Describe the speaker in the poem by Lucille Clifton called "Homage to My Hips."I think she is obese and talks about herself before someone else does.

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Lucille Clifton's "Homage to My Hips" is a wonderfully expressive poem, mostly because of who the speaker is.  The poem is written from a first-person point of view, obviously, as she calls them "my" hips.  Everything she says from then on regarding those hips refers to her.  This poem is an "homage," which is something like a tribute.  The owner of these hips has them and is proud of them.

The first lines of the poem are clear:

these hips are big hips.
they need space to
move around in.

We take that as a literal representation, of course, but there is a figurative meaning as well, which can be found in the next lines:

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

Notice the use of the word "petty."  This is an interesting choice because it has little to do with any kind of actual space.  It's more a reference to petty (small-minded) thinking, which says women are supposed to be built in a certain way, behave in a certain way, and look a certain way.  Her hips will not be confined to such pettiness.  The next lines affirm that assertion that she (and her hips) are an unstoppable force:

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.

The speaker of this poem is well aware of both her physical presence and her power as a person and a woman, specifically.  The final lines indicate she can accomplish great things with her figuratively "magical" hips.

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

This speaker is a presence to be reckoned with in any world.  Clifton's use of synechdoche here (using the hips to represent the whole person) is effective because it gives us both the visual of a woman with prodigious hips making her presence known and felt in this world where small hips are valued and the idea that this is a strong woman who is free to accomplish anything she chooses to do or be.

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