satin-white, V.I.P.
table-cloth that frill-fell

on the floor. How could I
have the gall to instruct such a distinguished
panel of black-grey,

pin-striped, business
jackets, widely lapelled, on serious gender
issues, punch holes

in the thick pages
of their impressive thesis? When I should be
inquiring, who would be

drinking what. Informing
that dinner would be preceded with cocktails
on the beach, with a live-band.

But open my mouth
I did, for all the wrong reasons and quickly
put my foot in it.

Don’t be fooled by soft
curves, camouflaged in diaphanous muslin,
chiffon, silk.

Underneath lie columns
of concrete, reinforced with steel. Thin glass-
bangles, tinkling

on slim, dainty wrists,
can lift tons of load, go at it hammer and tongs,
break stones, erect buildings,

entire cities, as they nurse,
cook, clean, master-mind the future of
home, children,

husband; country.
Don’t be beguiled by their public appearance
of meek servility,

as they fetch and carry
for their men who may sit and lord but from
personal experience,

I can tell you, in private,
who’s the boss. They come out of their homes,
every morning,

looking ephemeral
with flowers in their hair, the sun shining
on their foreheads,

to sweep the roads,
work in homes, or in the fields, sow and reap
or swivel on chairs

in swanky offices.
By now the army had hemmed in. I looked
for a safe, dignified retreat.

There was none.
I had to fight this to the finish. See how they
stretch the little

means they have,
to make the most of it. See how they grasp
the illusive and make it real.

Ever wondered
why our goddesses have so many limbs?
Here I fluttered mine,

to prove a point
and drive it home - my final assault. The enemy
fell back in confused whispers

and broke their rank
and file, to strategize a counter-attack.
Luckily I was saved

by the only man,
invited as the chief-guest, the good looking
Council General,

wanting a break from
all high-powered women. Seeing in me
a maiden in distress,

he charged valiantly
like a knight in shining armor and carried
me off to the bar

by the pool-side,
for a smoke and some beers. After downing
two bottles

between us, I leaned
earnestly towards him and whispered with
an air of conspiracy:

you cannot thrust
empowerment upon us, it’s in our genes.
Let’s drink to that!

He raised his glass
in salute – cheers! I leaned closer, brushing
his ears with my lips:

perhaps you should look at our men?

 
Apr/23/2014, 3:51 am Link to this post Send Email to queenfisher   Send PM to queenfisher Blog
 
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Re: Conference of high-powered women


hello all!

sorry for my long absence.

this is an experimental poem on an actual incident, which i'd been meaning to convert to verse. it's rather verbose & to quote tere: so much loose language! which i want to tighten - any comments & suggestions most welcome!
Apr/23/2014, 3:55 am Link to this post Send Email to queenfisher   Send PM to queenfisher Blog
 
Christine98 Profile
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Re: Conference of high-powered women


hi queenfisher, welcome back! I like this poem a lot and think it captures the arrogance and presumption which underlie some attempts at 'helpfulness.' I notice how the narrator is subservient to the women who have come to empower her. I do think it runs a bit long and will re-read to see if anything looks like it bears cutting--although length, in itself, is no sin.

The introduction of the man at the end is puzzling to me, but I'll come back to this and maybe well be able to make better sense of it.

So good to see you back on the board,

Chris

Last edited by Christine98, Apr/24/2014, 8:42 am
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queenfisher Profile
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Re: Conference of high-powered women


thanks christine

for the feedback. it is very wordy - will work to tighten - lot of lengthy details - could be shortened.

this seminar was sponsored by the foreign embassies - hence they send a senior representative - mostly at the council general level - in this case a man - the only one among 30 women - hope that helps.
Apr/25/2014, 3:50 am Link to this post Send Email to queenfisher   Send PM to queenfisher Blog
 
Christine98 Profile
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Re: Conference of high-powered women


hi queenfisher,

Mostly I'm noticing a surplus of adjectives:

impressive thesis

slim, dainty wrists

meek servility

safe, dignified retreat

If this were mine, I'd look at every adjective (especially multiple adjectives) and consider deleting--or delete them all and put them back sparingly. S1L3 starts with a typo "citied"

I still like this one a lot, queenfisher. Thanks for the explanation re: the man,

Chris

Apr/25/2014, 9:02 am Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 
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Re: Conference of high-powered women


thanks christine!

that's indeed very helpful - i have a starting point to work from! please feel free to suggest any other changes - & others most wecome whenever you have the time!
Apr/28/2014, 3:45 am Link to this post Send Email to queenfisher   Send PM to queenfisher Blog
 
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Re: Conference of high-powered women


thanks christine!

that's indeed very helpful - i have a starting point to work from! please feel free to suggest any other changes - & others most welcome whenever you have the time!
Apr/28/2014, 5:01 am Link to this post Send Email to queenfisher   Send PM to queenfisher Blog
 
Christine98 Profile
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Re: Conference of high-powered women


