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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)

Oughta Be a Woman

Washing the floors to send you to college
Staying at home so you can feel safe
What do you think is the soul of her knowledge
What do you think that makes her feel safe

Biting her lips and lowering her eyes
To make sure there's food on the table
What do you think would be her surprise
If the world was as willing as she's able

Hugging herself in an old kitchen chair
She listens to your hurt and your rage
What do you think she knows of despair
What is the aching of age

The fathers, the children, the brothers
Turn to her and everybody white turns to her
What about her turning around
Alone in the everyday light

There oughta be a woman can break
Down, sit down, break down, sit down
Like everybody else call it quits on Mondays
Blues on Tuesdays, sleep until Sunday
Down, sit down, break down, sit down

A way outa no way is flesh outa flesh
Courage that cries out at night
A way outa no way is flesh outa flesh
Bravery kept outa sight
A way outa no way is too much to ask
Too much of a task for any one woman

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

1
began and did not terminate for 42 days
and 42 nights relentless minute after minute
more than 110,000 times
we bombed Iraq we bombed Baghdad
we bombed Basra/we bombed military
installations we bombed the National Museum
we bombed schools we bombed air raid
shelters we

2
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

I never thought I’d keep a record of my pain
or happiness
like candles lighting the entire soft lace
of the air
around the full length of your hair/a shower
organized by God
in brown and auburn
undulations luminous like particles
of flame
But now I do
retrieve an