Explication of Clifton

In the poem “Homage to my hips” Clifton make the choice to refer to her hips as “they”. By doing so, she establishes her hips as a separate entity. Thus, when detailing how “they don’t like to be held back” and how “they do what they want to do”, it seems as if they have a personality beyond her own. The effect of this is to emphasise the strength and significance of her hips, so much so that she refers to them as a whole different person. She further implies this by using the word “like”, indicating that they have preferences. Clifton expands on the concept that her hips are autonomous by toying with the idea of power. She mentions how her hips don’t like to be “held back”, nor have they ever been “enslaved”. The milder phrase “held back” sets the reader up for the much more powerful word “enslaved”, which literally conveys the same message but has a very different connotation. The word “enslaved” provokes vivid imagery of brutality and violence, which is further stressed by the historical context. The use of this word indicates that her hips have never been oppressed or subjugated and are instead “free”. The next two lines are fairly similar in structure and diction. The type of language in both is fairly simple, not a single word being more than one syllable. This contributes to an air of simplicity and curtness in her words, as if the notion that her hips can do what they want is mere fact and something that shouldn’t be challenged.

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