Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

An English / Feminist Studies / Race & Ethnicity Studies Course Blog

A Love Letter to Audre Lorde

6 Comments

I do not consider myself to be an avid fan if poetry; I am picky about style, the overuse of flowery language, the drama of spoken word. But I have fallen in love with Audre Lorde and her words have settled themselves into my soul. “Equinox” and “A Litany for Survival” are the two poems from this packet that I found to be the most moving and powerful. In “Equinox,” Lorde spends most of the poem referencing tragic events and areas of chaotic struggle: Malcom X’s assasination, Birmingham and Vietnam, the march in Washington. She reflects on the current state of the world, recognizing that this is the place to which she has brought her children, children who excitedly arrive home “talking about spring and peace,” sparking Lorde to comment that “we have no right to spring because our sisters and brothers are burning.” What I find so powerful about this poem is that after focusing her words and energy on the negativity that is consuming the world, she ends the poem by calling out to us, imploring us to recognize

“that we must be strong

and love each other

in order to go on living.”

The state of the world, the actions of people, the vile, the pain, the suffering, could so easily knock us all off our feet, confine us to a permanent state of cowering in the corner, shielding our eyes so we don’t have to look at anything. But with love, and the strength found in standing with each other, we can go on.

Audre Lorde’s words in “A Litany for Survival” are just as powerful, if not more. The first three stanzas are all about fear; fear that the sun “might not rise in the morning,” fear that “love will vanish” and that “love will never return.” Fear of all kinds, universal, never ceasing, existing from birth. Fear that controls the actions, thoughts, dreams of “those of us who cannot indulge the passing dreams of choice.” Fear that consumes. Lorde writes out these fears for everyone to face, capturing her readers and making it impossible to look away . And with our attention held in her hands, she reminds us,

“So it is better to speak

remembering

we were never meant to survive.”

We can take the opportunity to act or we can allow the fear to swallow us, but at the end of each road, we’re still lying in our graves.

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6 thoughts on “A Love Letter to Audre Lorde

  1. Excellent close reading. Your final line (and hers) is absolutely haunting.

    If you like Audre Lorde, I’d absolutely recommend her autobiography (or “biomythography,” as she calls it), Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. It’s a great complement to her verse.

  2. I feel your reading and interpretation of the two of Lorde’s poems that you chose are succinct and a little unnerving. Only unnerving for what she has to say, not for your take on it. True, though. I personally also loved Litany for Survival and had many of the same thoughts on it.

  3. I feel that Baby Suggs in Beloved personifies this idea pretty well. She says, “..we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass.. Love it hard. They despise it. They don’t love your eyes; they’d just as soon pick em out.. And oh my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bond, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands!.. Cause they don’t love them either. You got to love it, you! Such empowerment in such a hopeless time. I know I would rather die.. I’m a coward maybe. They are heroes. All of them.

  4. –oops insert off quote after, “You got to love it, you!”

  5. I also really loved Lorde’s work, and that last line was so haunting, inspiring, and utterly captivating. The idea that they are worthy of love and self-worth is significant because many black women that have been oppressed to that extent for a long period of time start to believe they aren’t worthy. The fact that Lorde brings this empowering words for all black women is definitely meaningful.

  6. That was an amazing last line. I’m also really picky about poetry, but something about the way Audre Lorde writes is so universal. Even though she references specific things in her poems, the emotions she uses to talk about them are so . . . all-inclusive.

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