I was given The Black Unicorn: Poems by Audre Lorde a few years ago as a Cannonball book exchange gift. Like so many of my books, it was misplaced for a bit (I am not the most organized person to be frank), but recently found it hidden among other lost souls. I started reading this collection of poetry from 1978 (my edition revised in 1995) in 2020 and finished last night (January 3, 2021). Took a whole year! (Okay, year jokes over).
Why did this take so long? It is a short collection for the most part. I like poetry, so it is not a chore to read. Except, while Lourde’s work is not a chore, it sometimes seems as if you need hazard pay! Her language is poetic, sometimes too poetic. It becomes almost abstract. References to entities I was not familiar with, pepper the poems (thankfully there is a glossary of names in the back. I would have, however, also like a pronunciation guide). The themes are ones I have not always experienced. Yes, I am a the rainbow of my family and female, but I am white, never married and no children. Plus, I have the luxury of people like Lorde come before me to make it a bit easier for me.
Still, I can relate and empathize with the intense stories of power, femininity and so much more written in each poem. I might not always understand everything said but appreciate every word. Most poems are on the shorter side, packing a lot into a handful of lines and stanzas. These are timeless themes but also themes that unfortunately have not changed. Ones that society and individuals are still fighting: to be female, black, queer, and powerful. The language Lorde created is both beautiful and harsh at the same time.
And while probably everyone should read this, it is not an easy read. You can only read a few poems at time and sometimes you will need to reread the same one multiple times. A friend of mine recommended that I read out loud a few of the poems as well, which helped immensely.