A Leisure Centre…. 83 thoughts

Correspondence about the honey-coloured girl

What does this poem mean ?

All over the country, English A and AS Level students are currently being asked to analyse poems in Forward Poems of the Decade and are worrying whether they are ‘getting’ what the various anthology poets have to say.  Some of these students, alas, are worrying about my poem, ‘A Leisure Centre is Also a Temple of Learning’.  Outside the walls of the examination system, I would quite happily argue that a poem ‘means’ whatever a reader thinks it means.  But these examinations are important to the people who have to pass this hurdle before they can get on with their adult lives .  It is therefore important to the students of my and the other poems to feel that they have at least a fighting chance to get things ‘right’.

Unfortunately, in the context of an important examination, a poem is not a fact. Getting it ‘right’ will be about intuitions, sensitivity to the hints and nuances that different words contain, picking up the little clues which poets scatter around their pieces, or leave lurking just underneath the lines.  Fortunately, in the case of ‘A Leisure Centre is Also a Temple of Learning’, students can at least quiz the poet what she meant via the comments box on my blog.  It has been quite enchanting to read the polite questions which have come in and I try to give the most helpful answers I can find.

I have happily tried to unravel the meaning of the word ‘chorus’ for David and tried to work out for Rebecca why I said that the chorus had twelve members, rather than eleven, or fifteen.  But last night’s fifth question from Jeremy really went to the heart of the problem

What is the overall feel and idea of the poem?

My silent answer to myself, predictably, was that I had absolutely no idea. I was only the poet, after all.  But then I reflected that Jeremy, and others, are being required to answer questions like this about a poem I wrote and allowed to be published, and it seemed very unkind to refuse to help.  So here is my attempt.  I don’t know whether it would be good enough to satisfy an A Level examiner.

Sue Boyle’s poem ‘A Leisure Centre is Also a Temple of Learning’ is a dark poem with a deceptively alluring, perhaps even a rather too light-hearted  exterior. Here is a beautiful young woman, on the brink of her adult life, looking forward dreamily to the physical pleasure of being loved.  She has absorbed the advertisers’ messages that it takes the contents of a chemist’s shop to make her body acceptable.  She has learnt that she must use commercial scrubs, and exfoliants, and scents, and moisturisers if she is to realise her dream. 

Her idea of sexual love is romantic.  She imagines someone kissing the lobes of her ears, stroking her hair, nuzzling between her breasts. These images are quite filmic.  I think the poem is suggesting that she might still be rather inexperienced, and this idea seems to me to be reinforced by the prominent position given to the key word ‘younger’ as the poem draws towards the close.

she should look around

she is so much younger than the rest of us

Some people have suggested on the blog that the older women in this poem ‘envy’ the younger woman for her youth and beauty, but I think that the line ‘she is so much younger than the rest of us’ is actually anxious and protective.  As she prepares herself so hopefully for love, the younger woman seems vulnerable and the ‘chorus’ tries to close round as if between them they could keep the dark possibilities of life at bay.

It might seem strange to speak of dark things when, on the surface, the poem is rather prettily (rather too prettily, I think) concerned with familiar, uplifting images and the more endearing aspects of the natural world. But if you turn the prism of the poem just a little, you realise that this beautiful young woman is actually preparing her body (in the metaphorical sense) to be eaten alive. She is making herself into a flower to be sipped by a bee, into ‘summer cream slipped over raspberries’, into a commodity to be consumed.

The older women can see this. And they believe that they know ‘what happens next’.

Well, actually, of course, they cannot ‘know’.  This line is double-edged. 

But between them they will have seen enough of the world to know the kinds of things that can happen to inexperienced and optimistic young people looking to find their way in a world where adult passions are not always gentle, and sexual encounters and relationships can lead people unexpectedly into dark emotional places, exploitation, unresolvable conflicts, real dangers and deep despairs.  Think perhaps of Tess  setting out so hopefully for her new life with Alec D’Urbeville.  Then think how her life ends.  By borrowing the idea of the ‘chorus’ from Greek drama, and reinforcing it with the word ‘temple’ in the title of the poem, I think I was universalising this young woman, subconsciously, and trying to say something about the hazard which is indivisible from human life.

So is my poem dark? 

Actually, I think not.  We are allowed to rejoice in beauty, and hope, and also, less obviously, in the tenderness the older women feel towards the young. The light and the dark are in tension, but there is no sense in this poem that the darkness will triumph over the light.

Leisure Centre. Forward 2011

 

 

84 thoughts on “A Leisure Centre…. 83 thoughts

  1. Dear Mrs Boyle,

    I initially had difficulty understanding the meaning and intention of your poem. If you are willing to explain the lines that cause me trouble I think that I should take this rare opportunity.

    1. Why ‘lithe’ as a ‘leopard’? In the context of the ethereal description of the subject, where the imagery is of delicate nature, why compare her to a rather vicious animal?

    2. Doesn’t the phrase ‘charlatan’s moustache’ suggest an envy from the Chorus, as if they are mocking her and being judgemental? If so, are these women that look so intimately at her, genuinely wanting to her care for her? Why did you decide to include this detail?

    3. Perhaps most frustrating for me is the notion that no one really learns or teaches anyone else anything in this ‘temple of learning’ – the girl does not learn to objectify herself less or to lower her expectations and the Chorus, although seemingly wise, does not attempt to teach her anything… Do you mean that the reader that is supposed to learn from this or is it that, like all 13 women, we all must learn from experience (i.e. not everything can be taught)?

    Sorry for all these questions. Anyhow, your comments on other questions helped me to explore different interpretations while not misinterpreting your poem. As a reader of your poem this is what I am most afraid of so thank you very much.

    Jo

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    1. Dear Jo

      These are wonderfully searching questions and it will be a real pleasure to answer them. I think all three of your queries are delving into the strange power of language to mean many different things at once, and to carry meanings into situations where they were not expected. The interpretation of words is often subjective, as I’m sure you know, and poems often ‘play’ with this in quite surprising ways. ‘Surprising’, I will say quickly, to the poet – so no surprise if the reader is sometimes also taken aback by the strange implications of what they read. If we take that ‘leopard’ image, which to me is one of the key ways into the poem, I would say firstly that to you, the reader, the leopard seems ‘vicious’. To me, the poet, the leopard seems endangered and extremely beautiful, vulnerable to the cruel indifference so many humans exhibit to the other species who share our world. So when I let the word ‘leopard’ slip its way into the poem, I am bringing in ideas of danger, and vulnerability, and suggesting the beautiful young girl is entering a world which may be indifferent both to her beauty and to her fate.

