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The poet Lucille Clifton prefaces one of her poems during a reading at the Poetry Center in 1975 with this: “I have days when I want to stay in the house all day because the world shouldn’t have to look at me.” She’s joking, of course, but her sentiment is one that I’m sure many people can identify with. Even now, as I type up this review, I’m thinking, “Jesus, I have some stocky, cottage cheese thighs.” It’s an ever circling conversation, argument that many people have with themselves. I can remember in high school and even now into my adulthood, hearing friends of mine blurt out the following about their bodies:
I hate my thin hair.
I hate my curly hair.
I hate my big thighs.
I hate my small boobs.
I hate my baby face.
I hate my hips.
It seems like many of us were (and are still) displeased, no, disgusted with our bodies. During those formative years, I wish that I would have been exposed to Lucille Clifton’s Homage to my Hips and Homage to my Hair. I think if I had heard these poems, I wouldn’t have been so hard on myself, and would have instead found humor in the whole debacle. Soon after Clifton made her statement saying that some days she wants to stay inside so that no one will have to see her, she added: “So I wrote some poems about how really great I am.” Clifton, like many people, had to come to grips with her body, had to see the positive and identify the parts of her that made her proud. So even if she was complaining about parts of herself that she disliked—like her hips and her hair—she turned the table around and identified what she loved about these parts of herself, as well. The results are hilarious and heartwarming.
After listening to both of these poems, it occurred to me: wouldn’t it make a great lesson plan to have middle-school to high-school-aged students write homages to their bodies, too? So using Clifton’s poems as a starting point, I went about writing my own poem, “Homage to my Thighs.” I tried to utilize some of same poetic techniques, like repetition, personification, simile, and metaphor that Clifton uses in her poems. Here are the results:
Homage to my Thighs
These thighs are mighty thighs
These thighs are strong thighs
These thighs don’t cry when they bump into a table
These thighs don’t shy when they’re covered so tight
These thighs do laugh when they’re swimming and swiveling
These thighs are pocked with love marks and hand prints
These thighs could kick a criminal all the way down the street
These thighs could bench press a buffalo atop a sailboat
These thighs are cobras that wrap around-and-around a tree
These thighs are koala bears that hang from their Mamas
Based off Clifton’s poems and this poem, write your own homage poem. Write an homage to a physical part of yourself—like your nose, hair, or chin—that you don’t especially appreciate. See this writing exercise as an opportunity to love a part of yourself again, by seeing it in a new, more appreciative light.
Allie Leach is the Poetry Center's Education Programs Assistant and co-editor of the Wordplay blog.