Biography of Audre Lorde

Audre Lorde, one of the leading artistic and critical voices on feminism, race, and identity in late-twentieth-century America, was born Audrey Geraldine Lorde in New York to Grenadian parents. She attended Hunter College for her B.A., and then earned an MLS from Columbia University. Following this, she worked as a librarian and married Edward Rollins. She had two children, Elizabeth and Jonathan. In 1968, Lorde was invited to serve as the writer-in-residence at Tougalou College in Mississippi. That same year, her first poetry collection, The First Cities, was published. At Tougalou, Lorde would meet her eventual partner Frances Clayton; she divorced Rollins in 1970. Lorde would continue to teach throughout her career, serving as an English professor at Hunter College and John Jay College.

In the 1970s, Lorde published poetry prolifically, with her work becoming increasingly political in its content. Works published in this period include Cables to Rage (1970), From a Land Where Other People Live (1972), New York Head Shop and Museum (1974), Coal (1976), and The Black Unicorn (1978). From a Land Where Other People Live was nominated for a National Book Award, and The Black Unicorn remains Lorde's most celebrated work of poetry.

In the 1980s, Lorde and the writer Barbara Smith founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press to promote the writing of other Black women. Lorde also founded the organization Sisterhood in Support of Sisters in South Africa to advocate for women living under South Africa's system of apartheid. She primarily wrote and published in prose during this period. A bout with cancer prompted her to write The Cancer Journals (1980). In 1982, Lorde published the hybrid-genre work Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. Her essay collections Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (1984) and A Burst of Light (1988) are both considered canonical works of Black feminist theory and queer theory, and A Burst Of Light won the National Book Award.

Lorde was awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and was made poet laureate of New York in 1991-1992. She died of cancer in St. Croix 1992. A poetry collection, Undersong: Chosen Poems Old and New, which contained revised versions of many previously published works, was published posthumously in 1992. The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde was published in 1997.

Study Guides on Works by Audre Lorde

To understand Audre Lorde's poetry, one just has to be sincere. She's not writing anything incredibly profound, but she is writing the truth. Based on her own experiences, Lorde writes to dispel the lies which people tell themselves. She was a...