A Timely Collection of Vital Writing by Audre Lorde

“The Selected Works of Audre Lorde,” edited by Roxane Gay, arrives at a time when the poet, essayist and memoirist has rarely been more influential — or misunderstood.

By PARUL SEHGAL

In her public appearances, Audre Lorde famously introduced herself the same way: “I am a Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” There were occasional variations. “I am a Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet doing my work, coming to ask you if you’re doing yours,” she’d sometimes say. But there was always that garland of identifiers — and not just because she couldn’t be defined by one word. She wanted, as Angela Davis said, to “demystify the assumption that these terms cannot inhabit the same space: Black and lesbian, lesbian and mother, mother and warrior, warrior and poet.”

Lorde died in 1992, at 58. She left riches: poems, essays and two genre-defining memoirs, “Zami” and “The Cancer Journals.” Her work is an estuary, a point of confluence for all identities, all aspects kept so strenuously segregated: poetry and politics, feeling and analysis, analysis and action, sexuality and the intellect.

“There is, for me, no difference between writing a good poem and moving into sunlight against the body of a woman I love,” she once wrote.

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