      The word ‘charlatan’ is working for me in a similar way. The women, of course, can see the attention the young girl is paying to her body, and her actions make it plain that she is trying to prepare herself to seem sexually attractive. I bring in the word ‘charlatan’ to suggest that out in the world there are people who will approach her deceitfully, people who have made themselves skilled in exploiting others more innocent than themselves. In a poem, you don’t have to bring the actual charlatan into the changing room. Using the word in a simile is enough to set the alarm bells ringing. He is there, and not there, all at once, just as the leopard is.

      And what about ‘temple of learning’, a phrase you probe so intelligently in your question three? I think the most obvious note in this strange phrase is probably ironical. As you say, on the surface it is not clear at all that anyone is going to learn anything from this experience. But when I look down the extraordinary correspondence which this poem has provoked, it seems to me that a terrific amount of learning has in fact gone on. Students have been learning to question what they read. This poet has been learning to think harder about her own piece than she ever expected, and in the process has learnt what wonderful things are going on in classrooms around the world. Hopefully, we are all learning that a poem can open real avenues of communication between people who never meet.

      I hope you are finding many other poems which will work for you in this way. An anthology is also a temple of learning, perhaps?

      Very best wishes, Jo. And enjoy your studies.

      sue

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      1. Dear Sue,

        It is so otherworldly to have received such a detailed and helpful answer from the poet herself! I feel so much more interested and motivated for my studies, having read this blog and your answers to my questions. I have to say that your poem is the one with which I have gone through the greatest process, as unexpected layers of meaning began revealing themselves to me the more I read and thought about it. I am happy to say that this anthology, and your poem especially, are a temple of learning for me in the context of my studies and beyond.

        Thank you very, very much.

        Jo

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  2. Dear Sue Boyle, this is not a question re your poem but rather a comment to say how refreshing and useful and interesting your Qs & As with students are. As a retired teacher of 146, sometime tutor and writer, this is the first time I’ve come across the kind of communication you’ve established. (T S Eliot eat your heart out !). Wish you well for future writing. Thanks. (Greatly like your poem, by the way.)

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    1. Thank you! It has been a marvellous experience reading the students’ questions and responses. I have felt so privileged and fortunate that this new channel of communication has offered me this gift. How well poetry must be taught to engage so many young readers in this way. And how nice also to have met you!

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  3. Dear Sue
    I found this blog looking for answers and (as I suppose is always the way) came out with more questions!
    Something I found interesting was your fairly definite sense that the women feel protective of the girl- I had been more cynical originally and assumed that the women feel some level of jealousy for the girl and her youth, and at the most felt pity for her ‘fate’.
    However, you also say that the women are not in fact clairvoyant- they just believe that they can see her future.
    My question to you is, do you feel that the women are unfairly projecting their own struggles they experienced with love and ageing onto her because they can recognise themselves in her, or are they more worried about the increasing commercial influences on, and societal expectations of, young women today, that they never had to face? I would be interested to hear what you believe their motivations for this were.
    Your poem is one of my favourites we are studying- your language is beautiful, clever, modern and unpretentious- in other words the opposite of what I thought poetry was before studying A Level (i.e. overcomplicated waffle) so thank you!
    Scarlett

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    1. Dear Scarlett
      What an intelligent and probing question! You are an acute reader, so you have actually already answered it yourself, better perhaps than I am going to do. On the one hand, to some extent I think we all tend to project our own views about the world on to the people we encounter because our sympathies can never be wide enough truly to see things from a stranger’s point of view, however hard we try. We are all prisoners, in this sense, of our own upbringing and experience. On the other hand, what you suggest about commercial and societal expectations seems very pertinent. With the new media’s insistence on the importance of image and appearance, young women have surely never been under such pressure to try to conform to standards of attraction and beauty imposed on them from outside. Female beauty has always been treasured, but today’s media seem to suggest that beauty can only be achieved through spending the ‘right’ money on the ‘right’ commodities – and that beauty will only be judged adequate if it arouses sexual interest in others. Young women are encouraged to think that their natural selves are imperfect and that the artificially enhanced stereotypes are ideal. The poem is hoping, of course, that its readers will be asking all these questions, and finding the answers in themselves as you have already done. I can’t tell you how delighted I am that you find my writing clever, modern and unpretentious. What more could any poet hope for – and how gracious of you to tell me. You write pretty well yourself! Please go on asking searching questions, and turning your back on waffle.
      All good wishes
      sue

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  4. I’m studying The AS by myself and so it’s nice getting this kind of help.
    Would you agree that the woman’s movements and the way she applied products in a caressing manner is because she is experienced sexually? Maybe the use of ‘young’ here is to imply that girls are growing up too fast and sexualizing themselves too soon ?

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    1. Thank you for your interesting and perceptive questions. It must be difficult studying on your own so I particularly hope that this answer is helpful and encouraging. You are right to focus on the word ‘young’ as one of the keys to unlock this poem. My priority was to draw attention to the girl’s vulnerability by showing how she has been lured into the sexualised world of artificial beauty products. Commercial interests have given her a model of behaviour to imitate. I do not think her behaviour is really an expression of who she is. The poem says clearly that the girl’s own natural beauty is quite sufficient. By turning herself into a glamorous ‘product’, she is putting herself at risk of exploitation, in ways she is too young, I think, to understand. The chorus knows this, but, as in a Greek drama, they can speak out their anxieties, but the principal characters have their destinies already established, and cannot change their paths. I hope you enjoy your studies. Good fortune in the future and all good wishes
      sue

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  5. Dear Sue,

    We are studying this poem for our English A level and I was curious as to why you include such “erotic” detail, for example the words “aromatic” and “gentle” before moving onto the romanticized body description? Is it because you believe that this “girl in the womens changing room” is somehow ruined in her innocence by the way that society portrays women or is it to sexualise her entirely without involving her innocence? Also, with the idea of the twelve chorus watching her, did you mean to relate it to a jury or that of a Greek play style chorus or neither?

    I think this a beautiful and well thought-out poem 🙂

    Many thanks,
    Em

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    1. Good morning Em
      It is nice to hear from you. I think you might be a better reader than I am a writer – meaning that I think your questions are so perceptive and far-reaching that I might not be able to answer them well enough! I can certainly tell you why the scrub and the exfoliant come before the body description. I am just moving in time sequence through the stages of the swim, the after-swim shower and then the girl’s preparations to get dressed. As the poem sharpens its focus, it begins to notice things in more and more detail, and becomes more thoughtful and questioning about what it sees. The poem is moving in ‘realtime’ if you like, until it pulls back a little into those late similes. The chorus, for me, was really meant to imply everyone who has stayed with poem to this point. So, yes, we have all become a ‘jury’, in the dramatic sense, because the poem has asked us to look at the girl as carefully as a jury would be asked to look at a defendant in a dock. We are also a ‘Greek chorus’ in the sense that, unlike a jury, we sense that we already know what lies ahead for the heroine of the piece. Some readers have asked me whether ‘twelve’ relates to a jury, or the twelve apostles. When I was writing the poem, it just felt to me like an engagingly magical number, with a rather serious undertone which I liked. All the other marvellous ideas about its significance were contributed by brilliant readers of the blog.

