Shakira might have said, “Hips Don’t Lie,” but Lucille Clifton said it best:
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
I used to have this poem memorized. I remember the moment I first read it and felt a pulse of “yes, thank you,” go through me, like the best poetry and truth makes you feel.
The GalleyCat piece I read quoted Thom Ward and I agree completely with what he says about Clifton’s poetry: “Clifton’s poems have their own special ‘signature’ as, say, the work of Elizabeth Bishop and Emily Dickinson. Mixing spare, muscular, visual language, a deft balance of idea and image with powerful silences and taut line-breaks–you always know when you are in the presence of a Clifton poem.”
The word muscular is so perfect for her poetry and it’s so true about the line breaks. Back when I used to study poetry (and I was poetry editor for LSU’s Delta Undergraduate Journal for two years, for whatever that’s worth to remind me I used to pay a lot of attention to poetry), I remember being struck by how utterly unique her phrasing is.
Maybe in her honor, I’ll go get a book of her poetry and read them out loud. And maybe write some poems for the first time in years.
Rest in peace, Lucille Clifton.