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Audre Lorde

"My head rang like a fiery piston / my legs were towers between which / A new world was passing."

Audre Lorde, "Now That I Am Forever With Child," in Arnold Adoff, ed., The Poetry of Black America (1973)

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"Poetry is not a luxury."

Audre Lorde, article title, in Chrysalis (1977)

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"Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before."

Audre Lorde, "Poetry Is Not a Luxury," in Chrysalis (1977)

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"... there are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt ... "

Audre Lorde, "Poetry Is Not a Luxury," in Chrysalis (1977)

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"... the fear of death is that you are dying too soon. Nobody wants to, but at the point that you die you can pray that you are no longer the same person. I pray that when I am about to die I will not be the same person that I am now."

Audre Lorde, in Nina Winter, Interview With the Muse (1978)

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"Pain is important: how we evade it, how we succumb to it, how we deal with it, how we transcend it."

Audre Lorde, in Nina Winter, Interview With the Muse (1978)

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"One pays a lot, we all pay a lot, for awareness."

Audre Lorde, in Nina Winter, Interview With the Muse (1978)

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"When you reach out and touch other human beings, it doesn't matter whether you call it therapy or teaching or poetry."

Audre Lorde, in Nina Winter, Interview With the Muse (1978)

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"Pain is important: how we evade it, how we succumb to it, how we deal with it, how we transcend it. ... pain will always either change or stop. Always. ... The confidence that it will change is what makes bearing it possible. So pain is fluid. It is only when you conceive of it as something static that it is unbearable."

Audre Lorde, in Nina Winter, Interview With the Muse (1978)

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"... it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence."

Audre Lorde, "The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action," Sinister Wisdom (1978)

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"... while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us."

Audre Lorde, "The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action," in Sinister Wisdom (1978)

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"... it does not pay to cherish symbols / when the substance / lies so close at hand."

Audre Lorde, "Walking Our Boundaries," in The Black Unicorn (1978)

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"The sharing of joy, whether physical, emotional, psychic or intellectual, forms a bridge between the sharers which can be the basis for understanding much of what is not shared between them, and lessens the threat of their difference."

Audre Lorde, Uses of the Erotic (1978)

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"... pornography is a direct denial of the power of the erotic, for it represents the suppression of true feeling. Pornography emphasizes sensation without feeling."

Audre Lorde, Uses of the Erotic (1978)

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"In order to perpetuate itself, every oppression must corrupt or distort those various sources of power within the culture of the oppressed that can provide energy for change. "

Audre Lorde, Uses of the Erotic (1978)

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"Raising Black children -- female and male -- in the mouth of a racist, sexist, suicidal dragon is perilous and chancy. If they cannot love and resist at the same time, they will probably not survive."

Audre Lorde, "Man Child," in Conditions (1979)

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"Ironshod horses rage back and forth over every nerve."

Audre Lorde, The Cancer Journals (1980)

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"Somedays, if bitterness were a whetstone, I could be sharp as grief."

Audre Lorde, The Cancer Journals (1980)

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"I realize that if I wait until I am no longer afraid to act, write, speak, be, I'll be sending messages on a ouija board, cryptic complaints from the other side. When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less important whether or not I am unafraid."

Audre Lorde, The Cancer Journals (1980)

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"... silence and invisibility go hand in hand with powerlessness ..."

Audre Lorde, The Cancer Journals (1980)

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"I learned to read from Mrs. Augusta Baker, the children's librarian. ... If that was the only good deed that lady ever did in her life, may she rest in peace. Because that deed saved my life, if not sooner, then later, when sometimes the only thing I had to hold on to was knowing I could read."

Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982)

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"She knew how to make virtues out of necessities."

Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982)

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"They shared decisions and the making of all policy, both in their business and in the family. Whenever anything had to be decided about any one of the three of us children, even about new coats, they would go into the bedroom and put their heads together for a little while. Buzz buzz would come through the closed door, sometimes in english, sometimes in patois, that Grenadian poly-language which was their lingua franca. Then the two of them would emerge and announce whatever decision had been arrived upon. They spoke all through my childhood with one unfragmentable and unappealable voice. "

Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982)

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"When the strongest words for what I have to offer come out of me sounding like words I remember from my mother's mouth, then I either have to reassess the meaning of everything I have to say now, or re-examine the worth of her old words."

Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982)

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"I am a reflection of my mother's secret poetry as well as of her hidden angers."

Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982)

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"The secret to not being hurt like this again, I decided, was never depending on anyone, never needing, never loving. It is the last dream of children, to be forever untouched."

Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (1982)

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"When you are a member of an out-group, and you challenge others with whom you share this outsider position to examine some aspect of their lives that distorts differences between you, then there can be a great deal of pain."

Audre Lorde, in Claudia Tate, ed., Black Women Writers at Work (1983)

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"Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge."

Audre Lorde, in Claudia Tate, ed., Black Women Writers at Work (1983)

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"Our visions begin with our desires."

Audre Lorde, in Claudia Tate, ed., Black Women Writers at Work (1983)

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"If I cannot air this pain and alter it, I will surely die of it. That's the beginning of social protest."

