When by Alice Kinsella: a poem for International Women’s Day

The video of this poem, based on If – by Rudyard Kipling, features 16 women poets

When you can say the words that are not listened to
But keep on saying them because you know they're true;
When you can trust each other when all men doubt you
And from support of other women make old words new;
When you can wait, and know you'll keep on waiting
That you'll be lied to, but not sink to telling lies;
When you know you may hate, but not be consumed by hating
And know that beauty doesn't contradict the wise;

When you can dream – and know you have no master;
When you can think – let those thoughts drive your aim;
When you receive desire and abuse from some Bastard
And treat both manipulations just the same;
When you hear every trembling word you've spoken
Retold as lies, from a dishonest heart;
When you have had your life, your body, broken
But stop, breathe, and rebuild yourself right from the start;

When you can move on but not forget your beginnings
And do what's right no matter what the cost;
Lose all you've worked for, forget the aim of winning
And learn to find the victory in your loss;
When you can see every woman struggle – to
create a legacy, for after they are gone
And work with them, when nothing else connects you
Except the fight in you which says: 'Hold on!'

When you can feel the weight of life within you
But know that you alone are just enough;
When you know not to judge on some myth of virtue
To be discerning, but not too tough;
When you know that you have to fight for every daughter
Even though you are all equal to any son;
When you know this, but still fill your days with laughter
You'll have the earth, because you are a woman!


Alice Kinsella is assistant editor of Looking at the Stars, an anthology of Irish writing published last November in aid of the Simon Community. This poem and film have been produced to mark International Women’s Day. It is inspired by Kipling’s If–, but written for women. It features 16 women poets, including Kerrie O’Brien, Alvy Carragher, Jessica Traynor, Rosita Sweetman and Clare Rose Thornton among others