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Black History Month Spotlight: Audre Lorde

Audra Lorde
Audre Lorde, Meridel Lesueur, Adrienne Rich 1980 (Image by K. Kendall, Flickr)

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Audre Lorde described herself as a “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” according to her biography on the Poetry Foundation. Lorde was not only a talented poet but also wrote, memoir, feminist theory, short stories, and novels. Her work aimed to fight the intersections of racism, sexism, and homophobia.

A New York City native, Lorde began writing when she was in her teens and actually had her first poem published in Seventeen magazine before she even graduated high school. While themes of lesbianism were always prevalent in her writing, her themes drew audiences of all backgrounds. As one critic, Martin, wrote, “one doesn’t have to profess heterosexuality, homosexuality, or asexuality to react to her poems… Anyone who has ever been in love can respond to the straightforward passion and pain sometimes one and the same, in Lorde’s poems.”

While her early writing centered around romance, as tension rose in the 1960s with the civil rights movement she began to take on more themes of racism and sexism, coming forward as a figure in political activism. Her poetic tone shifted to one of fervor and conviction for justice. Lorde sought to communicate and reach people of all different identities.

Lorde also takes on familial themes in her work, often illustrating the struggles of growing up a first generation immigrant as well as tension about her lesbian identity with her parents.

In addition, Lorde is well known for writing about her struggles with breast cancer in “The Cancer Journals” where she works to illuminate injustices she encounters through the treatment process and grappling with the possibility of death.

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