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WINDS OF ORISHA, by             Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography


"Winds of Orisha" by Audre Lorde is a multi-layered text that traverses the landscapes of identity, mythology, transformation, and the subversion of dominant paradigms. Published in 1970, this poem remarkably blends elements of African spirituality and tradition with the lived experiences and challenges of diasporic communities, particularly black women. The work is divided into three distinct sections, each contributing to a nuanced exploration of change, resistance, and emergence.

In the first section, Lorde starts with the bold assertion that "This land will not always be foreign," signaling both an individual and collective longing for belonging and transformation. She interrogates the silence imposed upon women, asking how many ache to tell their stories or "split open" to plot their next moves. The invocation of Tiresias, a figure from Greek mythology who changes gender, implies a lengthy, transformative process but one that leads to power. By so doing, Lorde subtly insinuates that metamorphosis and power can emerge from seemingly disempowered states, and encourages hope for future generations, especially sons who might otherwise be instruments of patriarchy.

The second section of the poem is rife with references to the Orishas, deities from the Yoruba tradition, which serve as potent metaphors for forces of change and resistance. Mother Yemanja symbolizes the essence of motherhood and fertility; Oshun embodies love, beauty, and the waters; Shango is a god of thunder, power, and masculinity; while Oya is the deity of winds, tempests, and transformation. Lorde identifies with each of these deities, suggesting that the forces they represent live through her and her work, serving as a form of spiritual and political agency.

The final section critiques the traditional "wheat men" of the country, who are equated with greed, power, and oppression. They are presented as weary and fearful, their lives spent in futile pursuits that have left them spiritually barren. Yet, in this bleak landscape, Lorde imagines the subversive power of the Orishas emerging through the youth, disrupting the status quo. The phrase "they will read me / the dark cloud" exemplifies Lorde's self-positioning as a force that cannot be ignored, one that portends something "entire / and different."

"Winds of Orisha" is a complex tapestry, weaving the personal and political, the mythical and the mundane, into a robust narrative of resistance and change. It serves as an invocation, a battle cry, and a lullaby for those who dare to transform, to challenge, and to emerge anew. As the poem closes with the lines "When the winds of Orisha blow / even the roots of grass / quicken," it leaves us with the indelible impression that change is not only possible but inevitable, capable of awakening even the most deeply buried seeds of possibility.


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