Celebrate National Poetry Month with one feminist poem a day

national poetry month

In a 1980 interview with the American Poetry Review, poet and activist Audre Lorde said the following of the importance of poetry in American life:

Poetry is an absolute necessity of our living because it delineates . . . it the beginning of that process by which we insure the future because we know so much more than we understand. We must first examine our feelings for questions, because all the rest has been programmed. We have been taught how to understand, and in terms that will insure not creativity, but the status quo. If we are looking for something which is new and something which is vital, we must look first into the chaos within ourselves. That will help us in the directions that we need to go–that’s why our poetry is so essential, is so vital. Now whether poetry has the responsibility to effect social change . . . it doesn’t really matter. As we get in touch with the things that we feel are intolerable, in our lives, they become more and more intolerable. If we just once dealt with how much we hate most of what we do, there would be no holding us back from changing it.

Every April, we set aside time to celebrate craft and power of poetry in American society with National Poetry Month. This year, we’re joining in by bringing you a poem a day by feminist poets in flesh and spirit. To kick things off, check out Lorde’s poem “A Litany For Survival” from her 1978 collection The Black Unicorn after the jump. 

A LITANY FOR SURVIVAL

For those of us who live at the shoreline
standing upon the constant edges of decision
crucial and alone
for those of us who cannot indulge
the passing dreams of choice
who love in doorways coming and going
in the hours between dawns
looking inward and outward
at once before and after
seeking a now that can breed
futures
like bread in our children’s mouths
so their dreams will not reflect
the death of ours:

For those of us
who were imprinted with fear
like a faint line in the center of our foreheads
learning to be afraid with our mother’s milk
for by this weapon
this illusion of some safety to be found
the heavy-footed hoped to silence us
For all of us
this instant and this triumph
We were never meant to survive.

And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
of indigestion
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak
remembering
we were never meant to survive

- Audre Lorde

sm-bio Syreeta McFadden is a co curator of Poets In Unexpected Places.

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