Audre Lorde was born on the 18th of February in 1934, New York, the United States. Her parents were Frederick Byron Lorde and Linda Gertrude Belmar Lorde. Her parents were Caribbean immigrants who settled in Harlem. Despite parental estrangement, her mother took a keen interest in literature. It caused a stir in her about her literary engagements.
Audre belonged to a family who loved literature and art. Her mother played a pivotal role in his early education. She taught her how to read and write. Because of her distant relationship with her parents, she faced a communication problem during her early years. To satisfy her soul, she found peace in poetry that provided her a platform to express her heart in a better way. Therefore, she memorized a vast amount of poetry and used that even at places where she was considered an outcast. Her educational journey, however, started from Catholic American School, and she was considered as an African Student. In 1948, she attended Hunter College High School, where she completed her graduation in 1951. Her utmost love for poetry led her to produce a literary piece just at the age of twelve. Also, her first poem was published in Seventeen magazine. Later in 1961, she did her master’s in library science from Columbia University.
Married Life and Tragedy
After completing her studies, she married a gay man, Edwin Rollins, in 1962. The couple had two children, Elizabeth and Jonathan, but unfortunately, they divorced in 1970. Later, from 1977 to 1978, she met and developed an affair with Mildred Thompson, a painter, and sculptor. During her stay at Mississippi, Frances Clayton, a professor, became her other romantic partner. However, she remarried Dr. Gloria, a feminist, and they stayed at St. Croix. Together, they co-founded several organizations.
After leading a turbulent life, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1978 and underwent surgery. Unfortunately, she could not recover, and her cancer spread to the liver. She did not give up on life and wrote The Cancer Journals, which won an award in 1981. Besides, she was chosen as a subject of a documentary called A Litany for Survival. She portrayed her as a feminist, a lesbian, a teacher, a poet, and a human rights activist. She breathed her last on the 17th of November 1992 at the age of fifty-eight and was buried in St. Croix.
Some Important Facts of Her Life
- Audre Lorde award was established in 2001 and 2014, and she was introduced to the legacy works of Chicago.
- Callen-Lorde community health Centre was also named in Michael Callen’s and Audre Lorde’s honor.
- She also received The American Book Award for her work, A Burst of Light, in 1989.
Audre Lorde, a leading figure of history, successfully established her career as a poet, essayist, and autobiographer. She became a published poet at a very young age when her first poem got published in Seventeen magazine. After completing her master’s in library science, she worked as a librarian in Mount Vernon, New York. Fortunately, with the publication of her first volume of poetry, First Cities, in 1968, her life took a positive turn. She quit her job as a head librarian and started teaching a poetry workshop at Tougaloo College in Mississippi. There she witnessed a pinching racial discrimination in the south that eventually helped her shape her literary mind. Marked with the themes of deceit, love, and sexuality, her second volume of poetry, Cables to Rage, appeared in 1970. Then her third volume, From a Land Where Other People Live, got published in 1973 followed by various other masterpieces such as; New York Head Shop and Museum (1975), Coal (1976), The Black Unicorn (1978), “A Burst of Light (1989)” and The Cancer Journals (1980).
Audre Lorde stands among the most influential figures of the 19th century. Her emotive writing style and unique ideas made inroads into the literary world. Her complex ideas and versatility can be witnessed in her pieces, such as; “Power” and The Black Unicorn, that successfully exhibit the mixture of satire, fantasy, and reality. Marked by the heavy use of imagery, symbolism, and free verse, her writings won global recognition. She was a great advocate of equality and fought against racism, sexism, and homophobia through her pen. Her feministic ideas contributed to the rising revolutionary feministic moment. She bluntly expressed her rage and anger for the injustices she faced and witnessed in her life. The recurring themes in most of her writings include racism, culture, love, discrimination, sexuality, and the power of poetry.
- Best Poems: She was an outstanding poet. Some of her best poems include: “Power”, “Love Poem”, “Who Said It Was Simple”, “Coal”, “Recreation” and “A Litany for Survival.”
- Other Works: Besides poetry, she tried her hands on novels and journals. Some of them include: “The Black Unicorn”, “A Burst of Light “and The Cancer Journals.
Audre Lorde’s Impact on Future Literature
Audre Lorde left deep imprints on the world literature. Despite facing challenges in life, she secured a prominent place among the literary icons. Her intellectual ideas, coupled with a unique way of expression, won applause from the audience and the fellow poets. With her feministic ideals, she brought more variety to the world of literature. Also, she had had a significant influence on most of the literary figures of her time. She employed the everyday language of ordinary people in her texts to create a concentrated image and depth in her poetry. She successfully presented her ideas about equality in her writings.
- “My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you. But for every real word spoken, for every attempt I had ever made to speak those truths for which I am still seeking, I had made contact with other women while we examined the words to fit a world in which we all believed, bridging our differences.” (The Cancer Journals)
- “And when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive.” (A Litany for Survival)
- “The difference between poetry and rhetoric
is being ready to kill
instead of your children.” (Power)