her hips, her lips
February 17, 2010 7:58 PM   Subscribe

A powerful poet of the people died Saturday. Lucille Clifton.

A few poems in her bio. Here's the one printed in countless high school anthologies:

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!

Lucille Clifton, "homage to my hips" from Good Woman. Copyright © 1987 by Lucille Clifton. Reprinted with the permission of Curtis Brown, Ltd.
posted by kozad (16 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
And it should be noted, in speaking of passed masters, that today is the anniversary of Thelonious Sphere Monk's death, in 1982.
posted by kozad at 8:06 PM on February 17, 2010

...now it is done,
and i feel just like
the grandmothers who,
after the hussy has gone,
sit holding her photograph
and sighing, wasn't she
beautiful? wasn't she beautiful?

-from "to my last period," lucille clifton

posted by sallybrown at 8:07 PM on February 17, 2010

posted by shakespeherian at 8:14 PM on February 17, 2010

My favorite Lucille Clifton poem is "To the unborn and waiting children"...

I went into my mother as
some souls go into a church,
for the rest only. but there,
even there, from the belly of a
poor woman who could not save herself
i was pushed without my permission
into a tangle of birthdays.
listen, eavesdroppers, there is no such thing
as a bed without affliction;
the bodies all may open wide but
you enter at your own risk.

posted by amyms at 8:15 PM on February 17, 2010

A city of a woman.

posted by Kinbote at 8:40 PM on February 17, 2010

posted by R. Mutt at 8:50 PM on February 17, 2010

Please put a bit more into obits, there are perhaps one or two of us who haven't heard of this person.

Lucile Clifton at wikipedia would be a start. There are well over 100 articles in google news. One or two of them that you thought were apt would also have been a good adition.
posted by sien at 8:51 PM on February 17, 2010

I had the good fortune of hearing her read her work. She was a great reader, and also told some fantastic stories. Sad, sad news.
posted by avoision at 8:53 PM on February 17, 2010

posted by mattbucher at 10:10 PM on February 17, 2010

posted by exlotuseater at 11:12 PM on February 17, 2010

"Poetry is saving," she wrote, "in the way that lives are saved—from the inside out."
posted by cirripede at 11:48 PM on February 17, 2010

She uses language like an instrument. Beautiful work.

posted by zerobyproxy at 3:57 AM on February 18, 2010

posted by kortez at 5:45 AM on February 18, 2010

posted by dlugoczaj at 7:37 AM on February 18, 2010

I'm finding myself saddened more than I thought I would be, on hearing this. It's been looming over my head since last night, when I first saw it.

My favorite poem of hers to read out loud is "Kali." It's a pleasure just sounding out the words, and the impact of the poem's final line is just incredibly powerful.

queen of fatality, she
determines the destiny
of things. nemesis.
the permanent guest
within ourselves.
woman of warfare,
of the chase, bitch
of blood sacrifice and death.
dread mother. the mystery
ever present in us and
outside us. the
terrible hindu woman God
who is black.
posted by avoision at 8:01 AM on February 18, 2010

One of us parents needs to raise up poets so we can make up such a loss to the world

praise song

Lucille Clifton

to my aunt blanche
who rolled from grass to driveway
into the street one sunday morning.
i was ten. i had never seen
a human woman hurl her basketball
of a body into the traffic of the world.
Praise to the drivers who stopped in time.
Praise to the faith with which she rose
after some moments then slowly walked
sighing back to her family.
Praise to the arms which understood
little or nothing of what it meant
but welcomed her in without judgment,
accepting it all like children might,
like God.
posted by cross_impact at 8:28 AM on February 18, 2010

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