- Birthday, Quotes, Reading, Writing

Audre Lorde on Poetry, Politics, Feminism, and More

Happy birthday, Audre Lorde! Here are some quotes from the writer:

 

“For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.”

 

“Without community, there is no liberation.”

 

“When I dare to be powerful—to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

 

“I am deliberate and afraid of nothing.”

 

“Who I am is what fulfills me and what fulfills the vision I have of a world.”

 

“Even the smallest victory is never to be taken for granted. Each victory must be applauded.”

 

“Revolution is not a onetime event.”

 

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood.”

 

“Unless one lives and loves in the trenches, it is difficult to remember that the war against dehumanization is ceaseless.”

 

“Life is very short and what we have to do must be done in the now.”

 

“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.”

 

“For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.”

 

“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.”

 

“Our poems formulate the implications of ourselves, that we feel within and dare make real (or bring action into accordance with), our fear, our hopes, our most cherished terrors.”

 

“Attend me, hold me in your muscular flowering arms, protect me from throwing any part of myself away.”

 

“Our visions begin with our desires.”

 

Our feelings are our most genuine paths to knowledge. They are chaotic, sometimes painful, sometime contradictory, but they come from deep within us. And we must key into those feelings and begin to extrapolate from them, examine them for new ways of understanding our experiences.”

 

“As we come to know, accept, and explore our feelings, they will become sanctuaries and fortresses and spawning grounds for the most radical and daring of ideas—the house of difference so necessary to change and the conceptualization of any meaningful action.”

 

“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.”

 

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

 

“In our work and in our living, we must recognize that difference is a reason for celebration and growth, rather than a reason for destruction.”

 

“It is never easy to demand the most from ourselves, from our lives, from our work. To encourage excellence is to go beyond the encouraged mediocrity of our society is to encourage excellence. But giving in to the fear of feeling and working to capacity is a luxury only the unintentional can afford, and the unintentional are those who do not wish to guide their own destinies.”

 

“The aim of each thing which we do is to make our lives and the lives of our children richer and more possible.”

 

“The principal horror of any system which defines the good in terms of profit rather than in terms of human need, or which defines human need to the exclusion of the psychic and emotional components of that need—the principal horror of such a system is that it robs our work of its erotic value, its erotic power and life appeal and fulfillment. Such a system reduces work to a travesty of necessities, a duty by which we earn bread or oblivion for ourselves and those we love. But this is tantamount to blinding a painter and then telling her to improve her work, and to enjoy the act of painting. It is not only next to impossible, it is also profoundly cruel.”

 

“If our history has taught us anything, it is that action for change directed against the external conditions of our oppressions is not enough.”

 

“The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives.”

 

“Each time you love, love as deeply as if it were forever / Only, nothing is eternal.”

 

“I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t.”

 

“When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak.”

 

“But the question is a matter of the survival and the teaching. That’s what our work comes down to. No matter where we key into it, it’s the same work, just different pieces of ourselves doing it.”

 

“Your silence will not protect you!”

 

“For we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own needs for language and definition, and while we wait in silence for that final luxury of fearlessness, the weight of that silence will choke us.”

 

“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.”

 

“The learning process is something you can incite, literally incite, like a riot.”

 

“Art is not living. It is the use of living.”

 

“My anger has meant pain to me but it has also meant survival, and before I give it up I’m going to be sure that there is something at least as powerful to replace it on the road to clarity.”

 

“Hopefully, we can learn from the 60s that we cannot afford to do our enemies’ work by destroying each other.”

 

“There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.”

 

“But, on the other hand, I get bored with racism too and recognize that there are still many things to be said about a black person and a white person loving each other in a racist society.”

 

“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.”

 

“I am who I am, doing what I came to do, acting upon you like a drug or chisel or remind you of your me-ness as I discover you in myself.”

 

“Only by learning to live in harmony with your contradictions can you keep it all afloat.”

 

“When we create out of our experiences, as feminists of color, women of color, we have to develop those structures that will present and circulate our culture.”

 

“What woman here is so enamored of her own oppression that she cannot see her heelprint upon another woman’s face? What woman’s terms of oppression have become precious and necessary to her as a ticket into the fold of the righteous, away from the cold winds of self-scrutiny?”

 

“We welcome all women who can meet us, face to face, beyond objectification and beyond guilt.”

 

“For women, the need and desire to nurture each other is not pathological but redemptive, and it is within that knowledge that our real power I rediscovered. It is this real connection which is so feared by a patriarchal world. Only within a patriarchal structure is maternity the only social power open to women.”

 

“The failure of academic feminists to recognize difference as a crucial strength is a failure to reach beyond the first patriarchal lesson. In our world, divide and conquer must become define and empower.”

 

“Every woman I have ever known has made a lasting impression on my soul.”

 

“Every woman I have ever loved has left her print upon me, where I loved some invaluable piece of myself apart from me—so different that I had to stretch and grow in order to recognize her. And in that growing, we came to separation, that place where work begins.”

 

“Advocating the mere tolerance of difference between women is the grossest reformism. It is a total denial of the creative function of difference in our lives. Difference must be not merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic.”

 

“The love expressed between women is particular and powerful because we have had to love in order to live; love has been our survival.”

 

John Madera's fiction may be found in Conjunctions, Opium Magazine, The &Now Awards 2: The Best Innovative Writing, and many other journals. His criticism may be found in American Book Review, Bookforum, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Rain Taxi: Review of Books, The Believer, The Brooklyn Rail, and many other venues. Recipient of an M.F.A. in Literary Arts from Brown University, John Madera lives in New York City, where he runs Rhizomatic and manages and edits Big Other.

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