Audre Lorde

Last Friday, February 18, marked the birthday of American poet Audre Lorde (1934-1992). Lorde was born Audrey Geraldine Lorde, the daughter of immigrants from the Caribbean island of Cariacou. As a black lesbian, her life and work were informed by her activism; her battle with cancer often put her at odds with the medical establishment as well. A short bio can be found at the Audre Lorde page at Lambda.net.

Audre Lorde wrote many exquisite poems; my favorites include "Memorial II" (dedicated to her first love, Genevieve, who took her own life); "Now That I Am Forever with Child"; "Rites of Passage"; "What My Child Learns of the Sea"; "Coal"; "Father Son and Holy Ghost"; and "Father the Year Has Fallen", one of several poems on the theme of motherhood. (I think this last poem also invokes Christian imagery.) Lorde's memoir, Zami, tells of her ambivalent relationship with her loving but overbearing mother in compelling detail. Her writing in both prose and poetry is spellbinding.

Audre Lorde lost her battle with cancer in 1992. Her last poems speak compellingly of the struggle: "Today Is Not the Day", she writes defiantly; and
New Year's Day 1:16 A.M.
and my body is weary beyond
time to withdraw and rest
ample room allowed me in everyone's head
but community calls
right over the threshold
drums beating through the walls
children playing their truck dramas
under the collapsible coatrack
in the narrow hallway outside my room ...

how hard it is to sleep
in the middle of life.