Adcock has said that this poem was written in
response to a real incident experienced by her god-
daughter, Heidi, who had moved with her father (after
the death of her mother) to live in Australia.
Heidi has dyed her hair and the poem deals with the
reactions of her school, father and friends.
For Heidi With Blue Hair by Fleur Adcock
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 father:
'She's not a punk in her behaviour;
it's just a style.' (You wiped your eyes,
also not in a school colour.)
'She discussed it with me first -
we checked the rules.' 'And anyway, Dad,
it cost twenty-five dollars.
Tel 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 against you;
the teachers twittered and gave in.
Next day your black friend had hers done
in grey, white and flaxen yellow -
the school colours precisely:
an act of solidarity, a witty
tease. The battle was already won.
• This poem deals with the issue of
conformity in schools and how
rebellion in a teenager may have
deeply-rooted causes, not always
apparent to others.
• Addresses Heidi directly and gives
us an insight into her attempt at
rebellion against the school rules.
• Her new style demonstrates
• Continues in a
humorous tone as the
sending Heidi home
Heidi’s hair is not
dyed in school
OVER TO YOU!
• The poem tells of the headmistress’ reaction. She
seems to object to it for the bizarre reason that it
is not dyed in the school colours.
• She says “apart from anything else”. What else
does she mean? Do you think she is being
completely open about the reasons why she
objects to the hairstyle?
• Third stanza indicates
that there is more to this
act than simple
• The “tears” suggest a
softer side to Heidi
• Her father is a believer
in freedom and argues
for Heidi reminding that
her style not behaviour
• The argument with the headmistress continues
and her father explains that she discussed it with
• Note the clever use of contrast between the
attitude of Heidi’s father and that of school
• By using direct conversation (like dialogue in a
play) Adcock makes the situation more realistic
for the reader.
• It is only here that we get an insight into what may be going on in
the background to this incident.
• The tone changes when we learn that Heidi has recently lost her
mother, even though her father does not use this excuse to explain
• It is possible to suspect that Heidi is in need of attention and
recognition that something has changed in her life and how she
• The ending of the stanza emphasises that Heidi is not usually a
student who creates disturbance or annoyance
• Sense of comedy returns in the final stanza when
one of her friends arrives with her hair dyed the
• In a few lines of clever dialogue the poet sketches
different characters in the poem. The freedom
loving father, the prim headmistress, the sensitive
but rebellious Heidi and the mischievous “black
• 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 story develops, we find not just an amusing story,
but also a challenge to social boundaries.
• Adcock manages to gently bring together issues of
friendship, solidarity, home life, and social institutions
when discussing this relatively minor event.
• It isn't hard to guess whose side the poet is on.
THE POET’S STYLE
Relationship between father
Tells a story
sense of grief
Uses ‘battle’ metaphor
to suggest individuality
wins over conformity
OVER TO YOU: QUESTIONS
1.With which of these statements would you most
agree. Give reasons for your answer:
• The poem is quite amusing.
• The poem is quite sad.
• The poem makes an important point about people’s