A Leisure Centre Is Also a Temple Of Learning – Sue Boyle

The poem ‘A Leisure Centre Is Also a Temple of Learning’ focuses around a woman who although on the exterior seems to be ‘beautiful’ and loved by the people around her, in reality she is alone and craves the affection others expect her to be getting.


  • Beauty – this girl is ‘absorbed in making her body more beautiful’, the media portray what they believe beauty is and women feel pressured to fit into those ideals. This girl buys commercial products such as ‘an aromatic scrub and a gentle exfoliant’ in an attempt to make herself more beautiful. The media controls her, and she has become obsessed with trying to achieve unrealistic beauty ideals.
  • Youth – this girl is being watched and admired because ‘she is so much younger than the rest’ of them. The idea is that although she is ‘perfect’ and youthful now, youth does fade with time and these older women know ‘what happens next’. I get the impression from the way that all of the women marvel at her that they are envious of her beauty and youth, they have grown older and hence lost that girlhood.
  • Sexualisation – the girl in this poem is referred to as ‘perfect’ with her ‘cleft’ showing similarities to a ‘charlatans moustache’, a ‘charlatan’ is a fraud/scammer. This highlights that although the girls beauty makes her seem as if she is sexually experienced, in reality that is a scam and mask that she shows to the world. Her cleft is ‘secret’ and all she wants is to be loved and embraced in a romantic rather than sexual way, with the imagery of the ‘little kisspoints below her ears’ being appreciated, thus showing the love and romance that she desires.

Tone of the poem

  • There is a lonely tone underlying in the poem, the girl wants to be loved hence she buys into these commercial products to make herself ‘beautiful’, but in reality she is isolated as signified by the single lines at the end of the poem (‘she should look around’).


  • The last three lines at the end are alone and separate from the rest of the poem. I think this a reflection of the loneliness that the girl feels, at the beginning of the poem the stanzas are quite packed with lines of around 5-6, which could be a representation of how everyone else sees this girl as someone with many people in her life. She is thought of as someone who is ‘perfect’ and loved, but in reality she feels alone and craves to be loved.
  • There is also a noticeably larger gap between the last two lines, which could be a representation of the age gap between the girl and these women who are admiring her beauty.


  • Boyle uses a metaphor with the description of the girls ‘secret cleft […] shaved as neatly as a charlatans moustache’. LOOK AT SEXUALISATION THEME FOR EXPLAINATION.
  • We also see mythological, goddess like descriptions used for the girl. Lines such as ‘she brushes her hair so clean it looks like a waterfall’, gives the imagery of a mermaid like creature full of beauty and entrancement.


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