Chosen Poems, Old and New (Magill's Literary Annual 1983)
Audre Lorde introduces her Chosen Poems, Old and New with a statement that accurately reflects the complexity of her career: “Here are the words of some of the women I have been, am being still, will come to be. The time surrounding each poem is an unspoken image.” Despite her emphasis on flexibility, however, critics almost always consign Lorde to some rigid category, usually that of “Afro-American Lesbian feminist.” Unfortunately, this in turn leads to a glib dismissal of Lorde as a serious poet, a fact clearly reflected in her absence from all major anthologies of contemporary poetry other than those devoted entirely to the work of Afro-Americans and/or women. The moral intensity and psychological insight of Chosen Poems, which includes work from all of Lorde’s previous collections except for the sequence The Black Unicorn (1978), argues persuasively for much wider recognition. As Lorde’s introductory statement implies, she resists all pressures toward ideological rigidity, committing herself instead to the discovery of individual processes while recognizing that each provisional self is inevitably conditioned by the unstated and elusive premises of its historical context. In line with this emphasis, Lorde continually explores the limits and possibilities of various identities, traditional and innovative. The question she poses in “Change of Season” strikes near the core of her sensibility: “Am I to be cursed forever...
(The entire section is 2249 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1983)
Annas, Pamela. “A Poetry of Survival: Naming and Renaming in the Poetry of Audre Lorde, Pat Parker, Sylvia Plath, and Adrienne Rich.” Colby Library Quarterly 18, no. 1 (March, 1982): 9-25. Written from a feminist perspective, this essay situates Lorde in the context of other well- known United States women poets. In addition to exploring the restrictive nature of externally imposed definitions of female identity, this analysis outlines a five-stage self-naming process that Lorde and other twentieth century women writers enact.
Avi-ram, Amitai F. “Apo Koinou in Lorde and the Moderns: Defining the Differences.” Callaloo 9, no. 1 (Winter, 1986): 193-208. This essay analyzes one of Lorde’s most sophisticated poetic devices: her use of ambivalent line breaks to generate multiple meanings. By positioning Lorde’s work in the context of modernism, this analysis indicates her significant contribution to twentieth century Western poetry.
Chinosole. “Audre Lorde and Matrilineal Diaspora: Moving History Beyond Nightmare into Structures for the Future.” In Wild Women in the Whirlwind: Afra-American Culture and the Contemporary Literary Renaissance, edited by Joanne M. Braxton and Andrée Nicola McLaughlin. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1990. Through biographical and cultural analysis, this essay examines Lorde’s complex, ambivalent relationship...
(The entire section is 406 words.)