“The Habit of Movement” is a short poem of twenty lines divided into two stanzas. It is written in free verse, a style that does not adhere to any regular meter or rhyme scheme. The lines are irregular, some as long as thirteen syllables and others as short as six. The poem is categorized as a lyric because of its subjective, emotional, and personal qualities. Although the poet herself is the speaker of the poem, she uses the first-person plural pronoun “we” as she refers to herself as part of a family.
Judith Ortiz Cofer was born in Hormigueros, Puerto Rico, which served as the archetype for Salud, the imaginary town in her first novel, The Line of the Sun (1989), nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1990. The title of the poem “The Habit of Movement” refers to the family’s practice of moving back and forth between Puerto Rico and Paterson, New Jersey, because of her father’s Navy career. Jesús Ortiz Lugo was first stationed in Brooklyn Navy Yard and was then assigned to other places around the world. Because the family was forced to move so often, they never established roots in any one place. This poem reflects Ortiz Cofer’s struggle to make a place for herself out of a childhood spent traveling back and forth between cultures. However, the poet moves beyond her own experience as a Puerto Rican immigrant who grew up bilingual and bicultural to voice the collective experience of the Puerto Rican community.
(The entire section is 446 words.)