Audre Geraldine Lorde was a Caribbean-American acclaimed poet, novelist, and essayist. She was born on 18 February 1934 and died on 17 November 1992. Lorde became estranged from her family after the death of her best friend Genevieve after graduating from high school. She is best known for exploring her lesbian sexuality especially after 1954 when she was a student at the National University of Mexico. She describes this period as “a time of affirmation and renewal.” This is the time when she confirmed her identity as a lesbian and an acclaimed poet.
Audre Lorde was born to Caribbean immigrant parents who were seen as continually trying to return to their country during Lorde’s young life. Lorde says that at the age of 4 years, she knew how to write and, as a child, she knew how to speak in poetry. She began writing poems at twelve years of age although it is said that she wrote her first poem at the age of 8 years. Having graduated from HunterCollegeHigh School, Lorde left her family’s home. She studied in HunterCollege during the period of 1954 –1959 where she graduated from with a bachelor’s degree. She supported herself by doing odd jobs like ghost writing, being a factory worker, a social worker, a medical clerk, a supervisor of arts and crafts while she was studying library science . She later moved to Connecticut where she begun to explore her sexuality, lesbianism (Robinson, 2008).
During her stay at the National University of Mexico in 1954, she said that it was the time that affirmed and renewed her personal identify not only as a poet but also as a lesbian. Most of her works were influenced by her being a lesbian. She married Edwon Ashley in 1962. They brought up two children, but their marriage failed, and they divorced in 1970. After the divorce, Lorde began having long-term relations with women. Her lesbianism made a major impact on her writings. Her work Zami: A New Spelling of My Name was seen as a synthesis of her biography, mythology, and her lesbian identity. According to Lorde, lesbianism has a broad meaning. She used the term to refer to women having sexual affairs with other women and also expanded this term to include all the women who have emotions connected or centered to other women despite their sexual intimacy. Clearly, emotional bonds among women is the centeral theme of her book Zami (Robinson, 2008).
Zami is a book that analyzes the emotional and physical aspects of Audre Lorde, a black woman poet, as well as her relations with some other women like Eudora, Gennie, Afrekete, Muriel and many others. She explores the significance of the relationships and her own life as a poet. In Zami, she explores the possibility of emotional and sexual life of a black female poet and how to integrate the two aspects of life experiences. Lorde showcases herself as a lesbian feminist poet of black origin. All this is well documented in her book Zami: A New Spelling of My Name where she presents the lesbian unions poetically in a bid to integrate the two. An example is where she says, “sweat-slippery dark bodies, sacred as the ocean at high tide” (252) and “her hips moved like surf upon the water’s edge” (248) (DiBernard, 1991).
Through Lorde’s work, we have a preview of a strong social as well as political consciousness and dynamics of living a life of a black woman. She challenges the conventional norms of a racist and heterosexist society and stresses the urgency to fight inequality. And that is why she inscribes her own experiences and stresses to identify herself as a black and lesbian person. She finally unifies both of her struggles by recognizing that her blackness and lesbianism are not separate.