Thursday, 21 April 2016

Audre Lorde

I discovered Audre Lorde, a black lesbian feminist poet and writer last week at the Feminist Readings 2 conference at the University of Leeds where I presented on reading gesture in Sharon Lockhart's interrogations into the work of Isreali choreographer Noa Eshkol. I have since been reading Lorde's book of essays and speeches under the title Sister Outsider first published in 1984. A few quotes by Lorde that have struck me deeply and have captured in words aspects of life as a woman that I have been thinking about for a long time. Some of these issues include: conflicted relationships with food and labour, poetry or creative writing vs academic prose, silence and the expression of emotions with regard to both therapy and to friendship.

Here is Lorde:

“in Russia you carry your own bags in airports and hotels. This, at first, struck me as oppressive because, of course, carrying a laden bag up seven flights of stairs when the elevator isn’t working is not fun. But the longer I stayed there the fairer it seemed, because in this country it appears that everything is seen in terms of food. That is, the labor of one’s hands is measured by how much food you can produce, and then you take that and compare its importance to the worth of the other work that you do”1

“the white fathers told us: I think therefore I am. The Black mother within each of us – the poet – whispers in our dreams: I feel, therefore I can be free. Poetry coins the language to express and charter this revolutionary demand, the implementation of that freedom”2

“and of course I am afraid, because the transformation of silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation, and that always seems fraught with danger. But my daughter, when I told her of our topic and my difficulty with it, said, “Tell them about how you’re never really a whole person if you remain silent, because there’s always that one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out, and if you keep ignoring it, it gets madder and madder and hotter and hotter, and if you don’t speak it out one day it will just up and punch you in the mouth from the inside’”3

1 Lorde, “Trip to Russia”, 15.

2 Lorde, “Poetry Is Not a Luxury”, 38.

3 Lorde, “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action”, 42.

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