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Lucille Clifton's "homage to my hips"

Updated on May 15, 2018
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Lucille Clifton

Source

Introduction and Text of "homage to my hips"

The speaker in Clifton's hilarious little ditty is gloating about a unlikely target for gloat—the physical feature that many woman would prefer to hide, but this speaker is filled with pride about her possession of a huge keister; thus, she flaunts those "magic" hips.

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!

Clifton reading "homage to my hips"

Commentary

In Lucille Clifton's "homage to my hips," a big-hipped woman celebrates the size of her big bottom.

First Movement: Big and Proud

these hips are big hips
they need space to
move around in.
they don't fit into little
petty places.

The speaker begins with the mighty statement, "these hips are big hips." Such audacity would take the wind out of the sails of any name-calling huckster who would try to make this speaker's rump the butt of any joke. This woman is proud her big hips, and her pride is infectious; she plans to crow about her big hips and make people know the importance of her huge posterior.

The speaker then claims that her hips need a lot of space "to / move around in." She doesn't just sit on that humongous keister; she moves it around, she is an active broad, she's in your face. So she demands room to move her behind. She gives no quarter to anyone who would denigrate her big bottom.

Second Movement: Free and Profound

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.

Those big hips won't "fit into little / petty places." As her hips are broad, so is her mind. She will not be limited mentally or physically. She belongs to the world of profundity. She brooks not little-minded thinkers. Her big hips are "free hips." They go where they wish, they do as they wish.

Those expansive hips are wide as the cosmos. They have elevated her level of courage. Enslaved lesser hips and minds can just get out of her way. She will push her big hips into any place that will accommodate them. She will not allow the mediocre minds to put her in chains. Her hips "don't like to be held back." They keep on moving, keep on achieving what her broad mind can imagine.

She is proud of her accomplishments, and those big hips are a large part of that achievement. She will sing to her hips as she transcends the limitations that would hem her round. Her world is big like her hips; her mind is even bigger than those big hips. And she will have everyone take notice.

Third Movement: Magic and Glory

these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!

Spreading out in all directions, the mental acuity of this big-hipped woman will not be stopped from accomplishing all the glory, wisdom, and rewards her ability can bring her. Her hips "do what they want to do." She cannot be caged or shrunk by social standards. Thin hips are for small minds, and her mind is big like her hips.

The speaker then hints that those hips have not kept a big fat woman from enjoying the sexual experience once thought to belong only to thin, emaciated supermodels. Her hips are magic. They can "put a spell on man." Those big fat hips can make a man "spin like a top."

The speaker has no compunction about bragging up those big hips. She wants men and women alike to understand that she is proud of that prominent physical feature. This is her protest against smallness in any form—especially when it comes to her bottom, She gloats about a physical feature that many woman would wish to hide, but she is full of pride about her big keister as she flaunts those "magic" hips.

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

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