Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry: Explained, OYA, by AUDRE LORDE

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

OYA, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

The poem "Oya" by Audre Lorde, written in 1973, is a multifaceted reflection on the complexities of familial relationships, desire, and power dynamics. Invoking the name of Oya, a goddess in Yoruba mythology associated with wind, storms, and transformation, the poem engages deeply with themes of emotional turbulence and profound change. Through its imagery and symbolism, the work delves into the ambivalence and volatility often inherent in human connections, as well as the destructive yet transformative potential of emotional extremes.

The poem opens with a vivid nocturnal scene that serves as a metaphorical backdrop for the struggles of the speaker's father, "discovered at midnight," returning from "tightening circles of anger" and "the inelegant safeties of power." The phrasing here captures the father's emotional and existential quandaries. Power, though it provides a sense of safety, is presented as inelegant and limiting. The reference to midnight signifies both an end and a beginning, a time when bravado fades, and raw, unfiltered emotions come to the fore.

The second stanza shifts the focus to the speaker's mother, described as "asleep on her thunders." This oxymoronic image suggests that her inner emotional storms are, at least for the moment, dormant. But even in her sleep, she holds onto her "weapons" and "Hymns of dream," suggesting a preparedness or perhaps a resilience built over time.

The image of the melon in the first stanza, "your strength / splits like a melon / dropped on the prisoners' floor," is particularly compelling. This symbol serves as an emblem for vulnerability-the hard exterior of the melon shatters upon impact, revealing the inner fruit. Similarly, the illusion of emotional or physical strength is easily fractured, leaving behind a more complex, often messy, reality. The melon's split also reflects the division and disarray within the family dynamic.

"Midnight glows a jeweled love / at the core of broken fruit" is perhaps one of the most evocative lines of the poem. Even amidst shattered illusions and emotional upheaval, love persists-resilient and precious but inevitably accompanied by a sense of loss or brokenness.

The closing lines of the poem take a startling turn, expressing both love and frustration in an urgent plea to be freed "before I destroy us." This admission of potential self-destructiveness suggests an awareness of the emotional maelstrom within the speaker, mirrored by the reference to Oya, the goddess of storms and transformation. It hints at the urgency and desperation to change or be changed before the destructive aspects of love and emotional intensity wreak havoc.

In "Oya," Audre Lorde masterfully navigates the turbulent waters of emotional complexity, illuminating the dark corners of familial relationships, desire, and power. The poem becomes a lyrical microcosm for broader questions about human vulnerability, the double-edged nature of love and power, and the transformative potential of emotional extremes. Drawing on the mythological, the personal, and the universal, Lorde crafts a work of art that stands as a compelling testament to the intricacies of the human heart.

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