Tuesday, May 10, 2011

"Homage to my Hips" by Lucille Clifton

There has been a lot of wonderful poetry and poetic storytelling in my life recently. And today feels like a day to post a bit of poetry for you.

Lucille Clifton died in 2010. I feel lucky that I was able to hear her talk about her writing and her life and read her poetry on her last visit to Portland a year or so prior to her death. She was an amazing woman-poet-mother-writer-activist. There was a wonderful article written by Margalit Fox at The New York Times after Lucille Clifton died (click on NYT link to read it in its entirety). 
Lucille Clifton, a distinguished American poet whose work trained lenses wide and narrow on the experience of being black and female in the 20th century, exploring vast subjects like the indignities of history and intimate ones like the indignities of the body, died on Saturday in Baltimore. She was 73 and lived in Columbia, Md.
Besides producing a dozen volumes of poetry, Ms. Clifton wrote many well-received books of prose and verse for children that centered on the African-American experience.

Widely anthologized, Ms. Clifton’s poetry combined an intense, sometimes earthy voice with a streamlined economy of language. (She frequently did away with punctuation and capitalization as so much unwanted baggage.) Her subject matter spanned large ethical questions like slavery and its legacy and more daily concerns like family and community.
There are other versions online of her reading this poem and other people reading this poem - but I like this one because it's in a community, outdoors, and I love the look on her face as she reads it and the energy coming from her. As Marglit Fox wrote about Lucille, she wrote for community and I like that this older video captures that sense, as well. The poem is bold and straightforward and you know it's not to be messed with. It's a classic that is always relevant and always welcome.

Yes, gratitude and respect for our hips. Thank you, Ms. Clifton.

"Homage to my Hips"
by Lucille Clifton

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