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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)

The Talking Back of Miss Valentine Jones: Poem # one

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 and political essays,  June Jordan was born in New York City in 1936.

by this poet

poem

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

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

Even tonight and I need to take a walk and clear
my head about this poem about why I can’t 
go out without changing my clothes my shoes
my body posture my gender identity my age
my status as a woman alone in the evening/
alone on the streets/alone not being the point/
the point being

2