Audre Lorde, The First Cities


Audre Lorde, The First Cities

With an introduction by Diane de Prima. New York: The Poets Press, 1968.

First edition, 32 unnumbered pp. Printed golden wrappers, stapled, with sticker ghost in upper corner and light stains to top edge, otherwise a good clean copy.


Audre Lorde's first book of poems, concerned in particular with her experiences as a young mother—with an undercurrent of desire for other women—and marked by the rhythm of the changing seasons. The feminist poet Diane de Prima writes a brief, glowing introduction.

In her life as well as her afterlife, Audre Lorde’s (1934-1992) words are at once a rallying cry for the vulnerable, the oppressed, the sick-and-tired-of-being-sick-and-tired, and a masterclass in channelling the rage of those experiences to imagine new worlds. Lorde’s emphasis on the relationship between class, race, gender, and sexual orientation were intersectional before the word was coined, drawing attention to the crushing effects of capitalism on people of color, on a global scale. But she was also an early critic of the racist and homophobic brand of white, middle-class feminism that characterized Betty Freidan’s brand of Women’s Liberation and continues to dominate the movement today. Her wisdom is, for better or for worse, timeless. On personal health: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” On speaking truth to power: “Your silence will not protect you.” On the reality of institutional power: “The master’s tools will not dismantle the master’s house.” But it is her poetry, as inaugurated here in The First Cities, that balances her sharp, critical eye and activist’s voice— her knack for uniting the personal with the political in each poem—with an appreciation for beauty, a love of life, and room for its enjoyment. If her prose writings in—for example—Sister Outsider have been influential in educating and shaping the frontlines of black, lesbian, feminist activism in the 20th and 21st century, then Lorde’s poetry provides the space, the safe harbor for those same activists—a such place of rest is equally vital.


Audre Lorde, The Cancer Journals (San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1980).

Audre Lorde, Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (Watertown, MA: Persephone Press, 1982).

Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (Trumansburg, NY: The Crossing Press, 1984).

Audre Lorde, I Am Your sister: Collected and Unpublished Writings of Audre Lorde (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).

Audre Lorde, Your Silence Will Not Protect You: Essays and Poems (London: Silver Press, 2017).

Brooke Palmieri