A NOTE ON THE TEXTS
THE FRAGMENTS AND DRAFTS that we have selected for this chapbook trace the labor of teaching as it stretches across the various realms of one person’s life. Audre Lorde’s reading lists, lesson plans and hastily penned notes on her students in class are mundane and extraordinary evidence of the breadth of a teacher’s work. In her essay, “Poet as Teacher–Human as Poet–Teacher as Human,” Lorde says, “I am a human being. I am a Black woman, a poet, mother, lover, teacher, friend, fat, shy, generous, loyal, crotchety. If I do not bring all of who I am to whatever I do, then I bring nothing, or nothing of lasting worth, for I have withheld my essence.”  The archival materials published here document Lorde’s intention to bring all of those identities into the classroom, and our transcriptions reflect the original documents in that we have faithfully rendered the originals as they appear, including any odd constructions and abbreviated thoughts. In our transcription of a draft chapter from the unpublished novel Deotha, we stayed as close as possible to Lorde’s texts, incorporating handwritten corrections as they appeared.
Throughout our work on this project, we have been teaching in the CUNY system, facing joys and deep frustrations that feel both consonant with and distinct from the experiences documented in this chapbook. Lorde’s teaching materials have served as our guide and inspire our actions in and outside of the classroom. We teach from a very different place than Lorde, because we are white and because we work in a different—though continuous—set of socio-historical conditions. Even so, the outlook for widely-accessible, well-funded, autonomous educational spaces seems as far away now as in Lorde’s time, and her words retain their urgent relevance. Lorde’s everyday struggles against the conditions of the institution are evident here, as well as in her widely known poetry and essays.
Lorde urges her students to define themselves in ways that will be of use in the world. She encourages them to identify with their own multiple selves, and in doing so, establish an activist practice deeply seated in self-knowledge. These archival materials allow us as editors, teachers, readers and students to imagine ourselves in Lorde’s classroom, and undergo our own political and intellectual transformations.
 Audre Lorde, “Poet as Teacher-Human as Poet-Teacher as Human” in I am Your Sister, ed. Rudolph P. Byrd, Johnnetta Betsch Cole, and Beverly Guy-Sheftall, (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009), 183.