JUNE JORDAN THE ESSENTIAL JUNE JORDAN
“She has comforted, explained, described, wrestled with, taught and made us laugh out loud before we wept... I am talking about a span of forty years of tireless activism coupled with and fueled by flawless art.”—Toni Morrison
THE ESSENTIAL JUNE JORDAN
Edited by JAN HELLER LEVI and CHRISTOPH KELLER
with an Afterword by JERICHO BROWN
Wide in scope and singular in their articulation of atrocities, Jordan’s poems shine in this thoughtfully curated volume. Ordered so that each era of her work speaks to the next, her poems contemplate war (“What will we do/ when there is nobody left/ to kill?”) on a national, interpersonal, and intergenerational scale, and suggest that struggle may be inextricable from the human experience. Jordan (1936–2002) stands against established power in poems that reckon with colonialism and the police state through her distinctive use of cataloging, repetition, and linguistic play. She implicates the self in depictions of historical violence as a basis for the cultivation of empathy: “I am a stranger/ learning to worship the strangers/ around me.” As she contemplates land, borders, race, and gender, the reader, too, is invited to look closely at the world around them. In these rich, generous poems, to hold and accept divisive truths is an act of love and solidarity. “I am black alive,” she writes, “and looking back at you.”
JUNE JORDON was born in Harlem in 1936 and was the author of ten books of poetry, seven collections of essays, two plays, a libretto, a novel, a memoir, five children’s books, andJune Jordan’s Poetry for the People: A Revolutionary Blueprint. As a professor at UC Berkeley, Jordan established Poetry for the People, a program to train student teachers to teach the power of poetry from a multicultural worldview. She was a regular columnist forThe Progressive and her articles appeared inThe Village Voice, The New York Times, Ms., Essence, and The Nation. After her death from breast cancer in 2002, a school in the San Francisco School District was renamed in her honour.