      I hope you are enjoying your literature studies and the other pieces you are reading in the wonderful Forward book.

      Warm wishes
      sue

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  6. Hi Sue, I am doing your poem for as-level and was asked to give a brief biography of the poet. This was so that we could establish whether or not there was any personal experiences that the writer went through that had influenced the poem.
    I would much appreciate any help you have!
    Thank you

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    1. Hello Jane
      The most basic piece of information is probably that I go early morning swimming quite often in my local leisure pool. My honey-coloured girl was a real person. I wrote this poem one day more or less the moment I came home. If you browse around this blog, and also the new workshop blog which is called Project 2017, you will find lots more facts about me and a photograph. As for why I feel so nervous and protective about this particular young girl – I’ve been a teacher for many years. You worry about the way life will treat your students and whether, if they hit hard times, they have been given enough skills and resilience to cope. You want life to be good for all of them, but know in your heart of hearts that for some of them, the world as they grow older is going to be very hard. I’m sure that underlies a lot of this poem.

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  7. Dear Sue Boyle
    I am greatful for such an extraordinary poem. Thank you so much.
    I was curious about the title of your poem.
    My initial thought was that this leisure centre is a temple in the case that it is a space to uncover the truth about how modernised beauty can be achieved through materialistic items, through exfoliants and aromatic scrubs. That natural beauty derived from nothing but uninfluenced looks is becoming less a reality and more a abstract concept, perhaps a myth. Is this title to suggest that a leisure centre is a place where one can be exposed to the truth behind today’s perception of beauty, where one can physically see how someone, through the application of various chemicals and creams can physical achieve conventional beauty. Or is it a temple in the literal religious sense, in which case are you suggesting that these people come here, potentially, to worship this honey coloured woman? For all The physical allure she possesses? that people are soo fixated to peruse physical grandeur that any agreed apon person that seems to have achieved it, is perceived as a deity? In which case is it a mockery of religion? That this particular ‘deity’ accomplishes her power through applying things one could buy in boots?
    Just theorys and probably not accurate to the real stimulant behind the title so please let me know why you chose this particular title,
    Thank you so much ,even if not by design, for introducing me to a relevant issue in our society and most defiantly my generation, for explaining to me that physical beauty can sometimes be a well constructed façade. Going through my teenage years you couldn’t believe how encouraging that can thought can be to someone.
    From the bottom of my heart thank you for such an interesting and beautiful poem.

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    1. Dear Rory

      You have written in such an interesting and perceptive way about my title! It seems to me that all your ideas are all so relevant to my poem that I wouldn’t want to choose any one of your interpretations above another. You turn this little cluster of words so intelligently this way and that way, as if the poem were a prism, throwing out different ideas depending on the angle of reading, just as a prism throws out different shafts of colour depending on its angle to the light.

      Our culture is fascinated – almost mesmerised – by certain kinds of female beauty. Young women are coaxed by the media into believing they should try to arrive at one of the formulaic, photogenic ideals – that this is a proper use of their time and money and energy – that happiness and success will follow if they do. But we all know that sorrow, misfortune and tragedy come to the beautiful as randomly as they come to those who cannot achieve the approved ideal. Sometimes it even seems that the possession of physical beauty can attract kinds of attention and opportunity which make unusually beautiful young women even more vulnerable to disappointment than the rest of us.

      My little poem is trying to hint at this, while also leaving room for intelligent readers like you to bring your own thoughts and experience into the metaphorical changing room.

      You are a great reader! I hope you find lots more poems to get you thinking as you follow your English course. Perhaps you should be writing some of your own! Best of luck with your studies.

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  8. Hi Sue,
    Thanks for taking the time to answer all of the questions on the thread- my students really appreciate it. One of the main themes of the poem seems to be the pressure that is placed on young girls to look a certain way. Is this a uniquely female experience or do males experience anything comparable?

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  9. Hello Jude. Actually, I think those words “We know what happens next” are the most puzzling part of the poem. Because the twelve older women do not know, and cannot know what lies ahead for this younger person. No one knows what lies ahead in anyone else’s life. It is all mystery, all possibility. Maybe adventure. Maybe disappointment. But no one is clairvoyant enough to know. The older women are claiming a knowledge they do not have – as some older people sometimes have an annoying tendency to do! The poem is telling you to bring your own understanding to bear. What do you feel lies ahead for the honey-coloured girl? That is the core of the poem. Good luck with your studies.

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  10. Hi sue, I am so pleased to have read this extraordinary poem. I absolutely love the themes being presented throughout the poem however, I seem to have over analyzed the phrase “we know what happens next” and am curious to know whether it leads to rape or death, or if it leads to her transforming into an experienced young woman thus contrasting with the theme of innocence? Many thanks!

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  11. Hi Sue! I was absolutely delighted to be introduced to this blog by my English teacher as I have a specific query myself about your wonderful poem. After reading through your blog I understand that your poem can be interpreted in whichever way the reader would like, however I’m interested in what you intended to convey in this poem and what was going through your mind:

    My question is about your line “We twelve are the chorus:” – Is there any significance of the number 12 in this context? Is it to do with the idea of having 12 gods in Greek mythology (in view of your application of the nouns “chorus” and “temple”); each a god of completely divergent entities, suggesting each woman in the limited “chorus” is knowledgable in the various aspects of the dangers that may be faced by the honey colored girl, whether it be physical, emotional, sexual, etc., supporting and linking to the final line: “we all know what happens next”? Or am I completely on the wrong track? Thank you in advance!

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  12. Sue,
    I am currently studying your poem for class, which means I will probably be over-analysing pretty much the whole thing. I was wondering if you had put in themes of innocence regarding the young girl, as it seems unaware this “truth” that will come to her. Are those themes of innocence there? Or am I diving in too deep? I’d love to hear your responce if you have one.

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    1. Hello bilbo! I will reply to your very interesting question as soon as I have proofed the new version of my book. Thank you for writing to this blog and good luck with your studies. Please keep an eye on this space!

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  13. Dear Sue,

    We are an As English Literature class wondering what made you come up with the similes ‘Lithe as a young leopard’ and ‘She brushes her hair so clean it looks like a waterfall’. Although it is embarrassing we also want to know why you compared ‘her secret cleft’ to a ‘charlatan’s moustache’.

