Journaling with Audre Lorde

A lil’ sumn sumn to help with journal exercises. (*This is a snippet from my journal entry this morning)

I use this questionnaire that Divya Victor adapted from Audre Lorde’s Cancer Journals as a journal prompt on a regular basis. Whenever I feel stuck. Whenever I want to stir up new ideas and discover new complexities within myself, I turn to these prompts. I almost always have a piece of writing to build from after sitting down with this. The questionnaire gets me to move my pen and helps me become more intimate with my personal politics and helps me to examine my relationship with language.

There is a question: “What are the words you don’t have yet?” Each time I examine the things I do not have the words for I am reminded of the hard fact that language is political. English was forced into my tongue and is inherently anti- everything that I am. The words in the English language used to describe my identities do not describe me. The words used in English to describe my identities are not designed to help others see my personhood. These words exist to describe what types of violence are okay to do to me. How do I describe my experiences in a language that was forced on my ancestors ? A language that was never intended for me to express myself? I’m not too focused on grammar and “correct” English these days. My communication and articulation is not about respectability and showing off my grasp of the English language. I just don’t have the energy for that anymore.

The more I learn and unlearn, the more I learn past what I think I know-the more inarticulate I feel. Part of that is my inner critic, part of that is my inner supremacist. Got me out here silencing my own self.

Here is the questionnaire:

  1. What are the words you do not have yet? [Or, “for what do you not have words, yet?”]
  2. What do you need to say? [List as many things as necessary]
  3. What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? [List as many as necessary today. Then write a new list tomorrow. And the day after. ]
  4. If we have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language, ask yourself: “What’s the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?” [So, answer this today. And everyday.]