“For Heidi With Blue Hair” was written by Fleur Adcock, a poet from New Zealand based in Britain. First published in 1986, the poem focuses on a conflict between Heidi, a British schoolgirl, and the repressive authority figures at her school. When Heidi comes to a school with a black and blue mohawk, the headmistress sends her home. In doing so, the headmistress reveals that her authority is arbitrary, capricious, and cruel. After all, the speaker suggests that Heidi’s mohawk isn’t intended to be rebellious or disobedient; instead, it’s a way of grieving her dead mother. The speaker thus endorses rebellion against—and satire of—the headmistress and her power.
When you dyed ...
... home from school
because, as the ...
... the school colours.
Tears in the ...
... a school colour.)
“She discussed it ...
... wanted to try.
It would have ...
... and gave in.
Next day your ...
... was already won.
Select any word below to get its definition in the context of the poem. The words are listed in the order in which they appear in the poem.
Britain in the 1980s — At the Guardian Newspaper, Jason Cowley runs through the history of Britain during the 1980s.
37 Pictures Showing What Punk Britain Was Really Like — A photo essay, displaying punk styles and haircuts from the 1970s and 1980s, including a truly glorious mohawk (#36).
"For Heidi with Blue Hair" Read Aloud — Fleur Adcock recites her poem.
Fleur Adcock's Life Story — A brief biography of Fleur Adcock from the Poetry Foundation.
Punk, Politics and Youth Culture, 1976-84 — Professor Matthew Worley outlines the early history of punk rock and its importance for youth culture in the early 1980s.
1When you dyed your hair blue
2(or, at least ultramarine
3for the clipped sides, with a crest
4of jet-black spikes on top)
5you were sent home from school
6because, as the headmistress put it,
7although dyed hair was not
8specifically forbidden, yours
9was, apart from anything else,
10not done in the school colours.
11Tears in the kitchen, telephone calls
12to school from your freedom-loving father:
13“She’s not a punk in her behaviour;
14it’s just a style.” (You wiped your eyes,
15also not in a school colour.)
16“She discussed it with me first –
17we checked the rules.” “And anyway, Dad,
18it cost twenty-five dollars.
19Tell them it won’t wash out –
20not even if I wanted to try.
21It would have been unfair to mention
22your mother’s death, but that
23shimmered behind the arguments.
24The school had nothing else against you;
25the teachers twittered and gave in.
26Next day your black friend had hers done
27in grey, white and flaxen yellow –
28the school colours precisely:
29an act of solidarity, a witty
30tease. The battle was already won.