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  14. Dear Sue,
    I was curious about the line “a bee could sip her” as I saw something similar in Keats’ Ode on Melancholy where he refers to “Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips” and also makes reference to “beauty that must die” later which is a similar feeling I get from your poem in a sense. Was this just a coincidence or did this poem influence your one?

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    1. Dear Eric
      You have uncovered something in the poem which, until I read your message, I didn’t know was there. OF COURSE we must attribute this subtle association of ideas to Keats and not to me! Keats was one of my A level set books. We had to learn much of his poetry by heart in order to produce the kind of well illustrated critiques the examiners were looking for and, as you probably know, that kind of powerful ‘music’ beds itself in your imagination, whether you feel you can still quote the lines, or not. Keats must get all the credit for this rather good idea and this poet must stand on the naughty step! You have a wonderfully sharp ear and eye for poetry. I hope you are enjoying the reading you have to do.

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      1. Dear Sue,
        Thank you very much for responding and I must add that your poem is definitely one of the better ones the exam board has set us. It makes excellent reading and has a nuanced meaning like David mentioned earlier in the blog about “conflicted feelings of love and hate”. Hopefully your poem makes an appearance in the exam tomorrow.

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    2. hi Eric i have just started AS english literature and this happen to be on be one of the poems i am analysing and i was wondering if you could email and help analyse and give new interpretations and ideas for this poem as i find it fascinating and judging by your comment you seem to have a deep insight. I would really appreciate it if you could email me at besuola.16@hotmail.com

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      1. Hello bes. You are right to think that Eric has deep insights into poetry. He’s really perceptive and sensitive and I’m sure everything he says will be helpful and illuminating. I hope his answer finds its way on to this blog, because I would enjoy to read it. Best wishes with your studies.

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  15. Dear Sue,
    I’ve recently started tutoring A’Level English Lit after what feels like an eternity of teaching GCSE and was introduced to your beautiful poem for the first time today. However, without the benefit of this blog (which I’ve only just this minute discovered), I feel that I’ve guided my student along the wrong path somewhat. I had initially thought that the detailed examination of the young woman in the opening stanzas was tinged with the speaker’s memory of her own body and how she once applied lotions and perfume in the same way – indeed the listing of those points for applying perfume felt almost like a mantra; you describe the young woman’s hands as moving like a weaver at a loom so I imagined the kind of practised expertise that becomes second nature and the speaker herself can recite this mantra from her own memory, not just from what she observes. (Is there a significance to the weaver/loom imagery, by the way? We interpreted this as the young woman turning herself into something else, becoming something of beauty to be admired butI’d be fascinated to read your intentions).
    Additionally, can I ask why the women want the young girl to turn around? My cynical interpretation initially perceived the chorus of women to be rather smug in the knowledge that all this care and beautification was for nothing and so perhaps urged the young woman to turn round to see that age would eventually catch up with her (slightly disturbed to think that this might reveal more about my own feelings, however!) I also thought that 12 was pertinent given that there are twelve members of a jury, which fitted in well with my original interpretation of the women as judging the young girl. Although I understand now from your blog that the chorus are protective rather than sneering, why would they want her to turn around? Isn’t there a case for wanting her to enjoy this ignorance of the real world for a little while longer?

    On behalf of teachers and students everywhere, thank you so much for taking the time to write this blog and to answer so many questions – it’s a kindness and generosity so seldom seen these days. I look forward to reading further entries on your blog and will most definitely be seeking out more of your work.

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    1. Dear Michelle
      What a complete delight to receive your message and know that my little poem is in such safe and sensitive hands. The first thing I want to say is that IN EVERY PARTICULAR I love the interpretations you are putting on my words. Once a poem is making its journey through the world, meeting new readers and making new friends – as this lucky poem is – I think it actually becomes the shared property of everyone who listens carefully to what it seems to say. It can comfortably carry a whole range of suggestions and possibilities, depending on the outlook and experiences of its friends. In this sense, I believe that every poem is what a perceptive reader finds it to be. There are no closed doors, except for a reader whose mind is already closed. If I put your beautifully lucid thoughts beside other ideas that have been submitted to this blog, I would say that the poem reflects ambivalence towards the honey-coloured girl. It is judgmental in part. It is protective in part. It celebrates young beauty. It is afraid for the ignorance and vulnerability of inexperience. It would love to be the subject of the observations rather than the observing eye. It would hate to have its own life mistakes still to make. I have learnt from all your letters that the honey-coloured girl is not really the subject of the poem, for all that it dwells upon her so lovingly. The observing eye, about which, on the surface, we know nothing, is the real subject in the sense that it is her complex and ambivalent attitudes which leave the real traces in the mind. I am certain that you are guiding your students brilliantly through my poem. Thank you so much.

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  16. Hello Sue

    My daughter is about to sit the AS exam and I am a private tutor reading your poem in that role too. It’s a wonderful poem.

    I was wondering why you chose raspberries as opposed to strawberries? Is there a connotation I’m missing?

    I like the bee (attracting an insect with a sting) and the “young leopard”- a creature which sets out to play and hunt, but is entering a field of predators and prey, where it will have to learn to survive.

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    1. Hello Gavin
      Just starting to catch up with all this marvellous correspondence. I love your question about the raspberries. I think the answer is rather the opposite of the question here! Strawberries seem to me to have far too many stale connotations – which could clutter up one’s response to the actual line. Wimbledon…Henley … ice cream … Raspberries are less ‘worn’ – and used to be a much rarer and more fragile fruit than strawberries, at least before supermarkets made almost all foods indestructible. Your reading of the young leopard is brilliant. Your daughter is extremely fortunate to have your guidance. The poet is extremely fortunate to be read so well! Thank you for writing.

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  17. I really enjoy doing this poem for A level – I think it perfectly portrays the society we ( as girls ) live in, we constantly want to be the perfect, grown up woman and sometimes we get too carried away trying to be that woman and we forget to enjoy the little things about being a girl, about being a little girl – that innocent little girl. This poem is so beautifully written and I’d really like to know what the ending line means ‘ we know what happens next. ‘ Because I think of it as the entry into adult hood or somehow a sexualised desire that will take away her purity and all that innocence. Thank you for this great poem, I will read it to everyone I know so everyone recognises its magnificence!!