Audre Lorde, in Claudia Tate, ed., Black Women Writers at Work (1983)

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"African tradition deals with life as an experience to be lived. In many respects, it is much like the Eastern philosophies in that we see ourselves as a part of a life force; we are joined, for instance, to the air, to the earth. We are part of the whole-life process. We live in accordance with, in a kind of correspondence with the rest of the world as a whole. And therefore living becomes an experience, rather than a problem, no matter how bad or how painful it may be."

Audre Lorde, in Claudia Tate, ed., Black Women Writers at Work (1983)

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"We tend to think of the erotic as an easy, tantalizing sexual arousal. I speak of the erotic as the deepest life force, a force which moves us toward living in a fundamental way. "

Audre Lorde, in Claudia Tate, ed., Black Women Writers at Work (1983)

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"I do not believe / our wants / have made our lies / holy."

Audre Lorde, "Between Ourselves," in Joanna Bankier and Deirdre Lashgari, eds., Women Poets of the World (1983)

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"It is not the destiny of Black America to repeat white America's mistakes. But we will, if we mistake the trappings of success in a sick society for the signs of a meaningful life."

Audre Lorde, in Mari Evans, ed., Black Women Writers (1950-1980) (1984)

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"We are all more blind to what we have than to what we have not."

Audre Lorde, "Trip to Russia," Sister Outsider (1984)

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"The master's tools will never dismantle the master's house."

Audre Lorde, essay title (1979), Sister Outsider (1984)

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"Traditionally, in american society, it is the members of oppressed, objectified groups who are expected to stretch out and bridge the gap between the actualities of our lives and the consciousness of our oppressor. For in order to survive, those of us for whom oppression is as american as apple pie have always had to be watchers, to become familiar with the language and manners of the oppressor, even sometimes adopting them for some illusion of protection. Whenever the need for some pretense of communication arises, those who profit from our oppression call upon us to share our knowledge with them. In other words, it is the responsibility of the oppressed to teach the oppressors their mistakes."

Audre Lorde, "Age, Race, Class, and Sex," speech (1980), Sister Outsider (1984)

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"Institutionalized rejection of differences is an absolute necessity in a profit economy which needs outsiders as surplus people. As members of such an economy, we have all been programmed to respond to the human differences between us with fear and loathing and to handle that difference in one of three ways: ignore it, and if that is not possible, copy it if we think it is dominant, or destroy it if we think it is subordinate. "

Audre Lorde, "Age, Race, Class, and Sex," speech (1980), Sister Outsider (1984)

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"Of all the art forms, poetry is the most economical. It is the one which is the most secret, which requires the least physical labor, the least material, and the one which can be done between shifts, in the hospital pantry, on the subway, and on scraps of surplus paper. ... poetry has been the major voice of poor, working class, and Colored women. A room of one's own may be a necessity for writing prose, but so are reams of paper, a typewriter, and plenty of time."

Audre Lorde, "Age, Race, Class, and Sex," speech (1980), Sister Outsider (1984)

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"... rape is not aggressive sexuality, it is sexualized aggression."

Audre Lorde, "Age, Race, Class, and Sex," speech (1980), Sister Outsider (1984)

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"As a Black lesbian feminist comfortable with the many different ingredients of my identity, and a woman committed to racial and sexual freedom from oppression, I find I am constantly being encouraged to pluck out some one aspect of myself and present this as the meaningful whole, eclipsing or denying the other parts of self. But this is a destructive and fragmenting way to live."

Audre Lorde, "Age, Race, Class, and Sex," speech (1980), Sister Outsider (1984)

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"My fear of anger taught me nothing."

Audre Lorde, "The Uses of Anger," speech (1981), Sister Outsider (1984)

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"Anger is loaded with information and energy."

Audre Lorde, "The Uses of Anger," speech (1981), Sister Outsider (1984)

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"Hatred is the fury of those who do not share our goals, and its object is death and destruction. Anger is a grief of distortions between peers, and its object is change."

Audre Lorde, "The Uses of Anger," speech (1981), Sister Outsider (1984)

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"Anger is an appropriate reaction to racist attitudes, as is fury when the actions arising from those attitudes do not change."

Audre Lorde, "The Uses of Anger," speech (1981), Sister Outsider (1984)

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"I have no creative use for guilt, yours or my own. Guilt is only another way of avoiding informed action, of buying time out of the pressing need to make clear choices, out of the approaching storm that can feed the earth as well as bend the trees."

Audre Lorde, "The Uses of Anger," speech (1981), Sister Outsider (1984)

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"I have suckled the wolf's lip of anger and I have used it for illumination, laughter, protection, fire in places where there was no light, no food, no sisters, no quarter."

Audre Lorde, "The Uses of Anger," speech (1981), Sister Outsider (1984)

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"When I hear the deepest truths I speak coming out of my mouth sounding like my mother's, even remembering how I fought against her, I have to reassess both our relationship as well as the sources of my knowing."

Audre Lorde, "Learning From the '60s," speech (1982), Sister Outsider (1984)

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"Revolution is not a one-time event."

