Wednesday, May 30, 2007


By Selima Hill

She wanted fun.
What she gets is tartan,

the classics, and a little wholesome food;
what she gets is toothpaste,

and the lodger,
who thanks You for inventing thighs, O Lord.

This is taken from Selima Hill’s 2001 Whitbread Poetry Award-winning collection Bunny.

Read by itself, without reading the rest of the collection, Fun won’t make much of an impact, yet. All the poems are connected to each other, by the thread of a tale about a little girl moving around in a house. The cover of Bunny has a cute little rabbit. But it’s not that kind of a book, so you don’t really want to read the stories inside to any other little girl during bed-time, or to any little boy. That’s because there is an undertone of sexuality throughout the collection, as we later see the girl in sometimes weird and intriguing situations; how she reacts to them, and how they change her as she grows up.

In this poem the little girl, like all little girls, just wants some fun. But the people taking care of her, her aunts, for example, probably have no idea that tartan, the classics, wholesome food and toothpaste, do not constitute fun.

The last stanza introduces the reader to a rather sinister lodger. He has an eye for the little girl, for his own kind of fun. The assonance of lodger and Lord, and their positioning at the end of lines, gives the reader a frisson of creepiness. Reading who, You and O rounds your lips – sensuous enough for you?

Before this, in the second stanza, the long “oo” rhyming of food and toothpaste, also at end of lines, gives us an adumbration of sensuality – eating, nibbling, mouths, teeth – albeit those two words are not in the strictly fun category. In later pieces within the collection you’d come across images of food as you have never seen in those lights, and of nibbling on, erm, some body parts. Read Bunny if you want to know what.

Talking of what, the second line of the first two stanzas starts with this word. In the last stanza, it is who. As if we could also be asking what is happening? and who is he?

The overriding rhythm of this piece is a regular fall-rise in the first lines, and a rise-fall in the second, in both the first two stanzas. This scheme breaks in the last stanza, when the lodger comes into the picture, with quite a rush.

The ends of the lines in both the first two stanzas are mostly end-stops, accentuated further by punctuations. I say mostly because "toothpaste," may also be a run-on, when the line extends down towards a new stanza, with new information, about the lodger. The last line of the piece, with further information about this lodger, follows a weak run-on of "lodger,".

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Blogger dreamer idiot said...

Nice one, Leon. A good introduction to another poet I have hardly heard, which makes me wonder, what do I know about poetry anyway, haha. I have since googled for Selima Hill.

Anyway, I was wondering about the "You" in the poem, especially since it's capitalised. Not sure, if there's an ambiguity of identity there... it could be very well be a move from the third-person to the first-person, as the young girl refers to herself. Youare right about the creepiness of the Lodger, though this young girl (if she is indeed the 'you') seem brave enough to dismissive of such unsolicited attention.

Thanks, Leon

2:28 PM, May 31, 2007  
Blogger Leon Wing said...

Probably the 'You' with the caps refers to 'Lord', to God. It's unusual,I must say, because so far I haven't seen anything written, religious or otherwise, that references the Almighty other than as He or Him; never You.

2:58 PM, May 31, 2007  
Blogger dreamer idiot said...

Yea, it could very well be... Mmm... it's interesting how there are different possibilities here.

3:00 PM, May 31, 2007  
Blogger msiagirl said...

That lodger is really creepy, especially since the poem is allegedly about having fun, but not really.

Having said that, I've had fun with tartan, the classics and wholesome food. I suppose one can think up some fun and games with toothpaste and a lodger too! But then I am not a girl.

Nice collection you've run across, Leon! ;) Sounds like You had some fun with it.

11:01 PM, June 04, 2007  
Blogger Madcap Machinist said...

If you hadn't identified the speaker of the poem as a little girl, Leon, I'd have thought this poem was about just another encounter in a lodging house...

(Though not I'm hardly religious) I thank the Lord for thighs and other things all the time :-)

2:21 AM, June 09, 2007  
Blogger Leon Wing said...

Yes, I had great fun reading the entire collection. And, yes, you have to, in order to reference to other poems, all related to each other, like little poetic chapters.

8:59 AM, June 12, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Selima Hill's new pamphlet, 'Advice On Wearing Animal Prints', winner of Flarestack Poets Pamphlet Competition 2009 is now available from

9:00 AM, November 25, 2009  

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