Heteronormativity can blow me: … and Audre Lorde reminds me why (spurred by a Kinky Thoughts entry that I remembered when looking back through an old page’s link to a review of “The Day Lady Died,” a classic Frank O’Hara jam and then the archive where I got all that Mark Doty stuff from last week:
Claudia Tate: I am frequently jarred by my sometimes unconscious attempt to identify the sex of the person addressed in the poem. Since I associate the speaker’s voice with you, and since I’m not always conscious that you are a lesbian, the jarring occurs when I realize the object of affection is likewise a woman. I’m certain this disturbance originates in how society defines love in terms of heterosexuality. So if we are to see love as a “universal” concept, society pressures us to see it as heterosexual.
Audre Lorde: 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.