Audre Lorde, "Learning From the '60s," speech (1982), Sister Outsider (1984)

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"Every Black woman in America lives her life somewhere along a wide curve of ancient and unexpressed angers."

Audre Lorde, "Eye to Eye," Sister Outsider (1984)

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"Nothing I accept about myself can be used against me to diminish me. I am who I am, doing what I came to do, acting upon you like a drug or a chisel to remind you of your me-ness, as I discover you in myself."

Audre Lorde, "Eye to Eye," Sister Outsider (1984)

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"Anger, used, does not destroy. Hatred does."

Audre Lorde, "Eye to Eye," Sister Outsider (1984)

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"... hatred is a deathwish for the hated, not a lifewish for anything else."

Audre Lorde, "Eye to Eye," Sister Outsider (1984)

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"Pain is an event ... Suffering, on the other hand, is the nightmare reliving of unscrutinized and unmetabolized pain."

Audre Lorde, "Eye to Eye," Sister Outsider (1984)

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"Some women wait for themselves / around the next corner / and call the empty spot peace ..."

Audre Lorde, "Stations," Our Dead Behind Us (1986)

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"Some women wait for something / to change and nothing / does change / so they change / themselves."

Audre Lorde, "Stations," Our Dead Behind Us (1986)

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"History is not kind to us / we restitch it with living."

Audre Lorde, "On My Way Out I Passed Over You and the Verrazano Bridge," Our Dead Behind Us (1986)

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"So long as your death is a leaving / it will never be my last."

Audre Lorde, "Mawu," Our Dead Behind Us (1986)

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"I have survived / the gifts still puzzling me / as in the voice of my departing mother / ... / teaching me how to die insisting / death is not a disease."

Audre Lorde, "Mawu," Our Dead Behind Us (1986)

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"There have been easier times / for loving ..."

Audre Lorde, "Fishing the White Water," Our Dead Behind Us (1986)

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"Afraid is a country with no exit visas ..."

Audre Lorde, "Diaspora," Our Dead Behind Us (1986)

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"A woman I love / draws me a bath / of old roses."

Audre Lorde, "From the Cave," Our Dead Behind Us (1986)

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"There are no honest poems about dead women."

Audre Lorde, poem title, Our Dead Behind Us (1986)

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"Battling racism and battling heterosexism and battling apartheid share the same urgency inside me as battling cancer."

Audre Lorde, A Burst of Light (1988)

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"... stoicism and silence does not serve us nor our communities, only the forces of things as they are."

Audre Lorde, A Burst of Light (1988)

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"I am on the cusp of change and the curve is shifting fast."

Audre Lorde, A Burst of Light (1988)

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"Tomorrow belongs to those of us who conceive of it as belonging to everyone; who lend the best of ourselves to it, and with joy."

Audre Lorde, A Burst of Light (1988)

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"I am not just a lesbian. I am not just a poet. I am not just a mother. Honor the complexity of your vision and yourselves."

Audre Lorde, commencement speech at Oberlin (1989)

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"... the night was dark / and love was a burning fence / about my house."

Audre Lorde, "Gemini" (1956), Undersong (1992)

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"Some words / bedevil me."

Audre Lorde, "Coal" (1962), Undersong (1992)

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"... my babies tore out of me / like poems."

Audre Lorde, "Change of Season" (1969), Undersong (1992)

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"There are so many roots to the tree of anger / that sometimes the branches shatter / before they bear."

Audre Lorde, "Who Said It Was Simple" (1970), Undersong (1992)

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"I learned from you / to define myself / through your denials."

Audre Lorde, "Black Mother Woman" (1971), Undersong (1992)

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"History may alter old pretenses and victories / but not the pain my sister never the pain."

Audre Lorde, "Dear Toni" (1971), Undersong (1992)

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"People who live / by rivers dream / they are immortal."

Audre Lorde, "St. Louis a City Out of Time" (1971), Undersong (1992)

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"I am wary of need / that tastes like destruction."

Audre Lorde, "Need: A Chorale for Black Woman Voices" (1989), Undersong (1992)

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"The love expressed between women is particular and powerful, because we have had to love in order to live: love has been our survival."

Audre Lorde, in Joan Wylie Hall, ed., Conversations with Audre Lorde (2004)

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"All writers have periods when they stop writing, when they cannot write, and this is always painful and terrible because writing is like breathing ..."

Audre Lorde, in Joan Wylie Hall, ed., Conversations with Audre Lorde (2004)

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"Guilt and defensiveness are bricks in a wall against which we all flounder; they serve none of our futures."

Audre Lorde, "Uses of Anger," speech (1981), Sister Outsider (1984)

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"Your silence will not protect you."

Audre Lorde, "The Transformation of Silence Into Language and Action," Sinister Wisdom (1978)

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"I am a Black Lesbian Feminist Warrior Poet Mother, stronger for all my identities, and I am indivisible."

Audre Lorde, speech (1990)

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Audre Lorde, West Indian-born U.S. poet, writer, critic, educator
(1934 - 1992)

Full name: Audre Geraldine Lorde