Writing on Women Writers

A site for college students to write about women writers.

Homage to my Hips

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lucille-clifton

Lucille Clifton was born in Depew, New York to Samuel Louis and Thelma Moore Sayles. The exciting thing about Clifton is that she attended Fredonia State Teachers College in 1955 and is now an alumni. She once said “I am a Black women and I write from that experience, I do not feel inhibited or bound by what I am.” She has twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and is the recipient of many other honors, including a 1999 Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award. As said in the Anthology many of the poems that the book focuses on are ones written about her great-great-grandmother, who was sold into slavery from her home in West Africa in 1830. The Anthology also states that the poems pay homage to the “mother-daughter” connection.

In “Homage to My Hips” Clifton is creating a sense of symbolism with her hips.

lucille_clifton_october_19751

Homage to My Hips
these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don’t fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don’t like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!
This poem expresses how the hips, or the person this poem was intended to speak about does not like to be restrained or controlled by others. “they don’t like to be held back/these hips have never been enslaved”. I think Lucille wrote this poem in terms of her own hips. While writing this poem she may have thought about her great-great grandmother’s enslavement when she was kidnapped and wrote this poem expressing that she has escaped that challenge and does not expect to relive the life her relative had to. This poem talks about the hips being strong and independent. “they go where they want to go/ they do what they want to do”(line 9).  She is able to catch the symbolism and also the reality of the human body. In the poem she speaks of her own body and accepts herself as she was made and turns it into a positive. She portrays the body as a vehicle of pleasure. Yet she lets it be known that her body is her own and it is hers only. Since hips are associated with childbearing and are a very feminine feature, one can also gather that they are being used as a symbol for women. So, the ideas Clifton is bringing to light can be applied to all women, not just herself specifically, or women who are larger in size.  She repeats the word “hip(s)” throughout the poem, showing she is not ashamed of them, and showing the importance of them. “These hips are big hips/they need space to/ move around in./they don’t fit into little petty places”(lines 1-4)—This is one of the more pertinent ideas in the poem.

Clifton, Lucille. The Longman Anthology of Women’s Literature. Ed. Mary K. DeShazer. New York: Addison Wesley Educational Publishers Inc, 2001. 818. Print.

“Homage to My Hips.” Poetry Foundation. PoetryFoundation.org. 2013. Web.  26 April 2013.

 

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