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The Marvelous Arithmetics of Distance: Poems, 1987-1992

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  346 ratings  ·  22 reviews
This collection, 39 poems written between 1987 and 1992, is the final volume by "a major American poet whose concerns are international, and whose words have left their mark on many lives,” in the words of Adrienne Rich. Audre Lorde (1934-1992) was the author of ten volumes of poetry and five works of prose. She was named New York State Poet in 1991; her other honors inclu ...more
Paperback, 72 pages
Published August 17th 1994 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 1993)
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Matthew Mousseau
Jun 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Rushing headlong
into new silence
your face
dips on my horizon
the name
of a cherished dream
riding my anchor
one sweet season
to cast off
on another voyage

No reckoning allowed
save the marvelous arithmetic
of distance
- Smelling the Wind, pg. 3

* * *

Gloria has a permit
to change the earth
plucks flies
from the air
while discussing
is taken for local
in a lot
of different places.
- Building, pg. 26

* * *

The cockroach
who is dying
and the woman
who is blind
not to notice
each other's shame.
- Kitchen Linoleu
Dec 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
My friend Jean gave me The Marvelous Arithmetic of Distance 25 years ago. I know because she xxx the book for me. If you'd asked me, I would have said that she'd given it to me 10-15 years ago, but she has been dead for six years now. Marvelous Arithmetichas sat in my bathroom, then by my bed for those 25 years, waiting for me to open her.

Jean was a poet (among other things) and wanted to share her love of poetry with me – as well as other books that she enjoyed. She gave me a book of Mary Olive
Dec 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Really feeling her spacing and phrasing. fuck!
May 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
“100,000 bees make a sturdy hive
ready three days after the moon is full
we cut honey.

Our hot knives slice the caps of wax
from each heavy frame
dark pollened richness drips
from the laden combs.

Sadiq loads the extractor
Curtis leveling the spin.
Sweet creeps like bees
through each crack of hot air.

Outside the honey house
hungry drones cluster
low-voiced and steady
we strain the flow laughing
drunk with honey.

Before twilight
long rows of bottles stand
labeled and waiting.

Tomorrow we make a living
two dollars a
Jan 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Not my favorite collection by one of my favorite poets, but still full of lines I would never see from another writer and poems that take me deep into whatever it is poems are. Interesting period politics--apartheid, East Berlin, Jesse Helms--and a testament to art, memory, and survival. This book came late in her life, and I wonder how I'll feel differently when I read this book late in my life. ...more
Mar 28, 2021 rated it really liked it
These poems are really grounded in what matters. I felt like I was getting to know Lorde personally and I'm starting to understand why people feel such an intimate connection with her. On the downside, I frequently had no idea what a given poem was about. I would have liked a bit more signposting of where stuff was happening and who was there. (Yes, I know, I have feet of clay. But that's what I like.) ...more
Sameer Vasta
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This reflection was originally published on and references the following books:

- A Poetry Handbook , by Mary Oliver
- Citizen: An American Lyric , by Claudia Rankine
- Islands of Decolonial Love , by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
- The Marvelous Arithmetics of Distance , by Audre Lorde
- Summons: Poems from Tanzania
- This Accident of Being Lost , by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson
- Upstream , by Mary Oliver

**** **** ****

"The best use of literature bends not toward the
Nov 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2017, poetry
And with this, I close out my Audre Lorde poetry excursion. This collection was written towards the end of her life, when she was struggling with cancer, so while there are some poems dealing with race and politics and change and injustice, it also deals a lot with personal loss, and memory, and death, and I found those to be the most poignant, knowing that the lines "How hard it is to sleep in the middle of life" and "I can't just sit here staring death in her face blinking and asking for a new ...more
The Marvelous Arithmetics of Distance makes for a breathtaking volume of poetry. Although it is short, it packs a punch, and I would absolutely recommend it.

The poems flow from one technically beautiful piece to the next. The language used is deliberate, and packs a hefty punch. One of the final poems in the book speaks of her feelings on dying (these were the poems she wrote in the years leading up to her death, as she struggled with cancer), and it was by far the best poem in the volume. That
Jan 31, 2021 rated it it was amazing
“the whole earth is trembling / and no one is talking”
so many lines, phrases, breaks and pauses that hit me. very, very rich poems. Leaves me thinking of trains, honey, death, the moon, and the absolute sacredness of it all. like she writes in the electric slide boogie, “how hard it is to sleep/ in the middle of life.” truly a voice we’d be lost without
Feb 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Intimidatingly brilliant. And, not an easy read. Lorde has a deceptively fluid and lyrical voice that belies the musculature of her thoughts. She is all that it means to be a modern woman, and more.
Feb 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, poetry
concrete. trains. elegies.
Oct 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
My personal favorites: Making love to concrete, Dear Joe, Lunar eclipse, Girlfriend, and For Craig.
This is a marvelous collection indeed
Dec 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: all-american, poetry
Beautiful and true....
S.G. Huerta
May 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, poetry
“Inheritance— His” is one of my all-time favorite poems. Such a powerful collection
Sarah M.
Apr 13, 2020 rated it liked it
I'm very picky when it comes to poetry and this hit the mark. It was a short, enjoyable read. I'd recommend this to anyone who enjoys Audre Lorde's other work, or any black feminist theory and art. ...more
Jun 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Technically, this is a reread. I read this ages ago and wanted to reread it because I remembered that I liked it but not why. Now I remember. It's Lorde, herself.
May 07, 2008 rated it liked it
I really like the way Lorde combines elegies for her parents, herself, and her friends with larger elegies for political atrocities. A nice melding of the personal and the political, although I have to admit (reluctantly) to preferring the personal in this collection.
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Audre Lorde was a revolutionary Black feminist. Lorde's poetry was published very regularly during the 1960s — in Langston Hughes' 1962 New Negro Poets, USA; in several foreign anthologies; and in black literary magazines. During this time, she was politically active in civil rights, anti-war, and feminist movements. Her first volume of poetry, The First Cities (1968), was published by the Poet's ...more

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