- about June
- new in print
- by June
- permissions / links
a June Jordan portfolio
- from Who Look at Me
- If You Saw a Negro Lady
- What Would I Do White
- These Poems
- One Minus One Minus One
- I Must Become a Menace to My Enemies
- Poem for South African Women
- Alla Tha's All Right, but
- Poem about My Rights
- Poem for Nana
- First Poem After Serious Surgery
- The Bombing of Baghdad
- Poem to Take Back the Night
- It's Hard to Keep a Clean Shirt Clean
June Jordan was born in Harlem in 1936 and grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Poet, activist, teacher, and essayist, she was a prolific, passionate and influential voice for liberation. June Jordan, who died in 2002, lived and wrote on the frontlines of American poetry, political vision and moral witness.
The Essential June Jordan
(Copper Canyon Press/May 2021)
Honored by Publishers Weekly as a Best Book of 2021
“#1 Best Book of Poetry 2021”
"…. Jordan’s poems shine in this thoughtfully curated volume… 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.
- Publishers Weekly, starred review
"This volume of verse displays the undeniable legacy June Jordan left on both our literature and culture. Collected here are blazing examples of poetry as activism, stanzas that speak truth to power and speak out against violence against women and police brutality. But Jordan also speaks on the significance of hope, mixing, as Brown puts it, 'the doom and devastation made mundane through media with the hard decision to love anyway.'"
-O, The Oprah Magazine
“The Essential June Jordan provides everything you’ll need to appreciate the legendary author’s transformative activist poetry.”
“Jordan puts love and delight in her poems, not just vengeance and justice. There is so much giddy humor in her exclamation points: ‘The blues is the blues!
Poems, Jordan writes, are ‘things that I do / in the dark / reaching for you / whoever you are’ — and wherever, whenever. Writing is an act of faith in a future where meaning is possible. Some poems may make nothing happen, but any poem has a formidable potential, an energy that, in the right conditions, can cross time to change a life.
-Elisa Gabbert, Editor’s Choice, The New York Times
“Jordan is as philosophical as she is linguistically thrilling…. with profundity and playfulness
- Mandanna Chaffa, The Chicago Review of Books
“Her whole life is in these pages….
- Camille T. Dunghy, Orion Magazine
“Be June Jordan for a few. Why not? She’s not with us anymore. Which is why this collection is so truly essential if we are to hang on to even a fraction of the extraordinary inheritance she left us. And it’s a great selection, The Essential June Jordan. All her beauties, thoughtfully and expertly selected by editors Jan Heller Levi and Christoph Keller. Her best. Her love poems … There are over 80 poems in the book. Not all of them the most famous, but perhaps the most moving of those she published in life. And strangely, if you read cover to cover (a great way to feel these deep in your marrow) you get, at first, a sense that there were really two June Jordans (at least). One, the lover. The other, the one better known for her political works, for her activism. But keep reading. Start over and you will see both Junes live in each piece … There is not much more to say. Read June Jordan. Read this book. Save it. Give it an important place on your bookshelf.”
–Anjanette Delgado, The New York Journal of Books
“This definitive volume….distills the enduring legacy of a powerful voice for radical love and justice. June Jordan is a poet for the ages.
The Guardian Poem of the Week (August 2, 2021)
On the occasion of the British publication of The Essential June Jordan, The Guardian has featured June's poem I guess it was my destiny to live so long as their Poem of the Week, accompanied by an essay.
The British edition of The Essential June Jordan, edited by Jan Heller Levi and Christoph Keller, published by Penguin Modern Classics is out! (cover photo by Sara Miles)
Today, July 15, in the New York Times (Editors' Choice)
THE ESSENTIAL JUNE JORDAN, edited by Jan Heller Levi and Christoph Keller. (Copper Canyon, paper, $18.) A selection of poems published between 1971 and 2001, this posthumous volume reflects Jordan’s view of poetry as “a political action” that can “build a revolution.” Her own poems “can feel like a rallying cry for solidarity,” Elisa Gabbert writes in her latest poetry column. “Jordan puts love and delight in her poems, not just vengeance and justice. There is so much giddy humor in her exclamation points: ‘The blues is the blues!’”
Today, July 9, 2021 is June Jordan's birthday. She would, if she were still with us, be 85. Celebrate her life and work by sharing a poem of hers with someone you love. If you read this after her birthday, still share a poem!
June 28, The New York Times, Elisa Gabbert's On Poetry Column:
For June Jordan and Muriel Rukeyser, the Arc of Moral Verse Bent Toward Justice“The Essential June Jordan,” edited by Jan Heller Levi and Christoph Keller, includes poems published between 1971 and 2001, and opens with a manifesto-like epigraph, a statement by Jordan herself:
a political action undertaken for the
sake of information, the faith, the
exorcism and the lyrical invention,
that telling the truth makes possible.
Poetry means taking control of the
language of your life.