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    1. What a lovely message, Veronica, and how lovely to discover a reader like you out there! I really like your interpretation of the girl’s essential innocence. For me, it isn’t so much the experience of sexual desire which the chorus of women fear will harm the girl. Rather, I see them collectively as having so much shared experience of the problems any girl faces as she moves into adulthood – problems often associated with the difficulty of coping with the power of her own attractiveness – that they wish she could enjoy her beauty and optimism a little longer in the uncomplicated way that young girls often seem to do. But I also feel that this is a poem which permits you to read in your own way and to bring your own views about growing older into the poetic ‘space.’ As you seem to be doing very intelligently – and with the author’s blessing!

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  18. Dear Sue,
    Your poem is wonderful and an interesting read, especially to analyse in further detail but it is to some extent a source of personal inner conflict for more than one reason.As a teenage girl the focus on the physical form bubbles up an instinctive defence wherein the ideal female body is so heavily forced upon us by the media that any description is seen as negatively objectifying until proven otherwise even/especially when the description is positive. Yet to describe a woman’s body as positive surely should be a moment of pride for said woman and perhaps is until another person’s opinion is added to the mix. So I guess my question for you is, whether you see the woman’s beauty and admirable form in the poem as a gift or something she may come to resent due to the attention it will attract? My personal reading is that she is naive in the way she prepares herself, the “dreamy abstractedness” being a immature view of love, her ritual of preparation embracing sexuality without seeming to understand it or have experienced it.

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  19. Hello Sue,
    I thoroughly enjoyed your poem! My favourite part of the poem was the line ‘using an aromatic scrub and gentle exfoliant.’At first glance, I thought this line had a particular meaning of grinding her skin down to appear more beautiful to the world around her, or even the finite ‘chorus’ within the poem. However, reading this line back to myself made me think deeper into the words ‘gentle exfoliant’ and what the word ‘exfoliant’ may represent. One idea was that the exfoliant was reflecting the impact of other people’s thoughts on the girls life, suggesting that her social interactions with people around her had a negative effect on her self confidence. Another interpretation was that the ‘gentle’ exfoliation was reflecting on her body image, perhaps suggesting that she is reluctant to change herself for others. This interpretation could be supported by the line ‘showered away the pool chemicals’. As a year 12 student currently studying this poem for my examinations in June, I would love to know the inspiration behind this line!! thank you

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  20. Hi Sue – I really enjoyed your poem. I definitely saw the older women/chorus as watching over the younger girl rather than envying her. Although the poem is rather scary to read as a 17 year old girl who is inexperienced herself, I also felt comforted in some way by the knowledge that the chorus were observing the girl and were anxious about her future. I was wondering why you chose to use imagery of the natural world? Was it because you were saying that she is ‘pure’ or that she is innocent/naïve?
    Thank you very much for your time.
    Evie

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  21. Hello Sue!
    I love the poem and all the hidden themes within the various verbs, similes and metaphors. As a woman, I feel almost like I’m not trying hard enough to fit into society’s views hard enough – which I feel is the wrong response to have to this poem. I would love to know what it was about this girl in particular that stood out over all the girls who are like this on the street everyday, why does this one girl represent all of them? Also, is the ‘honey coloured’ skin a result of fake tan or her natural skin – is this another way she tried to change herself?

    Like

  22. Hello Sue,
    The first thing that jumped out at me within your poem, is how the lady is described as ‘honey coloured’ – from this I immediately thought that the colour contradicts the natural aspect of the ‘honey’ as it is difficult to obtain a ‘honey coloured’ tan in Bath, I presume. However, from reading your reply to Jeremy I see you intended to present a purity in her ‘pale English honey’ coloured skin, rather than the fake colour I was imagining.
    I was able to become lost in the description of the woman’s natural being, just as she is described to be ‘in a dreamy abstractedness’ through the continued beautiful physical description (later stunted by the short stanzas). I liked how the short stanzas enabled you to come out of the trance-like state she is described to be in, and I wondered if this was intended to make a female audience relate to her and become consumed in her being too? Also, did you think about how a male may relate/react to the poem when you were writing it?
    From reading this blog it’s helped me, regarding the clarity of your poem and it’s connotations – thank you for your helpful replies.

    Like

  23. Dear Sue,
    I love Dr Seuss because he evokes memories of my childhood and his wordplay is extremely funny. I’ve read “Ode on Melancholy” by Keats and having read it aloud like you said it sounds different to what I originally gathered from the poem. Thanks for responding
    David

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  24. YOUR POEM IS AMAZING, MY SELF AS YOUNG LADY I CAN RELATE TO THE HONEY-COLOURED GIRL. YOU SEEM VERY APPROACHABLE ON HERE SUE, THAT IS VERY GOOD ESPECIALLY FOR YOUR READERS WHO ARE DOING ALEVEL ENGLISH LIT AND STUDYING YOUR POEM. IT MAKES OUR LIVES MUCH EASIER IF WE CAN WRITE DIRECTLY TO THE POET HERSELF WHEN WE HAVE QUERIES. I WANTED TO ASK IN THE ANTHOLOGY OF THE POEMS OF THE DECADES, WHICH OTHER POEM/S I CAN USE TO COMPARE IT WITH YOURS. LOOKING FORWARD FOR YOUR REPLY.

    KIND REGARDS BENEDICTE

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    1. Hello Benedicte. Thank you very much for your nice letter. I expect you are asking me to suggest other poems to compare with mine because you have to do an assignment? I am going to make three suggestions, but if they don’t work for you, ignore them please. If you have been reading the blog conversation about my poem, you will already know that I feel that the chorus of observing women are very protective and motherly towards the honey-coloured girl, so I think that Eavan Boland’s beautiful poem on the facing page would give you a lovely point of comparison. It is based on the idea of generations of women passing on their wisdom about caring and healing for their daughters. It’s a truly wonderful piece of writing by a really great poet and I think you will enjoy it very much. Secondly, you might read Kate Clanchy’s poem ‘One, Two’ which is about the moment a woman first realises that she is going to have a child. This is the moment,in one sense, when she crosses into the generation of the chorus of older women, and begins to feel that first passionate rush of tenderness to protect this vulnerable new life. Jackie Kay has a poem in your anthology called ‘Late Love’ which is also very powerful. It could almost be about the chorus of older women in the leisure centre, wistfully remembering love affairs from their past, and I think it would sit very comfortably with mine. It’s a kindly, insightful poem and you will find a lot in it to like. I hope this little suggestions are helpful. If you have time, do let me know if you agree with them.

      Like

  25. Dear Sue,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to reply. I know my class will be very excited! They absolutely have their own ideas about your poem which they confidently express, your comments will add another valuable layer in their analysis though. Many thanks.

