Falling out of Wonderland – Alice Backwards

Ruth HartleyArt Process, Books by Ruth Hartley, Illustration, Imagination, Visual Arts8 Comments

Alice Backwards

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Dodgson) – one of the most wonderful books of my childhood. I’ve written an upside-down poem about a book I love that has been beautifully illustrated by so many inspired artists. I hope you enjoy my take on it. To go with the poem are links to some film clips of Alice falling down the rabbit hole.

alice in a blur dress falls headfirst into a hole lined with shelves on which are innumerable strange objects and creatues with eyes.

Alice falling down the rabbit hole by Tanya Miller

Lucky Alice fell to wonders.

I fell out.

Lucky Alice fell feet first.

I fell back.

Lucky Alice dreamed of flying.

I fell asleep.

Lucky Alice swooped and flew, past the cupboards, past the rooms,

past the books, even past the jam-jars too!




Past the dust, the grime and soot.

Alice falls feet first down a hole with strange passages leading off it - her hair floats straight upwards

Alice in Wonderland illustrated by Lizabeth Zwerger

Past the laundry and the ironing;

past the cooking and the cleaning.

Lucky Alice found a baby.

Little baby ran off squealing.

Little baby was a pig!

Lucky Alice!

No more wailing.

I’ve been washing nappies

for a long time since.



Black and white drawing of Alice floating down past a bat and cupboards with open drawers

Alice by Tove Janssen creator of the Moomins

Sleep time comes and I start falling.

Up the tunnel, always backwards.

Even in my dreams I’m dusting,

sorting, finding, tidying.

This goes here – and that’s for you –

Save that! Throw that!

Quickly, quickly! Cook that slowly!

Books fly past me, pages flapping.

All the shoes and socks are odd.

All the shirts have buttons missing.



All the cupboard doors keep banging.

Dark-haired Alice with spectacles falls headfirst down the rabbit holehole

Alice by Marian Portela

All the veggies still need peeling.

Look! Here comes Lucky Alice sailing,

flying past to Wonderland.

Me, I’m always looking backwards

at the things I’ve left behind.

Was that clean and did I finish?

Then I find I’ve woken up.

Popped out from my rabbit hole.

Nearly sixty, tired of dusting,

somewhat grey and rather worn.


Alice floats feet first down a hole lined with bookcases and objects in glass cases - she wears a white lacy dress

Alice illustrated by Justin Todd

Whatever happened on my tumble

out of Wonderland to life?

All those cupboards, all that cleaning.

Was it needed? Is it missed?

Lucky Alice on her journey

off to Wonderland and Life.

Funny! Something still is missing!

Where’s that baby I’ve been raising?

Alice! Daughter! Where are you?

8 Comments on “Falling out of Wonderland – Alice Backwards”

    1. Ruth Hartley

      Thanks Emma – that is the best comment anyone can have – when you don’t like poetry but you did find this one fun. I’m so pleased. Its always difficult to judge how poems are received but I do hope they are enjoyed!

  1. Marie-Edith

    I wouldn’t say I found it fun!I found it sad hoping it was written some time ago and that now you don’t do any such horrible chores on a daily basis.ButI loved the idea of falling backwards
    !Sorry but I like poetry!meaning it is poetry!!!!

    1. Ruth Hartley

      Hi Marie-Edith – I rather like it when something I’ve written evokes different reactions – I even found my own feelings about the poem changing as I wrote it and again years after when I reread it. No I’ve got off lightly with doing chores but I still suffer guilt when things around the house are a mess – and the point is focussing on the chores sometimes means that you don’t notice the precious things.

  2. Marie-Edith

    Thanks for reading and answering my comment.Guilt when things are a mess is a feeling i don’t know!guilt for other things but not my house being untidy!!!!I found a sister in England!Jane…doing exactly what I do when I have visitors!!!shifting piles (newspapers etc..from one place to a cubby hole!!!!Hi Hi!!!

  3. Ann

    Have you ever hidden them in the oven?!
    Katharine Whitehorn is the past mistress of ‘how to be a slut’ – she wrote a brilliant piece in the Observer 50 years ago, describing how she once lost an upside-down OPEN umbrella on a desk, simply by having piled things on top gradually!

    1. Ruth Hartley

      No, the only thing I once hid successfully was myself. We had a bath in the middle of the bathroom and once when I wanted to carry on reading a novel I lay down on the bathmat on the side of the bath not visible from the doorway. I finished the book but its a measure of masculinity that my then husband didn’t notice for hours that I wasn’t around – he missed me at last at teatime!

    2. Ruth Hartley

      Hi Ann – I thought I had replied to you a while ago but can’t see it here! I do hide things I haven’t time to tidy up. I had a husband who threw out my stuff if he thought it looked untidy and never noticed what he left around himself – we are all a bit like that. I once did hide myself so that I could spend a whole day reading – I lay on the floor in the bathroom on the far side of the centrally placed bath and was only discovered when I’d finished the book and stood up – not even missed by the children!

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