Notes on Lorde & Allison

Reading Audre Lorde “Poetry is Not a Luxury” and Dorothy Allison “Deciding to Live” for Writing with Pamela Sneed.

Powerful and inspiring. Some reflective notes….



“…the hidden stories of my life that lay in disguise behind the mocking stories I did tell – all the stories of my family, my childhood, and the restless deadening poverty and shame I had always tried to hide.” Dorothy Allison

This quote makes me think about my own family stories of sickness, mental illness, abandonment, run-aways, death, and crises. As a child, I was mortified by what other’s saw of our “crazy family”. As adults we have a joke about the Xanos rain cloud hovering over, ready to deliver the next crisis. See, that’s what we do, we re-tell the stories, but make them funny because they are so tragic that it becomes ridiculous. Like how my grandmother cursed me before I was even born. Though she took it back, I was born sickly and have lived a life of chronic illness.  This curse darkened the days of my own children, who had to grow up with a sick mother. Somehow, I was named for this same grandmother and she loved me dearly, teaching me to read Greek, crochet, knit, embroider, and sew. We LOVE this story and tell it over and over as evidence of her renowned cursing powers (she was very good at cursing others too).  Sometimes we tell the stories around the true heroines, the damaged and powerful women who loved and nurtured us through it all. We tell the stories of my dad, nurturing, loving, cultured and bossy as all hell. Sometimes we rage and scream and blame. Sometimes there are the stories we dare not speak about, or only do so in pained soft voices, not saying all that needs to be said.

“What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day until you sicken and die of them?” Audre Lorde

This question touched me on so many levels. As a south-side Chicagoan, as a single mother, as a woman knowing the privilege of my skin who loves her students who do not have that privilege, and so rightly rage. As a teacher of young artists coping with the murders of our youth, with the murders of their own classmates, we swallow the tyrannies of this violence in our own streets. This touched me because we have just been rocketed into a nation of explosively expressed tyranny, one that has shook me to the core. I always knew this tyranny existed, but the sudden, sheer ruthless national joy of its acceptance has me furious. This quote has touched me because I believe that we cannot swallow these tyrannies and must fight, fight, fight; through our art, through our words, through our actions.

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