Audre Lorde, Warrior Poet.
Updated: Aug 24, 2021
I have intentions to also turn this short read blog post into a zine style illustrated history, if you're interested or have any advice, let me know!
Audre Lorde was a “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet”, but she was also disabled. As a child in New York, she was considered legally blind due to her shortsightedness, and she would go on to write in great detail about her cancer diagnosis and treatment in later years.
She published her first poem at the age of 16 in Seventeen magazine, after it was rejected from her school paper for being a bit much. She remembered her love of poetry as a method that allowed her to express herself. As a child she would regularly recite a poem in answer to a question about how she was feeling.
She went to university in New York and became embedded in the gay scene while working as a librarian, but married a white, gay man and had two children with him before divorcing after 8 years.
Her job in the libraries of New York allowed her to work on presenting her poetry, and she published numerous anthologies during that time. Many of her poems were incredibly powerful, and had words of protest as well as her experiences as a black lesbian woman from a poor immigrant background.
This was the beginning of her activism against a type of feminism which inevitably only included the white and middle class straight women. One of her best known essays that dealt with these intersections of identity was called "The Master's Tools Will Not Dismantle the Master's House." She was a part of a number of liberation movements including civil rights, LGBTQ+ equality and had a profound influence on politics and culture in Germany.
Her book The Cancer Journals is one of her most well known works and is her account of her diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer. It's been described as "a major work of illness narrative" and her prose work continued with Zami: A New Spelling of My Name.
Her writing often followed themes of activism from specific events and incidents, she wrote about aparteid and the police shooting of a 10 year old.
Six years after her treatment for breast cancer, it returned and had spread to her liver. She pursued alternative treatments and lived another 8 years before dying in 1992 on the island of St Croix where she lived with her life partner, Dr Gloria I Joseph.