About this poet

A. Van Jordan was born on March 5, 1965, in Akron, Ohio. He received his BA in English literature from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, and his MA in communications from Howard University in Washington, D.C. While in Washington, D.C., Jordan began to attend poetry readings and became interested in writing poetry. In 1998, he earned his MFA in creative writing from Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina.

Jordan has published four books of poetry: The Cineaste: Poems (W. W. Norton & Company, 2013); Quantum Lyrics (W. W. Norton & Company, 2007); M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A (W. W. Norton & Company, 2005), winner of an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award; and Rise (Tia Chucha Press, 2001), winner of the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award.

Jordan’s poetry is influenced by music, film, race, history, and pop culture. His most recent book, The Cineaste, marries his love of film with poetry in pieces that re-examine a wide range of seminal films such as Nosferatu (1922), The Homesteader (1919), Run Lola Run (1998), and Oldboy (2003) through the perspectives of both the voyeur and the character onscreen. In his review of The Cineaste, poet Terrance Hayes said, “With an imagination illuminated by empathy, Jordan inhabits the eye of the camera, the eye of the actor, and the ‘I’ of a viewer tethered to image and history. These terrific poems give shape to lives made of light.”

Jordan has been awarded the Whiting Writers Award, a Pushcart Prize, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, and a United States Artists Williams Fellowship. He is a professor of English at the University of Michigan and lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


Bibliography

The Cineaste: Poems (W. W. Norton & Company, 2013)
Quantum Lyrics (W. W. Norton & Company, 2007)
M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A (W. W. Norton & Company, 2005)
Rise (Tia Chucha Press, 2001)

Old Boy

A. Van Jordan, 1965
(Park Chan-Wook, 2003)
If one rainy night you find yourself
leaving a phone booth, and you meet a man
with a lavender umbrella, resist
your desire to follow him, to seek
shelter from the night in his solace.
Later, don't fall victim to the Hypnotist's
narcotic of clarity, which proves
a curare for the heart; her salve
is merely a bandage, under which memories 
pulse. Resist the taste for something still 
alive for your first meal; resist the craving 
for the touch of a hand from your past. 
We live some memories,
and some memories are planted. There's
only so much space for the truth
and the fabrications to spread out 
in one's mind. When there's no more 
space, we grow desperate. You'll ask 
if practicing love for years in your mind, 
prepares you for the moment,
if practicing to defend one's life
is the same as living? You'll
hole up, captive, in a hotel room
for fifteen years and learn to find
a man within you, which will prove 
a painful introduction to the trance
into which you were born. Better
to stay under the spell of your guilt,
than to forget; you've already released
your pain onto the world; don't believe
there's some joy in forgetting. 
There's no joy in the struggle to forget. 
And what appears as an endless verdant field, 
only spreads across a building's rooftop;
your peaceful sleep could be a fetal position,
which secures you in a suitcase in this field. 
A bell rings, and you fall out of this luggage 
like clothes you no longer fit. Now what to do?
You remember when you were the man
who fit those clothes, but you've forgotten this 
world. Even forgotten scenes from your life, 
leave shadows of the memory,
haunting your spirit 
until, within a moment's glance,
strangers passing you on the street,
observe history in your eyes. Experience
lingers through acts of forgetting, 
small acts of love or trauma 
falling from the same place. Whether
memory comes in the form of a stone
or a grain of sand, they both sink in water.
A tongue—even if it were, say, sworn 
to secrecy; or if it were cut from one's mouth;
yes, even without a mouth to envelop 
its truth—the tongue continues to confess.

Copyright © 2012 by A. Van Jordan. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2012 by A. Van Jordan. Used with permission of the author.

A. Van Jordan

A. Van Jordan

A. Van Jordan was born on March 5, 1965, in Akron, Ohio. He received his BA in English literature from Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, and his MA in communications from Howard University in Washington, D.C. While in Washington, D.C., Jordan began to attend poetry readings and became interested in writing poetry. In 1998, he earned his MFA in creative writing from Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina.

by this poet

poem

INSERT SHOT: Einstein’s notebook 1905—DAY 1: a theory that is based on two postulates (a) that the speed of light in all inertial frames is constant, independent of the source or observer. As in, the speed of light emitted from the truth is the same as that of a lie coming from the lamp of a face aglow with trust,

poem

 

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poem
Because a razor cuts across a frame of film, 
I wince, squinting my eye, 
and because my day needs assembly 
to make sense of the scenes anyway, 
making a story from some pieces of truth, I go 
outside to gather those pieces.
Thousands of moments spooling out 
frames of mistakes in my day. 
As if anyone's to