This Old Poem #84:
Audre Lorde’s Thanks To Jesse Jackson
Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 2/21/04
poets seem to be cursed. Not a 1- no matter how talented- seems able to complete
a successful poetic career- at least not yet. True talents like Margaret Walker,
Gwendolyn Brooks, & Rita Dove either fall to obscurity, sell
out to political nonsense, or waste their talents away. So-so talents like a
Lucille Clifton or Jayne Cortez peter out quickly, while no talents like June
Jordan, Nikki Giovanni, or Maya Angelou,
are jokes. Audrey Lorde falls in to the middle group. Some early talent was
obviated by the time AL reached middle age. Until her death all she wrote were
generic political screeds. Here is a typical online bio:
Geraldine Lorde was born on February 18, 1934 in New York City. She decided to
drop the "y" from the end of her name at a young age, setting a
precedent in her life of self determination. She was the daughter of Caribbean
immigrants who settled in Harlem. She graduated from Columbia University and
Hunter College, where she later held the prestigious post of Thomas Hunter Chair
of Literature. She was married to Edward Rollins for eight years in the 1960's,
and had two children -- Elizabeth and Jonathan.
Lorde collected a host of awards and honors, including the Walt Whitman Citation of Merit, which conferred the mantle of New York State poet for 1991-93. In designating her New York State's Poet Laureate, the Governor, Mario Cuomo, said: "Her imagination is charged by a sharp sense of racial injustice and cruelty, of sexual prejudice . . . She cries out against it as the voice of indignant humanity. Audre Lorde is the voice of the eloquent outsider who speaks in a language that can reach and touch people everywhere."
Her first poem was published in Seventeen magazine while she was still in high school. The administration of the high school felt that her work was too romantic for publication in their literary journal. Lorde went on to publish over a dozen books on poetry, and six books of prose.
Late in life, Audre Lorde was given the African name Gamba Adisa, meaning "Warrior: She Who Makes Her Meaning Clear". It is a name that applies to her whole life. Her struggle against opression (sic) on many fronts was expressed with a force and clarity that made her a respected voice for women, African Americans, and the Gay and Lesbian community.
Lorde's son Jonathan Rollins recalled the warrior spirit that his mother possesed (sic) by stating that not fighting was not an option -- "We could lose. But we couldn't not fight." Lorde bravely documented her 14-year battle against the cancer in "The Cancer Journals" and in her book of essays "A Burst of Light". She struggled against disease and a medical establishment that was frequently indifferent to cultural differences and insensitive to women's health issues. She stood in defiance to societal rules that said that she should hide the fact that she had breast cancer. Lorde was a self described "Black lesbian, mother, warrior, poet". However, her life was one that could not be summed up in a phrase.
Audre Lorde, died in St Croix, Virgin Islands, on November 17, 1992. Her spirit fights on.
Yes, AL was a
loudmouth & lived in her own world- but note how even banal aspects of her
life are portrayed as something noteworthy: dropping a y from her name, a
new name given her by an unnamed Mr. Mojo, & her lesbianism & cancer
becoming the stuff of ‘warrior’ rather than ‘patient’. It’s even
amusing how the hagiographer says that AL could not be summed up in a phrase,
yet actually does so.
Even sillier is that AL actually has an org named after her. Check it out at http://www.alp.org/. What it actually does, aside from enriching a few at the expense of others, is anyone’s guess:
The principles guiding the work and development of The Audre Lorde Project as a progressive organiztion (sic) seeking social justice are as follows:
Recognizing the full
diversity of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Two-Spirit, and Transgender (LGBTST) people
of color, and our collective histories of struggle against discrimination and
other forms of oppression, the Audre Lorde Project has been established to serve
as a home base that LGBTST peoples of African /Black/Caribbean, Arab, Asian
& Pacific Islander, Latina/o, and Native/Indigenous descent can use to
organize, support, and advocate for our diverse communites.
As such, ALP seeks to
work with LGBTST people of color organizations and communities across
differences of race/ethnicity, culture, gender, sexual orientation, age,
ability, and life experiences (e.g. class, immigration status, HIV serostatus,
health status, etc.) in order to develop and implement culturally specific and
effective programs and services reflecting the needs of our communities.
services and organizing efforts are most successful when they involve the
communities served, ALP is committed to creating and supporting decision-making/
organizational structures that are representative of our communities.
competent skills and expertise in LGBTST people of color communities exist and
are often underutilized, ALP seeks to support and promote the work of existing
and emerging LGBTST people of color organizations, as well as the efforts of
LGBTST people of color cultural workers and activists.
Finally, as an
organization seeking social and economic justice for all peoples, ALP is
committed to promoting multi-racial coalition-building, advocacy and community
organizing activities among LGBTST people of color, and with allies in struggles
for equality and liberation.
I take it that Two Spirits are schizophrenics? Was AL a TS? I don’t know, but to say she was the black Adrienne Rich is accurate. In fact AR had this to say of AL: ‘Poet Adrienne Rich said of The Black Unicorn that "Lorde writes as a Black woman, a mother, a daughter, a Lesbian, a feminist, a visionary; poems of elemental wildness and healing, nightmare and lucidity."’
AL was routinely overpraised in the cowardly poetry criticism club, yet the rare dissent- usually from non-poets- was routinely overblown & taken as evidence of conspiracy against her. Here’s AL- in the 1980s- whining over Right Wing nuts Pavlovian attacks * responding in an equally predictable fashion: ‘My sexuality is part and parcel of who I am, and my poetry comes from the intersection of me and my worlds….Jesse Helms's objection to my work is not about obscenity….or even about sex. It is about revolution and change….Helms knows that my writing is aimed at his destruction, and the destruction of every single thing he stands for.’ I doubt the senile old racist senator ever heard of AL, nor lost a night’s sleep. Yet, that warrior woman just needs to fight!
If you feel I’ve spent too much time on AL’s life, rather than poetry, you have a point, Then again, let’s see the poem in question & you will no longer wonder why I’ve avoided exposing you to her ‘poetry’.
To Jesse Jackson
The US and USSR are the most powerful countries
in the world
but only 1/8 of the world's population.
African people are also 1/8 of the world's population.
1/2 of the world's population is Asian.
1/2 of that is Chinese.
There are 22 nations in the middle east.
Most people in this world
are Yellow, Black, Brown, Poor, Female
and do not speak English.
By the year 2000
the 20 largest cities in the world
will have one thing in common
none of them will be in Europe
and none in the United States.
prose. There is no music, horrible enjambment, & not even a ½-hearted
attempt at metaphor. This is a screed. It is so bad a piece of writing that I
think that Jesse Jackson would probably even cringe at the poem’s title.
Let’s face it, like him or not, ol’ Jesse can do far better than this. So,
how to fix it? Lo:
To Jesse Jackson
The US and USSR are the most powerful countries in the world.
What up, Rev?
In the rewrite the title at least plays humorously, as JJ can be seen as
responsible for the 1st line’s statement. Is my version a poem? If
it is just barely. But it is alot better than the original. Still, it sucks.
That damned warrior woman/lesbo-mojo stuff!
Final Score: (1-100):
Audre Lorde’s Thanks To Jesse Jackson:
TOP’s Thanks To Jesse Jackson: 25
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