    Like

  26. Dear Sue,

    I have a very enthusiastic Year 12 class who thoroughly enjoyed reading your poem. It provoked much debate on a range of topics. One of the key ideas my class debated was your use of spacing at the end of the poem. We discussed whether or not it suggested the smugness of the narrator who realises what’s in store for this young woman. They’d love to know if they were ‘on the right track’ or whether you intended something completely different altogether! Another issue that the class found quite difficult was the black humour that your poem seems to convey so well and I wonder if you think that it’s all to do with age, experience and perspective as to whether you fully appreciate that side of the poem?!

    We loved that you have this blog and take the time to relate to your audience – it’s a real treat.

    Warm regards.

    Like

    1. Dear Karen

      I’m so glad that your class is enjoying my poem. I talked about the spacing of the last few lines when I wrote to Sam on 11th February. You might like to scroll up to take a look at that reply. I certainly don’t feel that the older women are smug about the vulnerability of the younger one. I feel them to be sympathetic to her, and anxious about her fate. I explained to Sam about using white space to provide a guide for live readings. In this poem, I also use it to avoid taking the focus off the young woman. The background and the chorus are deliberately left unsketched so that what lingers is that very close observation of the subject. In other words, I am letting the whiteness of the silence tell readers that they should keep their eyes fixed throughout ( as the chorus does ) on the honey-coloured girl and her alone.

      About the dark humour which is certainly part of many poems that I write….when a poem works well, I think it is capable of being read ‘correctly’ in many different ways. I hope that younger readers will feel able to identify with the honey-coloured girl, while older ones might see her more as their daughter or grandaughter. Neither reading would be ‘wrong’ and certainly the older person’s perspective is not superior. It might be more complex, though, because experience tends to teach you few human situations or relationships are as simple as they seem when you first encounter them. I would hate an examiner to expect your students to set aside their own reading of my poem just because it wasn’t exactly the same as mine.

      Warm regards to Year 12.

      Like

  27. Thank you for your reply. What powers these editors have! I realise that a poem is no longer ‘yours’ once it is offered to other readers, but it seems harsh to cut lines to fit the page… We will definitely study the full version, as the bird gives a sense of focus and stillness only found in nature, and the sand alludes to deserts and exotic places, which resonates with the sense of perfection and a goddess in a temple. Best wishes.

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  28. Hi Sue
    We are all so much enjoying your blog. Might I just query something? The version of your poem in the prescribed anthology has omitted the line: ‘Her head tilted like a listening bird’, and the version above has omitted both this and the following line about her ‘brushing her hair so clean it looks like a waterfall’. The students in my class noticed this when listening to Cerys Matthews reading your poem so well on ‘With Greatest Pleasure’ on Radio 4. Could you clarify whether these are your own edits, or possibly typing errors? It’s a shame to miss out the listening bird simile, but perhaps you decided against it for some reason?We’d love to know.
    Thanks again
    Julia

    PS the line ‘her breasts mound as though sculptured from sand by a warm wind;’ is also missing from our anthology. Such a shame, as that line is so rich in imagery. I wonder if it was deliberate?

    Like

    1. Hello Julia

      How wonderfully vigilant and meticulous you are! I’ve burrowed through the various published versions of my poem and discovered something I didn’t know myself about its mutations over the past few years. I will do my best now to untangle them for you.

      The version you prefer was the one that first appeared in The Rialto and was submitted by them successfully to The Forward Book of Poetry 2009 where it appears in the Highly Commended list. I then included it in my pamphlet Too Late for the Love Hotel which won The Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition in 2010. Poetry Business pamphlets are stapled which means that the number of available pages is absolute and there is quite a lot of pressure not to let poems over-run the page unless they really must. Peter Sansom of The Poetry Business is a fiercely good editor. He probably thought that ‘Leisure Centre’ could be tightened up a little to keep it within the page so that another poem could use the freed-up space . The editors of Poems of the Decade have chosen that version of the poem, either because they knew both, and preferred the shorter one, or perhaps simply by accident. And we have lost the ‘listening bird’ and the sculptured sand.

      My poems do mutate, usually because they tend to edit themselves before a reading and then I like the changes I have made. But here, I think, the changes were almost certainly recommended by another hand. I’m very interested that you prefer the earlier version. Next time I include ‘Leisure Centre’ in a reading, I will revert to the original and dedicate it to you.

      Like

  29. Hello, Sue.
    Firstly I would just like to say that this is by far one of the best poems I have read, every line has a deeper meaning and clearly a lot of thought has gone into the writing. I have noticed while annotating this poem in my AS English Literature class that the verb choices used seem to be a central driving force for the poem. For instance in the first stanza “flexed”, “toned” and “showered” provide the reader with a clear image of what the honey coloured girl is doing. I was wondering however if there was any other reasons for these choices of verbs as well as “tripped” and “brushes” in stanza 3. I’d hate to make wrong assumptions about a wonderful poem!
    Thank you in advance!
    Kate-Rose

    Like

    1. Hello Kate-Rose
      Yes,I love verbs. They have such intrinsic energy and often (as the verbs you have picked out so well in your message) such a high visual content – they practically write the poem for you, if you choose them well. I think you might be asking about ‘tipped’ in stanza three, rather than ‘tripped’. I see the girl as tilting her face upwards and leaning her head back a little, to stretch the skin, so that more of her neck is accessible to the moisturiser and the spray perfume. ( Try this when no one is looking and you will discover exactly what ‘tipped’ means!) When I say, ‘I see’, of course, I do not mean that I imagined this. This was a real girl. These movements are what she actually did. When she shook her hair loose from her swimming cap, it was tangled and damp. She brushed it very vigorously, for a long time, to get rid of the tangles. Eventually, the fall of her hair was so smooth and silky it almost looked like water. Incidentally, try not to be too afraid with a poem of being ‘wrong’. Poetry is a kind of conversation. Poets give you their poems so that you can engage in your own way with what the poet wants to share. Except when you have an examiner looking over your shoulder, just feel free to enjoy what you personally find in a poem without worrying whether you have found the ‘right’ thing. You will enjoy poetry more this way – and hopefully want to read more poetry! Thank you for your message.

      Like

      1. Thank you for replying Sue. I’m so sorry about the typo! I’ve just bought an older version of the poetry of the decade books and I am enjoying reading all the poems but yours is still one of my favourites!

