From Hiding to Shining - embodying leadership in unexpected ways

poetry alchemy infusions

Recorded on International Women's Day 8th March

(video transcript)

Hello and welcome to Poetry Alchemy Infusions. We're celebrating International Women's Day today!

Hi, I'm Rionach Aiken, and I'm a Visibility Coach and Poetry Alchemist.

I'm delighted to be bringing you poems by women poets this week for women's day. Today is a very special poem that I want to share with you.

This is a poem that changed my life six years ago when I worked with it.

If you've been following these Infusions for a while, you'll know that there are some poems that I speak that are really deeply embodied in me, that I know really well. And others, that I read that I love, but I haven't embodied so much.

There's a process that I go through in embodying a poem. I work with it deeply over weeks or months, and it changes me. The poem I want to share with you today is one that really changed my life when I worked with it six years ago.

I've got a process of asking my intuition: 'What poem should I work with next?' But when I got the answer for this poem - and it's Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou - I said: 'No! Not that poem! Please, please, no! I love that poem. But it's not me.'

It really stretched me, to think this was a poem I could work with and embody, because I felt that's just not me. I'm not that person.

What was going on in my life at that time is that I was on the edge of stepping into the next level of my leadership. Stepping into being a leader in my work for the first time.

I'd been for interviews for leadership roles and struggled to really see myself and feel myself in that role, to take up the kind of space that a leader took. What would happen was I would get a bit flustered in interviews and didn't present myself in the best way that I could.

But after working deeply with this poem – I'll share it with you and you'll see why – it really shifted my reality. It shifted my ability to hold space.

But it really stretched me.

I got some great help with this as well from my poetry teacher, Kim Rosen. At her workshop I spoke this poem, this Phenomenal Woman poem, and I had all these women standing behind me, that had my back, that were holding a space for me to embody this poem of feminine leadership.

I'll speak the poem for you now, and then I'll share some more about it. It's such a living-out-loud-and-proud poem.

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size   
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,   
The stride of my step,   
The curl of my lips.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,   
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,   
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.   
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.   
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,   
And the flash of my teeth,   
The swing in my waist,   
And the joy in my feet.   
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered   
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,   
They say they still can’t see.   
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,   
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.   
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.   
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,   
The bend of my hair,   
The palm of my hand,   
The need for my care.  
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Maya Angelou

And on International Women's Day I want to say: 'Phenomenal Women, that's we!'

I would love to offer this poem to all women to embody, to really claim how phenomenal we are.

To really embody our own brilliance, our own leadership, our own right to take up space. No matter what shape or form we want to express that in.

One of the lines for me that was most impactful in this poem was:

'Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
or have to talk real loud.'

What that opened up for me was – as a quiet person, a sensitive person, an introvert – that I could be quietly powerful.

That I didn't have to shout.

That I could be a quiet leader.

I didn't have to be an extrovert.

I didn't have to be something I'm not.

I could show up and be the kind of leader that I am in the world.

And it physically changed my posture. I had a kind of hunched-over posture. And embodying this poem really straightened me up. I even had to see a chiropractor to get out the tension from my back, and after that I could stand up straight.

A few weeks after embodying this poem and working with it deeply, I went for another interview. For a CEO role. Before I went into the interview, I spoke this poem to myself.

When I went in to that interview, I was able to take up the space, to be confident, to know that I could do it. I could take the space as a leader.

They offered me the job and that was my first CEO role! And I rocked it because of this poem.

So, it's such a powerful thing to do, to work deeply with a poem to shift our identity and shift our beliefs.

That's something that I do with other people as well. I offer Poetry Alchemy sessions, where I help people to embody a poem that is really relevant for them. I worked with somebody last year with this same poem, and it was such a joy to witness her blossoming into her ‘phenomenal-ness’.

If you want to know more about that, get in touch. Book a call with me here. I'd love to have a chat to see how I can support you to rock your visibility!

Take care. Speak to you soon. 




Join the Magnetic Presence Retreat, 21-23 April 2023.

  • Break through visibility blocks that keep you playing small.
  • Access your ability to embody your essence and speak from your soul.
  • Develop the kind of presence that opens deep magnetic connection.
Find out more and register now!