AUDRE LORDE, American poet born, (d: 1992); In her own words, she was a “black, Lesbian, mother, warrior, poet”. In 1954, she spent a pivotal year as a student at the National University of Mexico, a period described by Lorde as a time of affirmation and renewal because she confirmed her identity on personal and artistic levels as a Lesbian and poet.
On her return to New York, Lorde went to college, worked as a librarian, continued writing, and became an active participant in the gay culture of Greenwich Village. Lorde furthered her education at Columbia University, earning a master’s degree in library science in 1961. During this time she also worked as a librarian at Mount Vernon Public Library and married attorney Edwin Rollins; they later divorced in 1970 after having two children, Elizabeth and Jonathan. In 1966, Lorde became head librarian at Town School Library in New York City where she remained until 1968.
Lorde’s poetry was published regularly during the 1960s: in Langston Hughes’s 1962 New Negro Poets, USA; in several foreign anthologies; and in black literary magazines. During this time she was politically active in the civil rights, antiwar, and feminist movements. Her first volume of poetry, The First Cities (1968), was published by the Poet’s Press and edited by Diane di Prima, a former classmate and friend from Hunter College High School. Dudley Randall, a poet and critic, asserted in his review of the book that “[Lorde] does not wave a black flag, but her blackness is there, implicit, in the bone.” Lorde’s second volume, Cables to Rage (1970), which was mainly written during her tenure at Tougaloo College in Mississippi, addresses themes of love, betrayal, childbirth, and the complexities of raising children. It is particularly noteworthy for the poem “Martha”, in which Lorde poetically confirms her sexuality: “we shall love each other here if ever at all.” Later books continued her political aims in Lesbian and Gay Rights and feminism.
In 1980, Audre Lorde, Barbara Smith and several other lesbians co-founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, the first U.S. publisher for women of color. Lorde was named State Poet of New York from 1991 to 1992. Lorde took the name Gamba Adisa, which means “Warrior: She Who Makes Her Meaning Known,” in an African naming ceremony before she died.