        Like

  30. Hi Sue,

    I am teaching this poem and we love the religious imagery that runs through it. We discussed how religious teachings encourage us to treat our bodies like temples. However, perhaps the subject’s body has become a false idol for both the young lady and the united “chorus” of older women. We also thought that, ironically, the leisure centre has become a modern temple through the manner in which people congregate for a common cause. In terms of structure, we note that you have left a longer space before the final line. We thought this could be symbolic of time passing before age sets in. The space is not long, because youth is transient. Why are your stanzas irregular in length? We’d be interested to know your thoughts. Thanks in advance.
    Sam Holdsworth

    Like

    1. Hello Sam
      Your questions are both extremely interesting. I wish I could be part of your English literature class! What you say about the modern leisure centre having become a modern temple is obviously entirely right, at least in terms of my poem, and immediately leads to asking whether the ‘worship’ of the healthy body, which is at the core of the leisure centre ideal, can perhaps lead us to undervalue what is intangible, enduring and more spiritual in human life? The poem certainly seems to be suggesting that the fixation on the body and its surface beauty is part of a culture full of hazard for the younger woman and perhaps of disillusion for the older ones, but I don’t think it even begins to offer an alternative vision of the world. I think you might have responded, though, to a slight undertone of melancholy at the limitations of the secular world view.

      You ask why my stanzas are irregular in length. I do quite a lot of guest readings and have learnt that the poem as printed on the page is also a useful score for its performance as live speech. Unless I am working in strict form, I like to use the white space on the page as part of the meaning of the poem, to direct the reading to achieve the emphases and effects I would like to pass on, alongside the actual words. I used the white space towards the end of this poem to slow it down progressively to make up for the fact that I had decided to give no description of the chorus of women. I wanted to give the audience time to imagine them as they found best. So after the word ‘around’, you have time to imagine the wide space of the changing room. Up to that point, the focus has been very closed up, tightly on the figure of the standing girl. After the word ‘chorus’ the audience has quite a lot of work to do – twelve women – and I give them time to establish these figures in their minds before the final line. I should say that this use of white space is trying to share with readers how I personally read the poem to an audience. It is not meant to be prescriptive!

      Like

  31. Hello, Sue.
    Like many of the commenters above, I too am studying this poem for my AS English Literature course and am thoroughly enjoying it. I realise you have mentioned in one of your previous responses that the idea of Greek tragedy was part of your thought process whilst writing this, but I just wondered whether or not you intended the descriptions of the girl’s beauty to correspond/ conflict with Greek values. Or did you not aim to make a comparison? I was thinking this because some of her features seem to match their criterion for beauty and some do not. For instance, her skin is ‘honey coloured’ whilst Greeks valued pale skin, but she is preoccupied with her muscle mass. Thank you.
    MaryB 🙂

    P.s. – should your poem be interpreted as a criticism of modern occupations with beauty or does it display it as an inevitable part of life?

    Like

    1. Hello, Mary.
      Your question about the Greek ideal of beauty is really interesting. In some ways the answer is rather disappointing because I think the poem has a shallower relationship with Greek values than it might have done. Might have done, I mean, if I had planned it as a commentary on the rather profound questions that you raise. The honey-coloured girl was an actual person in my local leisure centre, so the poem has that contemporary reality as its ‘springboard’ and at its core, and was in some sense limited by that. I arrived at the classical undercurrent afterwards, and then at the title last of all. Finished poems create an illusion of having been created sequentially, but mine are created more like three dimensional artworks. Sometimes I start at the end. Sometimes I start with a title. Sometimes, when I edit, the whole poem turns itself upside down. About your last question – in our culture, as far back as we can see, we have valued physical beauty, especially the physical beauty of the young. We have developed the means for people to enhance their beauty by a variety of means and we encourage young people in particular to think this is an important part of life. Our arts and culture have always rejoiced in the result. So I don’t think the preoccupation is particularly modern. And, yes, I think it is inevitable, given who we are. Definitely, I am not being critical of my honey-coloured girl. But I do feel that the more alluring she makes herself, the more hazardous she might find the world!

      Like

  32. Hi Sue!
    I really enjoyed reading your poem and had a few questions for you if you wouldn’t mind answering.
    1) “A Leisure Centre is Also a Temple of Learning” – Could you give any insight as to what inspired this name?
    2) Why did you describe her as “honey coloured” and later mention “A bee could sip her?”
    3) Who is the “Us” and “We” referring to?
    4) What does “We twelve are the chorus” mean?
    5) What is the overall feel and idea of the poem?
    Honestly, if you could answer any of these it would be amazing. I really am struggling with this poem and would appreciate some help from the poet herself!

    Like

    1. I’m sorry that you are struggling with my poem, Jeremy. Here’s a little bit of help to start. Question One: I wrote this poem after I came home from the Bath Leisure Centre where I had actually seen the honey-coloured girl, exactly as I describe. As the poem grew, and I got the idea of the chorus of older women, my mind went first to Greek drama, and then by association to temples… and the final title evolved from that. I think you could translate the title as “Wherever you go, there are interesting things to see and learn and think about. ” Question Two: Some tans are very like the colour of honey and this girl had particularly smooth and perfect skin, smooth as that thick, rather pale English honey, not the darker, runny kind. The ‘bee’ illustrates the way your mind tends to work when you are creating a poem. It often goes by association rather than by logic. So my mind must have gone from the colour of honey, to the idea of the bees who make the honey. But it was also playing with the use of the word ‘honey’ as an affectionate greeting, and then the idea that a bee settling on a flower is rather like a kiss. Sometimes the words and images in a poem are like stepping stones across a stream. You just step from one to the next because it springs into your mind. I am going to refer you back up the comments to help you with Questions Three, Four and Five. I’ve been having really interesting conversations with David and Rebecca about these and you will probably find everything you need in those. Tell me how you get on. Thank you for writing to me.

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      1. Sue, you are amazing! Thank you so much for the response and the detailed analysis, finally begining to get a good feel of the peom. 🙂

        Like

  33. Spending part of this weekend preparing to teach this poem was a real joy, thank you! I have found the comments above most enlightening. I look forward to discussing this with my sixth formers soon.

    Like

  34. We’re currently studying this in A-levels, and I love reading your poem. I was absolutely thrilled to find your blog and to actually read your personal thoughts. Thank you so much for this, it makes analysing your poem all the more enjoyable and interesting.

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    1. Thank you for writing to me, Angela. It’s really thrilling to hear from your readers and to learn their names and some of their thoughts. I have a busy time this week, preparing for the Bath Poetry Cafe’s Day of Good Poetry with the amazing Anne-Marie Fyfe, poet and poetry events organiser from the Troubadour. When that is over, and I have put up the report of our special day, I will put up a few more poems on on the blog which those of you studying ‘A Leisure Centre is Also a Temple of Learning’ might enjoy. Have a nice week.

