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Won't You Celebrate with Me: Self Recognition and Self Discovery in Clifton's Poetry

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Lucille Clifton, known for writing poems about her body, also used her poems to exemplify black heritage and self-appreciation. Clifton’s parents established her fondness of African American literature, even though they were not formally educated. A probable backbone for Clifton’s poet career would be her mother, because for a hobby she evolved into an “avocational poet”. In fact, later on in life Clifton revolved most of her poetry around her family and feminism. Even at a young age At age 16, Clifton had the intelligence to major in drama at Howard University(Moody).

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From Clifton making a career based in poetry, she attained over several awards. For instance, Clifton won the Ruth Lily Award and two Pulitzer Prizes where judges said that, “One always feels the looming humaneness around Lucille Clifton’s poems”(“Lucille Clifton”). Having these credentials, Clifton developed her professional signature of minimalistic characteristics in her poetry. Her stylistic traits can be labeled as “ concise, entitled free verse lyrics of mostly in iambic trimeter, lowercase letters, [and] sparse punctuation ”(Moody). Clifton makes herself the speaker in most of her poems. Through her professional signature, Clifton generated themes of “celebration of African American heritage, problems African Americans face, overcoming weakness, [and] the process of self-discovery as a woman” into her poems(“Who Was Lucille”). The poems “homage to my hips” and “won’t you celebrate with me” respectively use the themes: celebration of the body and self-discovery.

In Clifton’s poem “Homage to my hips”, she expresses her self appreciation for her hips. Clifton uses the insecurity of a body part to show how she loves and celebrates herself. Clifton singles out a body part “which many women feel insecure and declares that “these hips/ are free hips,” not “enslaved by social pressures” (“What is the idea behind”). In the poem, Clifton states, “these hips are big hips…they don’t fit into little/ petty places. these hips/ are free hips” (1,4-6). By asserting that she knows her hips do not fit into societal standards, “petty places”, Clifton displays her appreciation for them. By the speaker saying, “these hips are mighty hips./ these hips are magic./ i have known them/ to put a pell on a man” she displays how her hips have influence in the world (11-14). Clifton uses the word “hips” to “symbolize the strength that all women possess and could use to further their influence in the world(“Homage to my hips”).

Furthermore, in Clifton’s poem “Won’t you celebrate with me” she emphasizes the importance of self-recognition. Clifton states “won’t you celebrate with me / what I have shaped into a kind of life? I had no model”(“won’t you celebrate with me”). Clifton states that by being self-made, she shaped her life into a successful one without the help of anyone. Ekiss interprets Clifton’s tone of voice as “ almost timid and apologetic. Rather than ask readers to celebrate the life she’s made, this speaker asked us to celebrate a kind of life she shaped”. In the poem, the speaker says “born in babylon/ both nonwhite and woman/ what did i see to be expect myself?”(4-6). Although Clifton is black and a woman,

In conclusion, Clifton’s background can be connected to the poems “Homage to my hips” and “Won’t you celebrate with me”. In both poems, Clifton makes it personal, all while allowing herself to be the voice for other women and individuals. Clifton’s “homage to my hips” poem connects back to her background, because of her being a woman. Most women suffer from insecurities over certain aspects of their body, because of societal beauty standards. Clifton paying “homage” to her hips shows instead of conforming to said standard, she would rather embrace her body. The poem “won’t you celebrate with me” connects back to Clifton’s background through her being African American and talking about family life. A significant amount of African-American children grow up with only one parent. Clifton addresses this when she says, “what i have shaped into / a kind of life? I had no model”(2-3). She emphasizes that although the speaker did not have a model, they were still able to shape their life into something.   

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