(Masterpieces of American Literature)

“Power” is based on an actual event and Lorde’s personal reaction, which she recorded in her journal. While driving, Lorde heard a radio broadcast announcing the acquittal of a white policeman who had shot and killed a black ten-year-old. She was so furious and sickened that she felt that the sky turned red, that she had to park the car before she drove it into a wall. Then and there, she inscribed her feelings of outrage over the decision of the jury of eleven white men and one black woman.

In the unforgettable imagery employed in “Power,” the streets of New York become “a desert of raw gunshot wounds,” a white desert where the only liquid for miles is the blood of a dead black child. Through this poem, Lorde tries to “make power out of hatred and destruction,” to heal her “dying son with kisses.” Yet she cannot help expressing her rage at the policeman’s comment, offered in his own defense, that “I didn’t notice the size or nothing else/ only the color.”

While expressing her rage over this story, “Power” also illuminates Lorde’s ability to provide what one critic has called a “relentlessly clinical analysis” that “often leads to a perception of human character that is, perhaps, the ultimate justification for art.” For example, Lorde writes that the black jurywoman said that she had been convinced, “meaning/ they had dragged her 4 10 black woman’s frame over the hot coals of four centuries of...

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(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Avi-Ram, Amitai F. “Apo Koinou in Lorde and the Moderns: Defining the Differences.” Callaloo 9 (Winter, 1986): 193-208.

Hull, Gloria T. “Living on the Line: Audre Lorde and Our Dead Behind Us.” In Changing Our Own Words: Essays on Criticism, Theory, and Writing by Black Women, edited by Cheryl A. Wall. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1989.

Olson, Lester C. “Liabilities of Language: Audre Lorde Reclaiming Difference.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 84, no. 4 (November, 1998): 448-470.

Opitz, May, Katharine Oguntoye, and Dagmar Schultz, eds. Showing Our Colors: Afro-German Women Speak Out. Translated by Anne V. Adams. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1992.

Parker, Pat. Movement in Black: The Collected Poetry of Pat Parker. Oakland, Calif.: Diana Press, 1978.

Perreault, Jeanne. Writing Selves: Contemporary Feminist Autography. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995.