Study Guide

homage to my hips Sound Check

By Lucille Clifton

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Sound Check

Just imagine Aretha Franklin belting out "Respect" in the background as this poem is read aloud. Like Aretha, this poem sounds brassy, strong, and tough – and it's oh-so-confident in its own sexuality.

And just like Aretha, Clifton pens a personal narrative that becomes an anthem for an entire generation of readers. When she calls her hips "mighty" and "magical," she's not saying "My hips are awesome, which means that you should feel even worse about yours." Oh, no. Her poem is calling out to other women readers, allowing them to sing (or, um, read) along. Feeling good is contagious.

Maybe that's why we can imagine this poem as a silent internal monologue running through your mind as you stand in front of the mirror, or a triumphant reading at an open mic night, delivered to a whole crowd full of people. You can whisper it or scream it out loud. It's good for all volumes, all venues, and all times.

Notice how each of the lines comes off as a statement of purpose? There aren't any ambiguities or indecisions to be seen. Try reading it aloud. Notice how almost every phrase starts with the words "These hips are…"? It's assertive. In your face. Confident. This isn't just any old poem. It's a manifesto.

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