• Malachi Moore

Audre Lorde


“I have a duty to speak the truth as I see it and share not just my triumphs, not just the things that felt good, but the pain. The intense, often unmitigated pain. It is important to share how I know survival is survival and not just a walk through the rain." 

I owe a lot to the Jesuit community for how I perceive the idea of one’s own vocation. The atmosphere during my time at both Boston College and LMU had this serene, undiscerning temperament surrounding the topic, meaning whatever one discovered their own calling to be in this world would not only be entirely up to them, but would also be completely dependent on each individual effort put forth. Through...what with years past and hindsight gained I claim “trial and error”, I fell back on what had always felt right to me. And so naturally I became a writer, and I’ve slowly been getting closer to believing it ever since.

It wasn’t so long after I changed my major to English that I began to hear the apprehensive remarks of  an expected occupational track-record or... whatever other “tragic writer’s story”  occurred way back when people were still dying from dysentery. The most valid presumption of my apparent, pending misfortunes, was more so of a sentiment whose surrounding consensus has given rise to a taboo in today’s society. I am referring to the feeling of what most people attempt in not experiencing for their entire lives, and that is the sense of loneliness. And to feel lonely, regardless of when or where you’ve lived, fabricates yet another harrowing emotion, this one simply of not feeling seen or heard in any capacity; you feel invisible. And, to a certain extent, I have to agree with the forwardness from these earlier comments; being a writer certainly does attract those feelings, as does being Black in America. 

My indoctrination had begun long before I or anyone else realized--and even still--there are times when I am affected from even something so slight as a crippling fear. It’s times like these that I am reminded of those writers who came before me; those who were dealt much worse circumstances within the time they lived, had most likely faced the similar outside arrogance and internal fears, and even still carried on with their life’s calling. Audre Lord, a Black woman well before her own time,as well as our own, is one who epitomizes the archetype of a self-identified, proud writer whose strong, personal voice assisted others in finding their individual selves on a global spectrum. She is the perfect example of one who--from the very beginning--delves head first into their own vocation, and in doing so, provides a sense of nuanced clarity for themselves. 

“I want to live the rest of my life, however long or short, with as much sweetness as I can decently manage, loving all the people I love, and doing as much as I can of the work I still have to do. I am going to write fire until it comes out of my ears, my eyes, my noseholes--everywhere. Until it's every breath I breathe. I'm going to go out like a fucking meteor!”

Long before there was a term for it, Lorde was an intersectional feminist working across national and other lines throughout her life toward liberation. Even prior to this accolade, she self-described herself as a “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior” and dedicated the exploration of her own Black identity and creative perspective in order to address racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, feminism, *takes breath* as well as issues related to civil rights. She was born in New York, already quite invisible to her overburdened family of five from the tumultuous economy of the Great Depression, nearsighted to the point of being legally blind. Her circumstances compelled Lorde to express both herself and her surroundings differently, one where her emotions could become thoughts, and those thoughts could become words; she was a poet, and a proud one at that.

A part of the Harlem Writers Guild while during her undergrad at Hunter College, Lorde’s firm standing in her own identity left her to feel like an outcast. She felt she was not accepted because she was “crazy and queer” and was presumed by many to simply be in a faze. From there she spent time reaffirming her own identity by continuing her education, strengthening her poetic voice through her work and would even return to her alma mater as an instructor, leading workshops with her young, black undergraduate students, many of whom were eager to discuss the civil rights issues of that time. Through her interactions with her students, she reaffirmed her desire not only to live out her "crazy and queer" identity, but also to devote attention to the formal aspects of her craft as a poet. 

Audre Lorde understood that racism wore many different faces, but would come for people of color--especially Black women--no matter where they were in the world. In 1984, she started a visiting professorship in Germany at the Free University of Berlin. It was there that she became an influential part of the then-budding Afro-German movement, even coining the term herself, and became a mentor to many Afro-German women. She assisted in helping write their experience, power and intellect into the discourse of Germany’s national consciousness--one that accounted for the history of Africans in Germany, and the racism that dominated its society’s treatment of them. Her work there is a lesson in reaching across perceptions of difference in our experiences as Black individuals and open to form transnational coalitions.

“Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought…As they become known to and accepted by us, our feelings and the honest exploration of them become sanctuaries and spawning grounds for the most radical and daring ideas.”

The foundation of Lorde’s poetry, why it is so vicariously intriguing to the many, focuses on the conflicting differences within the “Self”. Her refusal to be placed in a particular category, whether social or literary, was characteristic of her determination to come across as an individual rather than a stereotype. Her early work--as it addressed themes of love, betrayal, childbirth, and the complexities of raising children-- shifted with her own perspective of the times and the subsequent circumstances. One of my personal favorites, “From a Land Where Other People Live”, shows Lorde's personal struggles with identity and anger at social injustice, deals with themes of anger, loneliness, injustice, as well as what it means to be a Black woman, mother, friend, and lover in 1970s America. 

It is because of my own apprehensions as a writer that I have both found and kept Audre Lorde’s work close to me. I have felt and experienced all of that which would prevent someone from following the vocation of a writer. Through her work I discovered that some people-- especially within minority groups--share the same recurring sentiment of invisibility. That feeling of isolation and loneliness can only dissipate from sharing one’s own experience, and in wanting to celebrate all parts of herself equally, she not only helped shape her own life, but the different experiences she had because of them. And so it is through my own work that I praise her leadership, spread awareness of her mantra, and attempt to carry out in doing the same for the next invisible writer. 

"I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives there. See whose face it wears. Then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all our choices."

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