In celebration of LGBT Pride month we will be showcasing four prominent LGBT artists in history.
Poet, Feminist, Novelist, Essayist, and Activist
Audre Lorde was born on February 18, 1934 in New York City to parents who had immigrated from Grenada. She was the youngest of three sisters and had a difficult relationship with her parents, which influenced many of her later works. From a young age Lorde had a love for poetry. As a child Lorde would have trouble communicating with others and would often recite a poem she had memorized in order to express how she felt. She then later began writing her own poems when she felt she no longer could find poems that expressed the way she felt.
She graduated from Hunter College in 1959 and earned a master’s degree from Columbia University in 1961. Her first works, that were released in the sixties, centered around themes of love and relationships. In 1968 Lorde became a writer-in-residence at Tougaloo College in Mississippi and met her long term partner, Frances Clayton. She also released her first volume of poems, The First Cities. However, following her experience with civil rights activism, she changed the themes and subjects of her works to focus on civil rights, feminism and exploration of the female identity. In her works From a Land Where Other People Live (1983) and The New York Head Shop and Museum (1974) this shift in subject matter is quite apparent. Her poetry was passionate, sincere, perceptive and had depth of feeling. Lorde believed in fighting systematic issues through writing rather than violence: “I have a duty, to speak the truth as I see it and to share not just my triumphs, not just the things that felt good, but the pain, the intense, often unmitigating pain.
“Lorde writes as a Black woman, a mother, a daughter, a Lesbian, a feminist, a visionary; poems of elemental wildness and healing, nightmare and lucidity.”
Lorde was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 1978 and this became the subject matter for many of her final works. The Cancer Journals (1980) and A Burst of Light (1988) both focused on Lorde’s struggle with cancer and how she perceives and understands death, survival, power and fear. In her final years, Lorde helped to found Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press and Sisterhood in Support of Sisters in South Africa, which was a political committee focused on raising awareness of apartheid in South Africa.