Presentation Title

The Importance of the Physical: Lucille Clifton's Poetry About Bodies

Faculty Mentor

Trent Hickman

Start Date

23-11-2019 10:30 AM

End Date

23-11-2019 10:45 AM

Location

Markstein 201

Session

oral 2

Type of Presentation

Oral Talk

Subject Area

humanities_letters

Abstract

Lucille Clifton’s poetry focuses on a variety of subjects showcasing ordinary life in a literary view. However, much of her poetry focuses on her relationship with her body, both physical and emotional. In these poems, Clifton is able to validate bodies that do not fit a Euro-centric and fat-phobic ideal. She also uses her poetry to explore the relationship between body and identity, demonstrating the essential connection between the two. Finally, her poetry about bodies moves beyond the physical aspects to focus on personhood and ownership, proving that while identity and physical body are linked, worth is not dependent on the physical characteristics of one’s body. I explore Sylvia Henneberg’s “Fat Liberation in the First World,” Scarlett Cunningham’s “Writing the Aging Woman’s Body,” and Tiffany Eberle Kriner’s “Conjuring Hope in a Body: Lucille Clifton’s Eschatology” to understand the connections between Clifton’s poetry about bodies and the implications it has particularly for a black, female audience. Through the poems “homage to my hips” and “[won’t you celebrate with me],” Clifton consistently demonstrates the idea that bodies are amazing things to be celebrated, affirming beauty and worth in every size, shape, and color. Additionally, “to my last period” and “poem to my uterus,” poems that mourn the loss of a physical representation of womanhood, confirm the link between the physical body and personal identity. Finally, “[if i stand in my window]” and “what the mirror said” complete the shift from celebrating physical characteristics to focusing on the inherent value of a person as Clifton takes ownership of her physical body and mental space.

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Nov 23rd, 10:30 AM Nov 23rd, 10:45 AM

The Importance of the Physical: Lucille Clifton's Poetry About Bodies

Markstein 201

Lucille Clifton’s poetry focuses on a variety of subjects showcasing ordinary life in a literary view. However, much of her poetry focuses on her relationship with her body, both physical and emotional. In these poems, Clifton is able to validate bodies that do not fit a Euro-centric and fat-phobic ideal. She also uses her poetry to explore the relationship between body and identity, demonstrating the essential connection between the two. Finally, her poetry about bodies moves beyond the physical aspects to focus on personhood and ownership, proving that while identity and physical body are linked, worth is not dependent on the physical characteristics of one’s body. I explore Sylvia Henneberg’s “Fat Liberation in the First World,” Scarlett Cunningham’s “Writing the Aging Woman’s Body,” and Tiffany Eberle Kriner’s “Conjuring Hope in a Body: Lucille Clifton’s Eschatology” to understand the connections between Clifton’s poetry about bodies and the implications it has particularly for a black, female audience. Through the poems “homage to my hips” and “[won’t you celebrate with me],” Clifton consistently demonstrates the idea that bodies are amazing things to be celebrated, affirming beauty and worth in every size, shape, and color. Additionally, “to my last period” and “poem to my uterus,” poems that mourn the loss of a physical representation of womanhood, confirm the link between the physical body and personal identity. Finally, “[if i stand in my window]” and “what the mirror said” complete the shift from celebrating physical characteristics to focusing on the inherent value of a person as Clifton takes ownership of her physical body and mental space.