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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 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)

I Must Become a Menace to My Enemies

Dedicated to the Poet Agostinho Neto,
President of The People’s Republic of Angola: 1976

1
I will no longer lightly walk behind
a one of you who fear me:
                                     Be afraid.
I plan to give you reasons for your jumpy fits
and facial tics
I will not walk politely on the pavements anymore
and this is dedicated in particular
to those who hear my footsteps
or the insubstantial rattling of my grocery
cart
then turn around
see me
and hurry on
away from this impressive terror I must be:
I plan to blossom bloody on an afternoon
surrounded by my comrades singing
terrible revenge in merciless
accelerating
rhythms
But
I have watched a blind man studying his face.
I have set the table in the evening and sat down
to eat the news.
Regularly
I have gone to sleep.
There is no one to forgive me.
The dead do not give a damn.
I live like a lover
who drops her dime into the phone
just as the subway shakes into the station
wasting her message
canceling the question of her call:
fulminating or forgetful but late
and always after the fact that could save or 
condemn me

I must become the action of my fate.

2
How many of my brothers and my sisters
will they kill
before I teach myself
retaliation?
Shall we pick a number? 
South Africa for instance:
do we agree that more than ten thousand
in less than a year but that less than
five thousand slaughtered in more than six
months will
WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH ME?

I must become a menace to my enemies.

3
And if I 
if I ever let you slide
who should be extirpated from my universe
who should be cauterized from earth
completely
(lawandorder jerkoffs of the first the
                   terrorist degree)
then let my body fail my soul
in its bedeviled lecheries

And if I 
if I ever let love go
because the hatred and the whisperings
become a phantom dictate I o-
bey in lieu of impulse and realities
(the blossoming flamingos of my
                   wild mimosa trees)
then let love freeze me
out.
I must become
I must become a menace to my enemies.

Copyright © 2017 by the June M. Jordan Literary Estate. Used with the permission of the June M. Jordan Literary Estate, www.junejordan.com.

Copyright © 2017 by the June M. Jordan Literary Estate. Used with the permission of the June M. Jordan Literary Estate, www.junejordan.com.

June Jordan

June Jordan

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

by this poet

poem
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
poem

                                        For Eddie

Only our hearts will argue hard
against the small lights letting in the news
and who can choose between the worst possibility
and the last
between the winners of the wars against breathing
and the last
war everyone will lose

poem

Death chase me down
death’s way
uproot a breast
infest the lymph nodes
crack a femur
rip morale
to shreds

Death chase me down
death’s way
tilt me off-kilter
crutch me slow
nobody show me
how
you make a cup of coffee
with no hands

Death