Letters Home

Dear Ms. Lorde,
My name is Monica Naesea and I am a junior English major at Bennett College for women. I wanted to write you this letter just to tell you what an inspiration you have been to me throughout my education.
First let me just that you r poetry is magnificent. However, it’s the story of you that most inspires me. Through all you trials and tribulations being a mother, lesbian, feminist writer you never hid from any of it. You teach your readers that to hide is not healthy. The world must accept you regardless of what imperfection you may have. You also shared this idea in “The Cancer Journals.”
Again I just want to thank you for letting me know that it is ok to be me.

Monica Naesea

Dear Audre Lorde,

I think it was brilliant of you to change your name. Dropping the y shows character at an early age, this is mostly like why you became a feminist, theorist, poet, and essayist. I have also changed my name from Taryn Nichelle-Journée Dove to Taryn-Nichelle Journée Dove. I realize this is not a major change, however, at the age of fourteen, it gave me a sense of control over my life. If one has nothing else, they have their faith, soul/spirit, and name. Therefore when people misspell or pronounce my name, I cannot help but to protest. When I die I want my legacy, contributions, and my beautiful and rare name left behind.

Not only do I think you are one of the most phenomenal poets as far as African American poets are concerned, but I also believe we have several similarities. For example, I also attended Catholic elementary schools in both Washington D.C. and Denver, Colorado. That experience is the reason for my curiosity in religion and spirituality today. I love the serenity and quietness of the Catholic Church, where my soul was calm, peaceful, and at rest. However, my soul is also longing and wild, where I enjoy the experience of the Black church, specifically African Methodist Episcopal Zion. For some reason I feel that you also had both a restless and wild spirit, that everyday of your life was an adventure, and there was so much energy inside of you, if not shared or released, you felt as if you would burst open with excitement. Another similarity we both have is the slight speech impairment. Because I grew up in the mid-west I spoke very fast, which resulted in stuttering when speaking. Therefore I wrote poetry to express myself, instead of verbally.

You once said that “consciousness as a woman, a black lesbian feminist mother lover poet all I am.” People have tried to analyze the quote, giving their own opinions to what you may have meant. However, I wish you were still alive that you might explain your own quote; writers should explain the meanings of their own works. I am child of God, woman, daughter, sister, lover, imaginative, wanderer, poet, dancer, and that is all of me. However, I have yet to make other accomplishments such as obtaining am undergraduate and graduate degree, uniting with the man of God’s choice, and motherhood. When I write, dance, imagine, and love that is from my soul, which is the very core of me, and so much more. No one can ever touch that place, so much more is only what God has touched. Although I do not know what it feels like to be a victim of cancer, I know what it feels like to have a strong spirit trapped in a weak body. This ball of flesh is so easily broken, burned, torn, and tarnished. However, I believe your spirit was so much stronger than your flesh, which is why it ended the contract with your body and went where it could be forever young, strong, beautiful, and at peace.

To be perfectly honest, I started reading your work in my junior year in college, and I could not believe I had lived almost 20 years without reading Audre Lorde. I have to defend myself in saying that I have always enjoyed reading fantasy, there is such a ‘mazeness’ about curling up in a blanket and reading Mists of Avalon or Elphame’s Choice. However, sometimes it is important to read about the “real” in the world” with “real” people and their “real” problems. That is what your poems have been for me; the “real” world, people, and their problems, you have given me, the reader, all of yourself, nothing more or less. And I truly thank you for giving the world yourself, your poetry, soul, and life. Although it was for a short amount of time, thank you for allowing the world to be apart of your life. Thank you for inspiring me, encouraging me, teaching me, advising me, and loving me through your poetry although we are more than fifty years apart. Your poetry is for me, and all the other young women who need to know, out of all the people who will come in and out of our lives, there is one person who gave of herself unconditionally. Again thank you, and always be Heavenly blest.

Forever and Sincerely,

Taryn-Nichelle J. Dove

To Audre Lorde:

My name is (anonymous) and I am a student at Bennett Colege for Women. Recently we have read your poetry and learned about your struggles with cancer. Through both, it has caused me to realize that many others think the way that I do. It has made me speak more instead of keeping my silence. But with you gone, there are many questions I have to ask.

Why are there still so many crimes against black women by our men? Why do they do this? Is it because they have to feel empowered and that is their way? Does it come from slavery..seeing the white man’s attacks on us…somewhat makes it okay? Lately we had a situation in Dunbar Village where a group of our young black men raped, beat up and blinded a mother and her young son for more than 3 hours. The most horrifying part was that the black male leaders of today ignored that and in an effort to get bail for the boys…started calling the boys victims. I will never understand fully the working of the human mind, but I would like to know why it works… theirs works the way it does.