No more suggestions, queenfisher. I look forward to the next version of this.

best,

Chris
Apr/29/2014, 8:41 am Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 
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Re: Conference of high-powered women


thanks christine!

i'm off again for a long period to Mt. Abu
internet very iffy

will connect once i'm back.
May/5/2014, 2:45 am Link to this post Send Email to queenfisher   Send PM to queenfisher Blog
 
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Re: Conference of high-powered women


hope katlin, tere, zak, libra & everyone else is fine!

my salutations to all!
May/5/2014, 2:48 am Link to this post Send Email to queenfisher   Send PM to queenfisher Blog
 
Christine98 Profile
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Re: Conference of high-powered women


Have a lovely time, queenfisher! Maybe you can
take some pictures and post so we can be there
vicariously (?) when you return possibly, as internet reception is poor.

best,

Chris
May/5/2014, 9:25 am Link to this post Send Email to Christine98   Send PM to Christine98
 
Terreson Profile
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Re: Conference of high-powered women


Queenfisher, I thought the story familiar. Then you mentioned how you had made a prose piece of the tale. Well, I'm loving your poetic rendering of the scene.

Chris objects to length. I get her point. But don't reduce it by much, please. And maybe not at all. I'm good with its adjectival usages. Language and syntax sways the way I can imagine the speaker sways in her muslins. Sometimes, as the old saying goes, message is in the medium. I feel this poem in my ear. What a performance poem, in live, this could be. And I got to say, the political insight sharp, just clinical.

One more thing. I've read a bunch of your poems by now. Stylistically you get to where you can identify a poet after awhile. This is certainly your voice. Excellent stuff.

Tere
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Re: Conference of high-powered women


QF--

I am new to this board. I hope I'm not too late to join the discussion.

I like the poem a good deal. You do a good job describing the two sides: the high-powered European PHDs and the diminutive narrator. I really like this part (I clarified a bit here and there):

They smiled down

at my diminutive form.
5 Feet nothing, against their 6 feet tall.
Big-boned, well-framed,

well-healed, PHDs
tightly notched into broad leather belts.
An all-woman army,

of the mighty Dutch
and German Embassies, marched on our
third-world country

The two sides in the debate, if you can call it that, are clear here. What is not clear, however, is just what exactly is at stake in that debate. The narrator says "Our women are not / like that at all!" Like what, exactly? Easily overruled?

There is a hint of the power hidden at the heart of the onion (to borrow from your opening simile) later on in the poem: "Underneath lie columns of concrete, / reinforced with steel..."

But clarifying "like that" by being more explicit would help set the stage.

Also, I am confused by the narrator's role in the event and how she comes to address the European bigwigs. I sense that the details are buried in the lines "I’d attended the seminar / by default." I am not sure what that means--there was nobody else willing to do it?

There is also a hint of a maid / mistress relationship going on here, as the narrator's role appears to be to ease the conference members from one lavish event to the next. I am not sure how that plays into the overall theme. Does it help or hinder the flow? Is it essential to the poem?

Apparently, the poem is part reportage, in that you are telling events that you experienced. When I have tried to construct a poem from real events in my life, I have tended to hew too close to the given reality, not allowing for the poem to find its own way. It is a delicate balance.

There are good bones here. Some tightening and cutting will help. Perhaps by avoiding the complicated aspects of the real event and focusing on the feelings and attitudes.

Best wishes in your rewrite,

Terry O.
Jan/23/2015, 6:29 pm Link to this post Send Email to terry0   Send PM to terry0 Blog
 
crunchtime Profile
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Re: Conference of high-powered women


Hi Queenfisher,

I very much enjoyed the poem. It made perfect sense to me why the Narrator would feel intimidated under the circumstances.

It's not only men that are ambitious and have a tendency to be power-hungry, and use a variety of subtle socially condescending and patronizing gestures to intimidate others, while simultaneously enhancing their self-worth.

Sometimes, all that's necessary to provide assurance in this situation, are a few positive comments from a stranger who understands the environment.

Thanks for posting,

Crunch
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Zakzzz5 Profile
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Re: Conference of high-powered women


queenfisher, It has been a while for both you and me. Glad to see your poem here. Not a very lyrical poem, but I believe the form fits the function in this case. It's a conference of sorts and so the language fits. I didn't feel overburdened by adjectives but was a little mystified by the interaction of the narrator and the single male at the end.

It's refreshing to read a poem that ties in directly to the normal world where illusion is prized. Or where preening and walking with the medals on your chest (or Phd's and shoulder epaulettes) matter. Zak
Feb/27/2015, 1:39 pm Link to this post Send Email to Zakzzz5   Send PM to Zakzzz5
 
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Re: Conference of high-powered women


thanks you so much for all your insightful comments / suggestions
will be coming back to this with edits & some answers
really appreciate all the wonderful feedback & apologize for the long long delay!
Mar/16/2015, 1:13 am Link to this post Send Email to queenfisher   Send PM to queenfisher Blog
 


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