Happy Birthday, Audre
Audre Lorde was born today in New York City in 1924. She worked in a series of low-paying jobs between high-school and her eventual attendance at college, earning a BA in literature and philosophy from Hunter in 1959 and an MLS from Columbia University in 1960. Being gay, she was unable to find a home in the Harlem Writers Guild - being gay and black and a woman, she was an outsider in many ways, and her collection of essays "Sister Outsider" is widely acclaimed and taught. Here is one of her poems.
Is the total black, being spoken
From the earth's inside.
There are many kinds of open.
How a diamond comes into a knot of flame
How a sound comes into a word, coloured
By who pays what for speaking.
Some words are open
Like a diamond on glass windows
Singing out within the crash of passing sun
Then there are words like stapled wagers
In a perforated book—buy and sign and tear apart—
And come whatever wills all chances
The stub remains
An ill-pulled tooth with a ragged edge.
Some words live in my throat
Breeding like adders. Others know sun
Seeking like gypsies over my tongue
To explode through my lips
Like young sparrows bursting from shell.
Love is a word another kind of open—
As a diamond comes into a knot of flame
I am black because I come from the earth's inside
Take my word for jewel in your open light.
(more poems and info on Audre Lorde here)