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June Jordan

1936–2002

Born in New York City on July 9, 1936, June Jordan attended Barnard College. She was an activist, poet, writer, teacher, and prominent figure in the civil rights, feminist, antiwar, and LGBTQ movements of the twentieth century. 

Her numerous books of poetry include We’re On: A June Jordan Reader (Alice James Books, 2017), Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2007), Kissing God Goodbye: Poems, 1991-1997 (Anchor Books, 1997), Naming Our Destiny: New and Selected Poems (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1989), Living Room: New Poems (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1985), Passion: New Poems, 1977–1980 (Beacon Press, 1980), and Things That I Do in the Dark: Selected Poetry (Random House, 1977).

Jordan also authored children’s books, plays, the memoir Soldier: A Poet’s Childhood (Basic/Civitas Books, 2000), and the novel His Own Where (Crowell, 1971), which was nominated for the National Book Award. Her collections of political essays include Affirmative Acts: Political Essays (Anchor Books, 1998) and On Call: Political Essays (South End Press, 1985).

Of her career, Toni Morrison writes, "I am talking about a span of forty years of tireless activism coupled with and fueled by flawless art."

Jordan received a Rockefeller Foundation grant, the National Association of Black Journalists Award, and fellowships from the Massachusetts Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts.

She taught at the University of California, Berkeley, where she founded Poetry for the People. Jordan died of breast cancer on June 14, 2002, in Berkeley, California.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

We're On: A June Jordan Reader (Alice James Books, 2017)
Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2007)
Kissing God Goodbye: Poems, 1991-1997 (Anchor Books, 1997)
Haruko/Love Poetry: New and Selected Love Poems (Virago Press, 1993)
Naming Our Destiny: New and Selected Poems (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1989)
Living Room: New Poems (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1985)
Passion: New Poems, 1977–1980 (Beacon Press, 1980)
Things That I Do in the Dark: Selected Poetry (Random House, 1977)
Some Changes (Dutton, 1971)
Who Look at Me (Crowell, 1969)

Prose

Some of Us Did Not Die: New and Selected Essays of June Jordan (Basic/Civitas Books, 2002)
Soldier: A Poet’s Childhood (Basic/Civitas Books, 2000)
Affirmative Acts: Political Essays (Anchor Books, 1998)
Poetry for the People: A Revolutionary Blueprint for the Revolution (Routledge, 1995)
Technical Difficulties: African-American Notes on the State of the Union (Pantheon Books, 1992)
On Call: Political Essays (South End Press, 1985)
Civil Wars (Beacon Press, 1981)
His Own Where (Crowell, 1971)

By This Poet

23

6.3.96-6.4.96

Dear Adrienne
 
But love was never more
than what Elijah
listened to
                        That small
                        that still
a summoning forever
immanent
regardless of its wavelength
pitted against tyrannies
gigantic
in a kitchen
or some other battlefield
                       computer rituals of quit
                       or cancel
                       or the friend who lies
It is often—like the calling 
of the psychopath
“a clean cut kid”—
that we mistake
the madness of the trickster
demon
for our own
or 
minimize the meaning
of these words on open
opening 
space
 
inside this cartoon
context
where it’s normal
to approach a wall
for money
 
this then
is the lens 
to magnify
ignite
redeem
and willingly defy
the maggots eager
for that moment when
our spirits die
and dying
deify the fearsome
meretricious
killer agencies
that jeopardize
the birdsong of our days
 
Oh, Adrienne!
This is that love
                                  It’s here
                                  Between us
                                                          growing