Poet and feminist: Audre Lorde would have been 87 years old

She saw herself as black, lesbian, mother, warrior and poet. The American writer and feminist Audre Lorde (1934-1992).

Lorde was born in New York City; both parents were from the Grenadines. Lorde was severely nearsighted and legally blind. She grew up in Harlem during the Great Depression.

She learned to read at the age of four. The mother taught her to write. She wrote her first poem when she was in eighth grade. Lorde attended Hunter College High School for the Gifted and graduated from there in 1951.

In 1954 she spent a year at the University of Mexico, a period she described as significant to her self-affirmation as a lesbian and poet.

Lorde worked as a librarian, continued to write, and became an active part of the gay subculture in Greenwich Village. Her poems were published regularly in the 1960s.

During this time she was active in the civil rights movement, the anti-war movement and the women’s movement. Her first volume of poetry, The First Cities (1968), was published by Poet’s Press and edited by a friend and former classmate, Diane DiPrima.

Dudley Randall, a poet and critic, wrote in a review: “Lorde does not wave a black flag, but her blackness is palpable and present, it is in the marrow.” Lorde’s second volume, Cables to Rage (1970), was about love, betrayal, Birth and the Complexity of Raising Children. In the poem “Martha” Lorde affirmed her homosexuality: “We shall love each other here if ever at all.” In later books, she continued to campaign for the rights of lesbians and gays and for feminism.

Sickness and death

In 1986 she was diagnosed with liver cancer. Lorde died on November 17, 1992 in St. Croix of complications from breast cancer. She also processed this literarily in her cancer diaries. Before she died, Lorde took the name Gambda Adisa, which means “She Who Makes Her Meaning Known”, in an African naming ceremony.

Lorde had a special relationship with Berlin and spoke of the city as her third home. In 1984 she first came to Freie Universität as a visiting professor and from then on stayed in Berlin for some time every year.

At the time of the pogrom in Rostock-Lichtenhagen in 1992, Lorde was in Germany. Together with Gloria Joseph, she wrote an open letter of protest to the then Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl, which appeared in the press.

She would have turned 87 on February 18. That’s why Google is now honoring them with a Google Doodle.


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