I just read about your death on Facebook and I want to write you a love letter. I’ll be honest, I no longer have your books on my shelf and I’ve never been an avid reader of poetry. But you were a beacon in my life at a very important moment – you helped to shape who I am and gave me a sense of hope that there was a direction I could head that would feel right and real. When I read that you had died I was flooded with memories of that time and of how grateful I am to you for what you gave me.
I want to share with you two memories. . .
I was sitting in a women’s poetry class in the late 80’s at a college that had virtually no feminist studies. We were reading a poem where you described your lover’s hands. My professor commented that you didn’t write about the erotic. I was dumbstruck, moved as I was by the language that seemed to capture my sexuality at that very moment. I felt as if I knew a secret that my professor didn’t know. I thank you for that secret and how I was able to keep it close to my heart as my queerness had no real place at my school or my family. I needed that secret to stay strong through the hard years of rejection.
My second memory is less specific but extends over a period of years as I tried to figure out what it means to be a white woman in this country. There were no white adults in my early years that could help me understand anything about racism except that it is not okay. But as I came to understand the depth of racial bigotry, the impact of structural racism, and the privilege of whiteness I knew I couldn’t just acknowledge this truth. I needed to do something more for the survival of my own dignity. Adrienne, you didn’t give me the road map to being a good person, and I still don’t know everything it means for me to be white, but your conversations with Audre Lourde gave me the permission to explore. Reading your conversations about poetry, racism and finding your voices kept me from getting stuck in that passive place that plagues so many white people.
Your words and actions came to me in moments that helped me be able to love myself and push myself to grow.
I love you,