Poetry and feminism go hand in hand, as illustrated by the feminist poet warriors of the past and present, including Adrienne Rich, Ann Sexton, Maya Angelou and Margaret Atwood to name a few. In her famous essay "Poetry is Not a Luxury," Audre Lorde expertly expresses the linkage of feminism and poetic verse:
"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 external horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives."
In honor of the impact and importance of poetry in finding and expressing a feminist voice, I share with you three of my most favorite poems from three of my most favorite poets: Alice Walker, June Jordan, and of course, Audre Lorde.
Be Nobody's Darling
by Alice Walker
"Be nobody's darling;
Be an outcast.
Take the contradictions
Of your life
And wrap around
You like a shawl,
To parry stones
To keep you warm.
Watch the people succumb
With ample cheer;
Let them look askance at you
And you askance reply.
Be an outcast;
Be pleased to walk alone
Or line the crowded
With other impetuous
Make a merry gathering
On the bank
Where thousands perished
For brave hurt words
But be nobody's darling;
Be an outcast.
Qualified to live
Among your dead."
Poem About My Rights
written and performed by June Jordan
Full text here.
A Litany for Survival
by Audre Lorde
"For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
like bread in our children's mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours:
For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother's milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.
And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive"
How are your feels doing?
This post was originally published on March 24, 2014