Is violence against women natural? Is it because we are taught to be submissive that that means that anything that is done to us is our fault and their right? How do we…how do I combat this? I fear that for every woman that fights back there are a hundred more that ignore the abuse. You say it is better to speak than to remain silent, but what is the point when only a few hear, and of those, most do nothing?


Dear Ms. Lorde,

With every passing day of one’s life one comes in contact with the Great Debater, Sir Choice. In ever action, every movement, every thought there is a choice involved. In the morning we choose what shoes to wear, how to wear our hair, and whether or not we want to wear make-up. Choices are undoubtedly a part of life. Yet each day there are those who struggle with life choices and make what many consider “wrong choices.” What is it that separates the good choice makers from the bad? Is it a single choice individually made or a lump sum of them rolled together?

Whenever I am faced with a choice that I know without a doubt is going to change my life, I quake with fear. With such choices there is no way to undo the damage already done. However it is not that that frightens me the most. No, it is the unknown that makes me wake up up in a sweat at night. For with every choice decision there are 101 possible outcomes, each more frightening than the last. What makes the unknown so frightening? Is it , like a fear, the slipping of control? Is it, like I fear, control that is so important to human beings?

With every choice and decision made, I try not to take for granted its beauty, its privilege. Yet I can’t help but be afraid. And so with this I come to you for aid.


Sara Bodison

Dear Ms. Lorde

….Life after death, is that true? They teach us to believe and to have faith but tell me is it worth it in the end. I just want to know. Sometimes I wish we could live forever, but sometimes haveing to go through struggle I don’t. Sometimes I believe living on earth is living hell but on some days it could feel like heaven. Tell me, as the song says, if heaven was a mile a way should I pack up my bags and leave this world behind?

Raye Roundtree

Dear Audre Lorde,

….Right now I am at a crossroad, confused about which way to go. It seems as if I make myself invisible in society by shutting out others from my life. Have you ever been confused? On one side I see light and on the other side I see darkness, of course I choose the dark side. I need help finding out what life is and what it means.

Sometimes I feel as if no one is listening to me. Or maybe I just assume that no one is. Voice is a strong instrument and I know it can be heard, but I rather let my paper listen and my pen talk because it does not respond with negative answers. My thoughts run freely, not being criticized by others, they just are there. letting out frustration within my brain.

I have questions that need answers, but how can they be answered if they are not asked? Death is a word that constantly runs though my brain. When will I go? I know you don’t know that answer, but one person does. Why do our black young men drop out of school so they can make that quick change? We have answers to that question, but not accurate ones, we would have to talk to a young black male. But then again his answers are pretty much predictable.

Why do tears appear in my eyes, but do not fall? I guess I can answer that also because I do not let anyone see that I am weak. I know that they let out pain, frustration, sadness, but wont my problems still be there tomorrow? See Ms. Audre Lorde, I said I have questions, but I even asnwered them in my own letter. I have a problem letting people in to critique and anwer any of my questions.

I am a young female hurting from death, pain and loss. I take on others problems without even thinking to solve my own first. My heart is damaged, nightmares not when I dream, but when I’m awake. Terror, fright and pain roam in my mind daily.

The letter goes unfinished….


dear audre,

where did you find the pieces of brave to thread around your throat…to amplify your vision?

how did you make the cliffs of not knowing, the spaces between legibility, the haphazardous teaching gigs and paid writing into a place that you could live?

why did you know how to love, how to hold? what was the map of your body like? when did pleasure become a pathway?

what do you think are the costs to seeing “clearly”? what might be the political ramifications if I get lazer surgery on my near-sighted eyes?  what should I be eating? Who should I be talking to?  what buildings should i avoid if i want to be well?

what do you write when people really, truly disappoint you?

are you ever disappointed in me?

how were you able to stand in front of armed police with loaded guns and teach them how to write? i am afraid of my students and all they have are cell phones that they will not put away.

is it okay with you that i say your name and quote your work every single day?

is it okay that i write your poems and cloth and wear you to speak, bead your advice into makeshift necklaces?

are you tired from the constant work you are doing in my soul?

do you like my dissertation?

tell me somehow if you get this. whisper on a wind.  send a song over internet radio.  make a noise in the mouths of my students.  send a revelation to my sister.  give a kiss to my grandmother.  just tell me that you hear this.  i know you are there.

love always,


Published on June 10, 2008 at 10:54 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Dearest Audre,

    I think when I dream, it is your imagery which unfolds for me. How beautiful to walk in a world where being a black, mother, lesbian, poet, artist, womanist is allowed to all sit side by side and hand in hand. I have had dreams where we have sat and talked, but I had to take notes and digest them in my sleep.

    Thank you for saying that the truth must be spoken even at the risk of having it misunderstood. Such power in knowing we have no control over how it’s received; the important part is that we speak our truth, out loud.

    Thank you for your sanctuary of words.


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