Notes: The noted poet writes to Galen Williams of the 92nd St Y Poetry Center and the founder of Poets & Writers. The two letters are:
1. Autograph letter, signed (ALS), about 125 words, dated 5/18/69, signed "Audre," on her letterhead.
At the time she wrote this letter, Lorde had published her first book and was gaining a critical reputation as a poet. She would later describe herself as a "black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet." In this letter she declines an inquiry about teaching for a semester or a year at an unnamed Black college. "Dearly as I would love to, 5 weeks is about my limit," she writes. Lorde instead recommends Nikki Giovanni and June Meyer, supplying their addresses. She then goes on to put in a plug for Jackie Early, described as "also a young woman, black, good poet."
The second half of the letter describes a reading Lorde had at Bemus Point, New York. "I'm still a little high from those gorgeous, alive children... It's at times like this that I really know that what I'm doing is a good, necessary, and meaningful thing!"
2. Typed letter, signed, about 200 words, signed "Audre," on her letterhead (different from the first letter).
This is a newsy letter, written in response to Williams sending a prospectus for a program called "Roots", most likely the short-lived (one issue) Black literary journal of that title published in 1970 at Texas Southern University, with faculty support from the Black dramatist Mance Williams. Lorde writes, "I am so pleased that you were able to help them get it off the ground. I've thought about them so often, but of course Mance, like me, is not noted for letter-writing."
In the second paragraph, she again refers to her reading at Bemus Point and a recent response from one of the attending students that "was so beautiful I cried."
The remainder of the letter talks about her teaching, her disappointment at not being asked to apply for a grant, and news about a British edition of her book Cables of Rage, and Wesleyan University Press's slow response to her new manuscript (apparently they passed on it later).
In all, a nice pair of early letters with revealing moments about Lorde's strong connection to her audience. Lorde (1934–1992) was a noted poet connected to Black civil rights movements in the 1960s and 1970s who also became an influential essayist on the intersection of race, gender, and sexual orientation. She was the New York poet laureate at the time of her death from cancer.
Edition + Condition: Both letters folded for mailing (no envelopes present), with Galen Williams's notations in a few places.
Publication: New York: 1969.
Item No: #360746