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  35. Sue, we are studying your poem in English Literature as i write this and i love it to bits. the reading on BBC4 seemed satirical and it put me on edge, because i always read it as a commentary on momentary perfection, on observing beauty and knowing what comes next, looking on with tenderness and love- not jealousy and hate.
    So yes, i love it. i was wondering though, about ‘We twelve are the chorus’, why twelve? Was there any reason? Thanks x
    -Rebecca May

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    1. Are you still in your English class, Rebecca? I hope so. What a completely fascinating question! Thank you so much for thinking about it. Here are some answers…. but I don’t mind at all if you can think of other possibilities. The word twelve is very nice to say aloud…. Twelve is a mysterious, resonant number….. The twelve months… The twelve signs of the zodiac…. The twelve apostles… What is certainly true is that there were not actually twelve other women in the changing room. This number ( like three and seven and nine) stands on the wonderful boundary between poetry and real life. Warm wishes
      Sue Boyle

      Like

      1. I am actually, but thank you for your reply! I did wonder about that actually, and I’m so glad I wasn’t too far wrong! Though it is interesting that there were not in fact 12 women – I love that. Are you interested in kabbala at all? Also, as a poet I can’t tell you how glad I am to have been in contact with you! Blessed be x
        -Rebecca May

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  36. Dear Sue Boyle,
    I am finding it difficult to analyse your poem thoroughly. I would be very grateful if you could give me some guidance or point me in the right direction. Thanks.
    From David

    Like

    1. Dear David
      If I start with a simple ‘clue’ to the meaning of this poem, you can come back to me for more guidance if you feel I haven’t given you enough. The ‘clue’ that matters, I think, is in that word ‘chorus’ in the penultimate line of the poem. The ‘chorus’ I was thinking of is the chorus in a Greek tragedy, who stand around the main action and tell the audience what is going on. Unlike the main characters, they have the ability to see into the future. So they can see what is going to happen to the main characters, although they have no power to stop it happening. This, of course, is often what older people feel when they see younger people setting out on the perilous pathways of their adult lives. As an older person, you feel you know from experience how hazardous and perhaps how disappointing life can be, but you also know that it is not in your power to turn an eager younger person aside from the journeys and adventures they want to make. Not just impossible, of course, but wrong even to try. In the leisure centre changing room in this poem, there is a ‘chorus’ of older women, who between them will have experienced many of the darker and more difficult things in life, and are now looking protectively towards this beautiful younger woman with a mixture of protectiveness, and fear on her behalf. They do, of course, see their own younger selves in her. But do they envy her? I think that is the conundrum of the poem, so you will probably like to answer that question yourself. Do let me know if this has been helpful

      From Sue

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      1. Thank you so much Sue,
        The meaning is so much clearer now that I understand the relevance of “Chorus”. Everything seems so well thought out now that I read into it a little more. Thanks for taking the time to answer.
        From David

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      2. Thanks for the guidance Sue,
        The word chorus sort of ties the poem together as the definition you have given me spells out the theme of the poem almost. As to the conundrum you mentioned, I think it might be one of those complexities in people where they have mixed/conflicted feelings of love and hate. That’s my reading of it though.
        Thank you so much for taking your time to help.
        David

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      3. I love your ‘conflicted feelings of love and hate.’ Yes, David, as in so much poetry, as in so many things in life – exactly that. I wonder who your favourite poets are? All good wishes.
        Sue

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      4. Dear Sue,
        Well I have been reading John Keats recently, and though it’s difficult he explores some very interesting themes. But I’m also a huge Dr Seuss fan.
        David

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      5. Which Keats’ poems have you been reading, David? The secret of getting to like his work ( I think ) is to read it aloud, have it read aloud to you, or, even better, both. The music of his poetry is so powerful that it carries the meaning straight to your imagination – you will forget to worry whether you get the meaning of every word. Tell me about Dr Seuss and why you are a fan… Sue

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  37. Sue
    I am teaching your poem at the moment, and love it. There are so many wonderful innuendos and implicit meanings, but I disagree with the angry young reader above. It is not difficult to understand – although I have had to guide my class over the ending. The use of Chorus is so relevant. I think it has helped that I’m 50-something reading with 16/17 yr olds so I can empathise with the sense of watching and admiring youth, while recognising its transience. We have also sensed nostalgia in the persona’s scrutiny of the young woman. I really appreciate your comments above about protectiveness and caring, as well as her confidence of being loved and cherished. I’ll share that with them, and it will help their wider understanding. We laughed over the ‘nuzzle between her breasts’, as one of our overseas students wanted to know what a ‘nuzzle’ is! I love the way you have used a verb – with so many overtones – as a noun. Simple, clever, honest. Be assured that the young people in our school are enjoying reading your work – even though they ‘have to’ study it for their A level.

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    1. Julia
      Thank you so much for writing in such an empathetic way about my poem. I suspect that your students already know that they are extremely fortunate to have you to guide their studies of literature. Give them my very warm wishes, please. And mine, to you.

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  38. Conplete waste of time whats the point in having to waste energy reading between the lines please just say what you mean instead of hiding it underneath a word with a million other meanings and leaving us guessing thanks for nothing xxxxxxx poetry needs to be more honest and i hate having to annotate your stupid poem when i don’t even have a clear answer as to what its about and don’t tell me thats the whole point of english because its not so i hate this poem its boring …. thank you for ur time

    Like

    1. Dear Mary

      I’m sorry that someone is making you read a poem you don’t like. This ought not to happen, EVER, but it does, because people go to classes and have to pass exams. I’m specially sorry that the poem you hate so much is mine. You say that there is a word with a million meanings which makes my poem impossible to understand. What if you answered this comment and told me what word it is which has caused you this trouble? Or maybe, what lines seem to be hiding their true meaning? I will tell you in return exactly what they mean, and you can use this with whoever is expecting you to read my poem. You can say : This is what it means because Sue Boyle told me so herself.I understand you are using angry words because having to read my poem made you so cross. Anger is fine. Much better than being boring! Good wishes for your future writing. Maybe you would like to write me something interesting about yourself and the kind of poems that you like?

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  39. Honestly, I feel like the persona within the poem is expressing a deep and quite extensive dislike of her subject, stemming possibly, from her implied insecurities concerning old age.It’s very deliberate in it’s wording- I feel as though there isn’t a word in here that hasn’t been carefully mulled over before it’s inclusion was made final.Overall the poem is eloquently written, and has subtle and complex metaphors with several different layers of meaning that only become more apparent the more one takes the time to look for them- a real treat and one I would recommend to most.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Greg. You write about my poem very sensitively. It is a pleasure to hear your thoughts. Perhaps I do dislike the subject – how life can bruise and break and damage young people who set out on their journeys with such optimism and such grace. But I like the young woman in the poem very much, because she has such high hope of being loved and cherished. I would like readers of this poem to share my feeling of protectiveness and caring towards its central figure, and to feel my anxiety that life for her might turn out harder than she expects.

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