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Pat Parker (January 20, 1944 - June 19, 1989 Houston, Texasmarker) was an African-American lesbian feminist poet.

Early life

Parker grew up working class poor in Third Ward, Houston, Texasmarker, a mostly African-American part of the city. Her mother (born Marie Louise Anderson) was a domestic worker , and Ernest Nathaniel Cooks, her father, retreaded tires.

When she was four years old, her family moved to Sunnyside, Houston, Texas.

She left home at seventeen, moved to Los Angeles, Californiamarker, earning an undergraduate degree there at Los Angeles City College, and a graduate degree at San Francisco State Collegemarker. She got married (to playwright Ed Bullins) in 1962. Parker and Bullens separated after four years and she alluded to her ex-husband as physically violent, and said she was "scared to death of him".

She got married a second time, to Berkeley, Californiamarker writer Robert F. Parker, but decided that the "idea of marriage... wasn't working" for her.

Parker began to identify as a lesbian in the late 1960s, and, in a 1975 interview with Anita Cornwell, stated that "after my first relationship with a woman, I knew where I was going."

Work Life

Parker was involved in the Black Panther Movement, in 1979 she toured with the Varied Voices of Black Women, a group of poets and musicians which included Linda Tillery, Mary Watkins & Gwen Avery.. She founded the Black Women's Revolutionary Council in 1980, and she also contributed to the formation of the Women's Press Collective, as well as being involved in wide-ranging activism in gay and lesbian organizing.

Parker worked from 1978-1987 as a medical coordinator at the Oakland Feminist Women's Health Center

Writing

Parker gave her first public poetry reading in 1963 in Oakland. In 1968, she began to read her poetry to women's groups at Women's bookstores, coffeehouses and feminist events.

Judy Grahn, a fellow poet and a personal friend, identifies Pat Parker's poetry as a part of the "continuing Black tradition of radical poetry"

Cheryl Clarke, another poet and peer, identifies her as a "lead voice and caller" in the world of lesbian poetry. designed to confront both black and women's communities with, as Clarke notes, "the precariousness of being non-white, non-male, non-heterosexual in a racist, misogynist, homophobic, imperial culture." Clarke believes that Parker articulates, "a black lesbian-feminist perspective of love between women and the circumstances that prevent our intimacy and liberation."

Pat Parker and Audre Lorde first met in 1969 and continued to exchange letters and visits until Parker's death in 1989.

Womanslaughter

Parker's elder sister was murdered by her husband, and the autobiographical poem, Womanslaughter (1978) is based on this event.

In the poem, Parker notes that

Her things were his
including her life.


The perpetrator was convicted of "womanslaughter", not murder; because


Men cannot kill their wives.
They passion them to death.


He served a one-year sentence in a work-release program. Parker brought this crime to the International Tribunal on Crimes against Women in 1976 in Brusselsmarker, vowing

I will come to my sisters
not dutiful,
I will come strong.


Death

Parker died of Breast Cancer at age 45. She was survived by her long-time partner and two daughters.

Tributes



Books

  • Child of Myself (1972) The Women's Press Collective
  • Pit Stop (1973) The Women's Press Collective
  • Womanslaughter (1978) Diana Press
  • Movement in Black (1978) Crossing Press
  • Jonestown & Other Madness (1989) Firebrand Books
  • Movement in Black: The Collected Poetry of Pat Parker, 1961-1978 (includes work from Child of Myself and Pit Stop), foreword by Audre Lorde, introduction by Judy Grahn, Diana Press (Oakland, CA), 1978, expanded edition, introduction by Cheryl Clarke, Firebrand Books (Ithaca, NY), 1999.
  • Also contributor to
    • Plexus
    • Amazon Poetry
    • I Never Told Anyone
    • Home Girls
    • This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, edited by Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua, Women of Color Press, 1981
    • other anthologies, magazines, and newspapers.


Select Anthologies



References

Sources

  • McEwen, Christian, editor, Naming the Waves: Contemporary Lesbian Poetry, Virago (New York City), 1988.
  • Moraga, Cherrie, and Gloria Anzaldua, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, Women of Color Press, 1981.
  • Parker, Pat, Jonestown and Other Madness, Firebrand Books, 1985.
  • Parker, Pat, Movement in Black: The Collected Poetry of Pat Parker, 1961-1978, foreword by Audre Lorde, introduction by Judy Grahn, Diana Press (Oakland, CA), 1978, expanded edition, introduction by Cheryl Clarke, Firebrand Books (Ithaca, NY), 1999.
  • Booklist, March 15, 1999, p. 1279.
  • Callaloo, winter, 1986, pp. 259-62.
  • Colby Library Quarterly (Waterville, ME), March, 1982, pp. 9-25.
  • Conditions: Six, 1980, p. 217.
  • Feminist Review, spring 1990, pp. 4-7.
  • Library Journal, July, 1985, p. 77.
  • Margins, Vol. 23, 1987, pp. 60-61.
  • Women's Review of Books, April, 1986, pp. 17-19.
  • Blain, Virginia, Patricia Clements, and Isobel Grundy. The Feminist Companion to Literature in English: Women Writers from the Middle Ages to the Present. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1990: 833.
  • Oktenberg, Adrian. In Women's Review of Books (Wellesley, Massachusetts), April 1986: 17-19.
  • Ridinger, Robert B. Marks. "Pat Parker," in Gay & Lesbian Literature. Detroit, Michigan: St. James Press, 1994: 289-290.



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