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About this poet

Born in New York City on July 9, 1936, June Jordan attended Barnard College.

Her numerous books of poetry include Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2007), Kissing God Goodbye: Poems, 1991-1997 (Anchor Books, 1997), Haruko/Love Poems (1994), Naming Our Destiny: New and Selected Poems (1989), Living Room (1985), Passion (1980), and Things That I Do in the Dark (1977).

She is also the author of children's books, plays, a novel, and Poetry for the People: A Blueprint for the Revolution (1995), a guide to writing, teaching and publishing poetry. Her collections of political essays include Affirmative Acts: Political Essays (1998) and Technical Difficulties (1994). Basic Books published her memoir, Soldier: A Poet's Childhood, in 2000.

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. June Jordan died of breast cancer on June 14, 2002, in Berkeley, California.


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The Talking Back of Miss Valentine Jones: Poem # one

June Jordan, 1936 - 2002
well I wanted to braid my hair
bathe and bedeck my
self so fine
so fully aforethought for
your pleasure
see:
I wanted to travel and read
and runaround fantastic
into war and peace:
I wanted to
surf
dive
fly
climb
conquer
and be conquered
THEN
I wanted to pickup the phone
and find you asking me
if I might possibly be alone
some night
(so I could answer cool
as the jewels I would wear
on bareskin for you
digmedaddy delectation:)
"WHEN
you comin ova?"
But I had to remember to write down
margarine on the list
and shoepolish and a can of
sliced pineapple in casea company
and a quarta skim milk cause Teresa's
gaining weight and don' nobody groove on
that much
girl
and next I hadta sort for darks and lights before
the laundry hit the water which I had
to kinda keep an eye on be-
cause if the big hose jumps the sink again that
Mrs. Thompson gointa come upstairs
and brain me with a mop don' smell too
nice even though she hang
it headfirst out the winda
and I had to check
on William like to
burn hisself to death with fever
boy so thin be
callin all day "Momma! Sing to me?"
"Ma! Am I gone die?" and me not
wake enough to sit beside him longer than
to wipeaway the sweat or change the sheets/
his shirt and feed him orange
juice before I fall out of sleep and
Sweet My Jesus ain but one can
left
and we not thru the afternoon
and now
you (temporarily) shownup with a thing
you says' a poem and you
call it
"Will The Real Miss Black America Standup?"

                       guilty po' mouth
                       about duty beauties of my
                       headrag
                       boozeup doozies about 
                       never mind
                       cause love is blind

well
I can't use it

and the very next bodacious Blackman
call me queen
because my life ain shit
because (in any case) he ain been here to share it
with me
(dish for dish and do for do and
dream for dream)
I'm gone scream him out my house
be-
cause what I wanted was
to braid my hair/bathe and bedeck my
self so fully be-
cause what I wanted was
your love
not pity
be-
cause what I wanted was
your love
your love

From Naming Our Destiny: New and Selected Poems by June Jordan, published by Thunder's Mouth Press. Copyright © 1989 June Jordan. Used with permission.

From Naming Our Destiny: New and Selected Poems by June Jordan, published by Thunder's Mouth Press. Copyright © 1989 June Jordan. Used with permission.

June Jordan

June Jordan

The author of several books of poetry, June Jordan was born in 1936, in New York City

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