To protest is to strongly oppose something and act upon that disapproval. Protesting can be used in many different forms, such as a hunger strike or a mass petition. In Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich’s cases though, protesting was used through the form of lyric poetry with the poems “Sisters in Arms” and North American Time”. Lyric poetry is a great way to protest because it spreads awareness of the cause through creativity. The poet can write a poem based on the perspective of the victim or the one victimizing, which broadens the range of who the poem is affecting.
Audre Lorde’s “Sisters in Arms” protests the extreme racism that occurs in South America. The first stanza of the poem describes how little power she holds, even though she wants to help fight against the racism in South Africa. It seems that she’s telling her friend that she wanted to help in a violent protest, but wasn’t able to. She couldn’t “plant the other limpet mine against a wall at the railroad station” (9-10), even though she truly wanted to, assuming that the railroad station was ran by the whites in South Africa. Instead she sends her friend a ticket to travel to Durban. This shows the helplessness that the narrator has, because instead of putting a mine by the railroads, she’s supporting the railroads by buying her friend a ticket.
Furthermore in the next stanza, Lorde speaks of the silence of the media, specifically in America. She calls out the New York Times, saying that they “finally mention” (20) South Africa, but speak of the white South Africans dying, and not of the black children being massacred and imprisoned.
I was a bit confused about what Adrienne Rich’s “North American Time” was protesting. Right now, it seems the me the poem is protesting the act of misconstruing a poem for the wrong purposes. Rich expresses the fact that writing down words “become responsible and this is a verbal privilege” (25-26) because those words can have a great affect on the world. Those words “can be blazed on a wall in spraypaint” (19), symbolizing a certain movement or protest even though that’s not what the words were intended for.
Question 1: In “North American Time”, is Rich promoting the idea that it’s bad that one’s words can be used differently because words can also be used for good?
Question 2: In “Sisters in Arms”, is there anything else that Lorde is protesting?