The quality of light by which we scrutinize our lives has a direct bearing upon the product which we live, and upon the changes which we hope to bring about through those lives. It is within this light that we form those ideas by which we pursue our magic and make it realized. This poetry is illumination, for it is through poetry that we give name to those ideas which are-until the poem- nameless and formless, about to be birthed, but already felt. That distillation of experience from which true poetry springs births thought as dream births concept, as feeling births idea, as knowledge births and precedes understanding.
As we learn to bear the intimacy of scrutiny and to flourish within it, as we learn to use the products of that scrutiny for power within our living, those fears which rule our lives and form our silences begin to lose their control over us.
For women, then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams towards survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.
Possibility is neither forever or instant.
However, experience has taught us that action in the now is also necessary, always. Our children cannot dream unless they live, they cannot live unless they are nourished, and who else will feed them the real food without which their dreams will be no different from ours? “If you want us to change the world someday, we at least have to live long enough to grow up!” shouts the child.
But women have survived. As poets. And there are no new pains. We have felt them all already. WE have hidden that fact in the same place we have hidden our power. They surface in our dreams, and it is our dreams that point the way to freedom. Those dreams are made realizable through our poems that give us the strength and courage to see, to feel, to speak, and to dare.
I feel, therefore I can be free
If what we need to dream, to move our spirits most deeply and directly toward and through promise, is discounted as luxury, then we give up the core-the fountain-of our power, our womanness; we give up the future of our worlds.
For there are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.
This post is an excerpt from the essay Poetry Is Not a Luxury published in the book Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde. 2007
Hopefully, this essay reminds someone of their strength and gives them the courage to express themselves and be fearless.