Lucille Clifton Reads “homage to my hips”

I’ve recently been teaching about poetry (stewarding young poets to write their own poems) in Fremont California at Gomes Elementary School. This experience was brought to me and all the kids at Gomes courtesy of their PTA and California Poets in the Schools. For my part, I had 120 fourth graders. It was grueling, but every minute I would do again.

One lesson we do I call “Simile and Your Body.” I start with “A Birthday” by Christina Rossetti, which I shared earlier this week, discussing how a body part can have feelings. Then we talk about all the parts of our bodies we can write about (brains, fingers, bones, feet, faces, elbows). Then we read “homage to my hips” by Lucille Clifton. This poem makes it safe to start a discussion abut the parts of our bodies that sometimes get laughed at, that we might be embarrassed about: our too big teeth or noses, our “fat” stomachs, our ears that stick out, our skin that’s not a color we see on T.V. very often. Our eyes that need glasses. Our legs that need wheelchairs. Pride in our bodies can go hand in hand with confusion, anger, joy. It’s also useful to give kids an example of a “real” poem that doesn’t conform orthographically to what they’re learning in school.

There is so much on Facebook and in my email Inbox right now about poetry. I wish it were always this way (except I would probably fall over from exhaustion). This video appeared like a lucky charm in my News Feed today. Enjoy Ms. Clifton performing it, and read it for yourself at this link.

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!

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