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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

15. Poetry of Liberation

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
- John Ashberry
- Amiri Baraka
- Lorna Dee Cervantes
- Allen Ginsberg
- Joy Harjo
- Audre Lorde
- Sylvia Plath
- Adrienne Rich
- Gary Snyder
- James Wright
- Suggested
•  Timeline
•  Activities

Authors: Audre Lorde (1934-1992)

March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
[2254] Abbie Rowe, March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (1963), courtesy of the National Park Service, Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement.

Audre Lorde Activities
This link leads to artifacts, teaching tips and discussion questions for this author.
The daughter of West Indian parents, Audre Lorde was born in Harlem. She graduated from Hunter College in 1961 and earned a Masters in Library Science from Columbia University. For the next decade, she worked as a librarian and teacher. Lorde was also poet in residence at Tougaloo College, Mississippi, and taught at a number of colleges in New York City. Although she is known primarily as a poet, her "biomythography," Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982), is an important and influential prose work that chronicles her life from her childhood in Harlem to her "coming out" as a lesbian. In addition, Lorde recounts her battle with cancer in her poignant book The Cancer Journals (1980). These works, along with many of her poems, offer Lorde's readers personal glimpses into her life and experience, a trait that aligns her with confessional writers like Adrienne Rich, with whom she enjoyed a long and artistically fruitful relationship, and also with Sylvia Plath.

As Lorde has acknowledged, she is not an easy poet to categorize. Often associated with the Black Arts movement, her poetry, like that of Amiri Baraka, is frequently fiercely political; rage and violence are not tempered in her verse. In many ways, though, her verse, like that of Nikki Giovanni and June Jordan, falls into the feminist expansion of the Black Arts movement. In the late 1960s Lorde created poems like "Coal" and "Black Mother Woman" that celebrate blackness and seek to instill a sense of pride and self-love in the African American community. She draws inspiration from African history and myth, and many readers consider her best poetry to be those works that deal most closely with myth. Lorde's poems are not just directed at her own race; indeed, much of her work, often termed protest poetry, is laced with social criticism meant to call all readers to action. Poems like "Chain," for example, originate from current events and their journalistic origins force readers to confront social travesties in modern society. Known for her political commitment, Lorde is widely considered one of the most powerful and radical poets of our time.

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