Poetry Pairing: The Erotic

A friend shared a link to Audre Lorde on the erotic over at Modern American Poetry. The first section is an excerpt of her essay “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power.” The second section highlights part of a conversation between Audre Lorde and Claudia Tate. Rich details the necessity of realizing and understanding the power of the erotic within oneself:

…[O]nce we begin to feel deeply all the aspects of our lives, we begin to demand from ourselves and from our life-pursuits that they feel in accordance with that joy which we know ourselves to be capable of. Our erotic knowledge empowers us, becomes a lens through which we scrutinize all aspects of our existence, forcing us to evaluate those aspects honestly in terms of their relative meaning within our lives…

I sat with her words early yesterday morning, and then, in a twist of fate, I opened up my email to the Poets.org Poem-a-Day and read “The Erotic is a Measure Between” by Kyle Dargan. (link here because WordPress won’t format the link for some reason: http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/erotic-measure-between)

I am a citizen of this skin—that

alone—and yours is not to be

passed nor won. 

In his notes about this poem Dargan writes, ” I’ve kept Audre Lorde’s essay “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power” close by me ever since Nikky Finney introduced me to the work at the Cave Canem retreat many years ago. So much of sexuality is posited as something enacted upon women by hetero men. I wanted to complicate or challenge that notion. While re-reading Lorde’s essay in preparation for a panel discussion on taboo and sexuality in African-American poetry, a line from Lorde (which is now the title) gave me an avenue to attempt that.”

I now go back to the second section of Audre Lorde on the erotic and her words on “universal” love in literature: 

Yes, we’re supposed to see “universal” love as heterosexual. What I insist upon in my work is that there is no such thing as universal love in literature. There is this love in this poem. The poem happens when I, Audre Lorde, poet, deal with the particular instead of the “UNIVERSAL.” My power as a person, as a poet, comes from who I am. I am a particular person. The relationships I have had, in which people kept me alive, helped sustain me, were sustained by me, were particular relationships. They help give me my particular identity, which is the source of my energy. Not to deal with my life in my art is to cut out the fount of my strength.

And now I think about James Baldwin and his wisdom in his essay “As Much Truth As One Can Bear”:

The younger American Writers, then, to whom we shall, one day, be most indebted–and I shall name no names, make no prophecies–are precisely those writers who are compelled to take it upon themselves to describe us to ourselves as we now are.

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