Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry: Explained, RELEVANT IS DIFFERENT POINTS ON THE CIRCLE, by AUDRE LORDE

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

RELEVANT IS DIFFERENT POINTS ON THE CIRCLE, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography

"Relevant Is Different Points On The Circle" by Audre Lorde, written in 1971, addresses the issue of history and its role in shaping personal and collective identity. The poem encapsulates the complexities of remembering and learning from the past while also grappling with the present and looking toward the future. It underscores the dynamic interplay between individual experience and larger sociopolitical contexts, set against the backdrop of an America where "other people live."

The opening lines invoke history as a teacher, blessing the speaker "with my children's growing rebellion / with love in another tongue." Here, history is not just a litany of facts but a dynamic force that informs present-day struggles and passions. It provides a legacy for the speaker's children, whose "growing rebellion" is an affirmation of their agency. They inherit a love "in another tongue," perhaps referring to the nuanced and diverse cultural heritages they bear, or perhaps to love that defies conventional language, symbolizing resistance and hope.

Lorde goes on to introduce a series of natural images, which serve as metaphors for her message. She mentions the "fabled memory of elephants," evoking themes of wisdom and collective memory that extend beyond human lifetimes. The idea that "the bird forgets but the trap doesn't" portrays history as an unyielding force that does not forget transgressions. In contrast, the speaker will be "buried with the bones of an eagle," an embodiment of freedom and vision but tinged with "fierce detachment," perhaps alluding to the sacrifices made for such freedom.

The line, "This is a country where other people live," serves as a stark reminder that America is a land with various intersecting histories and experiences. It calls attention to the erasure and marginalization of narratives that do not fit the dominant discourse. Here, Lorde subtly critiques the monolithic notion of American history, highlighting the absence of stories of Indigenous people, immigrants, and others who also claim the country as home.

The poem concludes with more layered symbolism: "When agate replaces dead wood / slowly opal and bone become one." This transformation illustrates the intricate relationship between the past and present-how history, even when calcified and seemingly static, continues to evolve. The mention of "A phoenix named Angela" likely alludes to Angela Davis, a prominent activist, and scholar, embodying resurrection and hope. Lorde then notes the ongoing eradication of bison herds in "the federal canyons of Yellowstone Park," which serves as a metaphor for the destruction of native cultures and ecosystems in the relentless push for so-called progress.

In "Relevant Is Different Points On The Circle," Audre Lorde presents a complex, nuanced view of history as both a teacher and a testament to the struggles and triumphs that have shaped us. Through her vivid imagery and poignant critique, she encourages us to confront the multiple layers of our past to understand our present better and envision a more inclusive future.

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