Power Poem Summary & Analysis

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About the Poem “Power” 

Poem TitlePower
AuthorAudre Lorde
Year of publication1978
FormFree verse
StyleVivid imagery, metaphor, and emotive language
SpeakerThe poet
AudienceThe reader
ToneDefiant, assertive, and empowering
ThemesPower, identity, womanhood, and resistance
Major symbolsThe sun, the moon, the stars, and the sea
Key conceptsSelf-definition, self-love, and the power of women to create and transform

Themes of Power

The themes of Audre Lorde’s poem “Power” are:

  1. Women’s power  The poem celebrates the power of women, both individually and collectively.
  2. Power and Oppression ➤ The poem explores how people are affected by power dynamics and oppression, especially related to race and gender.
  3. Empowerment ➤ It emphasizes the importance of finding inner strength and standing up against oppressive systems.
  4. Resistance ➤ The poem encourages individuals to resist and challenge societal constraints and discrimination.
  5. Life and Death ➤ It discusses the serious consequences of not confronting oppression, suggesting that it can be a matter of life and death.
  6. Identity: The poem touches on issues of identity and the impact of power on one’s sense of self.

“Power” Poem by Audre Lorde

The difference between poetry and rhetoric

is being ready to kill


instead of your children.

I am trapped on a desert of raw gunshot wounds

and a dead child dragging his shattered black

face off the edge of my sleep

blood from his punctured cheeks and shoulders

is the only liquid for miles

and my stomach

churns at the imagined taste while

my mouth splits into dry lips

without loyalty or reason

thirsting for the wetness of his blood

as it sinks into the whiteness

of the desert where I am lost

without imagery or magic

trying to make power out of hatred and destruction

trying to heal my dying son with kisses

only the sun will bleach his bones quicker.

A policeman who shot down a ten year old in Queens

stood over the boy with his cop shoes in childish blood

and a voice said “Die you little motherfucker” and

there are tapes to prove it. At his trial

this policeman said in his own defense

“I didn’t notice the size nor nothing else

only the color”. And

there are tapes to prove that, too.

Today that 37 year old white man

with 13 years of police forcing

was set free

by eleven white men who said they were satisfied

justice had been done

and one Black Woman who said

“They convinced me” meaning

they had dragged her 4’10” black Woman’s frame

over the hot coals

of four centuries of white male approval

until she let go

the first real power she ever had

and lined her own womb with cement

to make a graveyard for our children.

I have not been able to touch the destruction

within me.

But unless I learn to use

the difference between poetry and rhetoric

my power too will run corrupt as poisonous mold

or lie limp and useless as an unconnected wire

and one day I will take my teenaged plug

and connect it to the nearest socket

raplng an 85 year old white woman

who is somebody’s mother

and as I beat her senseless and set a torch to her bed

a greek chorus will be singing in 3/4 time

“Poor thing. She never hurt a soul. What beasts they are.”

Power Summary & Analysis

Audre Lorde’s poem “Power” is a thought-provoking work that delves into the complexities of power and oppression, particularly in the context of race and gender. The poem consists of 5 stanzas, each contributing to the overall message.

Stanza 1

Lorde begins her poem by defining the difference between poetry and rhetoric. She says that poetry is about being willing to kill oneself instead of one’s children. This is a powerful and provocative statement, and it immediately sets the tone for the poem. Lorde is suggesting that true poetry is not about self-aggrandizement or empty words. It is about speaking truth to power, even when it is difficult or dangerous to do so.

Stanza 2

In the second stanza, Lorde describes the graphic and haunting images that plague her after a police officer kills a young black boy in Queens. She is trapped in a desert of violence and death, and the only liquid for miles is the blood of the dead child. Lorde’s language is visceral and raw, and it conveys the deep pain and anger that she feels.

Stanza 3

The third stanza provides more context for the poem. Lorde explains that the police officer who killed the boy was acquitted by a jury of eleven white men and one black woman. The black woman on the jury was the only one who voted to convict, and Lorde suggests that she was pressured to change her vote by the white men. Lorde is outraged by the injustice of the situation, and she feels that the black woman on the jury has betrayed her own people.

Stanza 4

In the fourth stanza, Lorde reflects on her own power and how she can use it to make a difference. She says that she must learn to use her power wisely, otherwise it will become corrupted like poisonous mold or lie limp and useless like an unconnected wire. Lorde knows that she has a responsibility to speak out against injustice and to fight for the rights of her people.

Stanza 5

In the final stanza, Lorde imagines a future in which she uses her power to challenge the status quo. She imagines herself raping an 85-year-old white woman and setting fire to her bed. This is a shocking and violent image, but Lorde is using it metaphorically. She does not support violence against women, but rather a radical social change. Lorde believes that the only way to achieve true justice is to overthrow the oppressive system that benefits white men at the expense of everyone else.

FAQs from Power

What is the poem power and conflict about?

The poem “Power” by Audre Lorde is about the oppression of black people by white people, and the importance of using poetry to fight for justice.

What does power by Audre Lorde symbolize?

Power by Audre Lorde symbolizes the potential of poetry to challenge injustice and fight for liberation.

What is the conclusion of poem power?

Conclusion of the poem Power by Audre Lorde: Poetry can be a powerful tool for challenging injustice and fighting for social change.

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