The Black Unicorn by Audre Lorde (Norton)
Audre Lorde is a renowned feminist, lesbian and activist — all roles and elements of identity that she brings into her ten collections of poetry and five volumes of prose. The Black Unicorn, published in 1978, highlights her voice as one that challenges preconceived notions of gender, sexuality and race.
The title poem, “The Black Unicorn,” immediately introduces several of the collection’s themes and captures Lorde’s use of symbolism to construct meaning:
Several of the poems in the collection focus on race — the dynamics and politics within the African American community, blatant and oblique forms of racism and their impact, race as a factor of identity, and the cultural and ancestral implications of race.
In “A Woman Speaks,” Lorde focuses on the perspective of an African American woman who is almost forced to introduce or explain herself and her role in society by both what she is and what she is not:
Though many of the poems here do capture the unique and wide ranging perspective of African American women, several also explore the struggles and triumphs of African American men.
“Eulogy for Alvin Frost” begins with the startling line, “Black men bleeding to death inside themselves,” and then moves to address Frost’s surviving son:
Lorde also leaves room for love and several of the poems here focus on her intimacy with women. In “Recreation,” she writes about the discovery of love through poetry and the body:
The Black Unicorn is a tremendous and powerful collection of poetry and a reliable introduction to this powerful, inspiring and important mind.