For Heidi With Blue Hair
When you dyed your hair blue
(or, at least ultramarine
for the clipped sides, with a crest
of jet-black spikes on top)
you were sent home from school
because, as the headmistress put it,
although dyed hair was not
specifically forbidden, yours
was, apart from anything else,
not done in the school colours.
Tears in the kitchen, telephone-calls
to school from your freedom-loving
'She's not a punk in her behaviour;
it's just a style.' (You wiped your
also not in a school colour.)
'She discussed it with me first -
we checked the rules.' 'And
it cost twenty-five dollars.
Tell them it won't wash out -
not even if I wanted to try.
It would have been unfair to mention
your mother's death, but that
shimmered behind the arguments.
The school had nothing else
the teachers twittered and gave in.
Next day your black friend had hers
in grey, white and flaxen yellow -
the school colours precisely:
an act of solidarity, a witty
tease. The battle was already won.
Background and Biography
Poet Fleur Adcock was born in Auckland, New Zealand, on 10
February 1934, but spent much of her childhood, including the war
years, in England. She studied Classics at Victoria University in
Wellington and taught at the University of Otago, moving to
London in 1963 where she worked as a librarian at the Foreign and
Commonwealth Office. She has held various literary fellowships,
including a period at the Charlotte Mason College of Education,
Ambleside (1977-78). Later she held the Northern Arts Fellowship
at the Universities of Newcastle upon Tyne and Durham (1979-81.
In 1984 she was Writing Fellow at the University of East Anglia. She
has been writing full-time since 1981.
Her poetry has received numerous awards, many of them from her native New
Zealand, and she won a Cholmondeley Award in 1976. She was awarded an OBE in
. She was awarded the Queen's Medal for Poetry in 2006, and in 2008 was named
Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to literature.
Her latest poetry collection is Dragon Talk
The SIFT method to analyse and revise poems.
pecify the subject matter and sense of the poem through a brief
nform us of the intention of the poet and his/her main ideas
ocus on the form ( structure/punctuation) and the feelings
conveyed ( poet’s attitude/tone used) and how this highlights the
ell us about the techniques, imagery and poetic language that show
the ways ideas are presented
Analysis - surface
For Heidi with Blue Hair presents us with a central image
of a child sent home from school for dyeing her hair
blue. As the narrative develops, we find ourselves
confronted not just with an amusing story, but also
with a quiet knocking of social boundaries. Adcock
manages to gently bring together issues of friendship,
solidarity, home life, and social institutions under the
guise of a minor event.
Prepare a post in your blog: include what we have already done in class
and answer these questions.
Write a brief summary of the poem, who and what is the subject of this poem?
What do you think the poet’s purpose is in writing this poem? Adcock’s
intentions seem to be ….
The poem is written in free verse in a narrative style, as if a story is being told,
how does the structure and punctuation reflect this?
Adcock undermines poetic structural convention by loosely forming her five-
line stanzas – how might this form reinforce an important idea in her poem?
How are teachers and the headmistress made to sound ridiculous?
Explain the tone of voice of the poet? What moods and feelings do you
recognise and how can you tell?
How does the tone of voice / feelings of the poet highlight the themes or main
ideas (social institutions and boundaries, family and friend relationships) in
Identify figurative language features, imagery (colour), sound devices such as
alliteration ‘teachers twittered’, symbolic devices which all present Adcocks
views on social boundaries, rebelliousness, friendship, home life and social
How is the ‘rebel’ in the poem made to sound vulnerable? How is she
Who or what is this ‘battle’ being fought against?