In this view, the use value of poetry is clear: “Good poems can / interdict a suicide, rescue a love / affair, and build a revolution.” Her own poems can feel like a rallying cry for solidarity, as in “Calling on All Silent Minorities,” a poem in all caps: “COME OUT / WHEREVER YOU ARE / WE NEED TO HAVE THIS MEETING.”
Read the entire essay:
THE ESSENTIAL JUNE JORDAN
Star*ed review in Publishers Weekly for
The Essential June Jordan
June Jordan, edited by Jan Heller Levi and Christoph Keller. Copper Canyon
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.”
The Essential June Jordan ed. by Jan Heller Levi and Christoph Keller, to be published by Copper Canyon Press on May 4, 2021 has been chosen as one of O, The Oprah Magazine‘s “32 LGBTQ Books That Will Change the Literary Landscape in 2021”
“Featuring an afterword by Pulitzer Prize-winner Jericho Brown, this volume of verse displays the undeniable legacy June Jordan left on both our literature and culture. Collected here are blazing examples of poetry as activism, stanzas that speak truth to power and speak out against violence against women and police brutality. But Jordan also speaks on the significance of hope, mixing, as Brown puts it, “the doom and devastation made mundane through media with the hard decision to love anyway.”--O, The Oprah Magazine
The New Yorker, August 22, 2020
When June Jordan and Buckminster Fuller Tried to Redesign HarlemBy Claire Schwartz
An overview of the “Skyrise for Harlem” project, as published in a 1965 issue of Esquire, which reframed it as “Instant Slum Clearance.”
read in The New Yorker
In the summer of 2020, Literatura Susa published a powerful selection of June's poems in Basque translation by Ane Garcia and edited by Beñat Sarasola in its Munduko Poesia Kaierak series.
June Jordan's poems "These Poems," "One Minus One Minus One" and "Poem About My Rights" are included in the Icelandic Anthology of African American poetry Birds in a Cage, translated and edited by Garibaldi, published in March 2020 by Garibaldi Press, Iceland.
Here is "These Poems," translated into Icelandic by Garibaldi
þau eru eitthvað sem ég geri
er ég teygi mig eftir þér
hver svo sem þú ert
þau eru steinar í vatninu
að flýja út í buskann
Þessar grindhoruðu línur
þær eru frávita hendur fyrir þrá mína og ást.
Ég er aðkomin
að læra að dýrka aðkomna
í kringum mig
hver sem þú ert
hver sem ég gæti orðið.
October 1 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm PDT
Featuring Jericho Brown, Elizabeth Gilbert, Rio Cortez, Monica Sok, and Alison C. Rollins, plus editors Jan Heller Levi, Christoph Keller, Bianca Stone, and Michael Wiegers
Join Copper Canyon Press and an all-star lineup to celebrate the legacies of two iconic feminist poets, while raising crucial funds to support our spring season of phenomenal books. You’ll be treated to a first look at brand-new and forthcoming anthologies, The Essential Ruth Stone and The Essential June Jordan, and invited to help launch a Kickstarter project to lift up these extraordinary poets and their legacies.
Ruth Stone (1915–2011) and June Jordan (1936-2002), while distinct from each other in terms of aesthetics and identity, share a fierce sense of feminist poetics, a wonderful balance of candor and cleverness, and visionary understandings of power, violence, and solidarity. We are thrilled to honor these poets with you.
Guest readers will include: Pulitzer Prize-winner Jericho Brown, with a preview of his afterword for The Essential June Jordan; international bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert; and a host of other literary luminaries.
Register here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/3515997557627/WN_bICiuBVBRtGjaJlrkgWK2A
I am not wrong: Wrong is not my name
My name is my own my own my own
— June Jordan, from “Poem About My Rights”
Writing & Teaching in a Time of Crisis: Lessons from June Jordan with Taiyo Na
Poets House, March 15, 2019
Writer, musician, and educator Taiyo Na offered the following remarks as part of “Writing and Teaching in a Time of Crisis: Lessons from June Jordan,” a panel presented at Poets House with the support of the June M. Jordan Literary Estate.
Na was joined by Kay Ulanday Barrett, Sofía Snow, and Bill Zavatsky in honoring June Jordan.
In this second annual panel celebrating Jordan’s work, poets and educators explored her essay “For the Sake of a People’s Poetry: Walt Whitman and the Rest of Us.” The event took place as part of What is It, Then, Between Us? Poetry & Democracy, the third annual initiative of the Poetry Coalition, a national poetry coalition working together to promote the value poets bring to our culture and the important contribution poetry makes in the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds.
A Tribute to June Jordan... is an intergenerational exploration of the legendary poet’s life, work, and legacy. This daylong conference on Friday, May 18, 2018, at the Proshansky Auditorium C-Level Rooms - The Graduate Center, CUNY in New York City, will begin with a keynote address by Jan Heller Levi. A series of lectures, discussions and readings will follow featuring, aracelis girmay, E. Ethelbert Miller and Evie Shockley, among many others.
Free and open to the public, this event is co-presented by Cave Canem Foundation, Inc., the Center for the Humanities at the CUNY Graduate Center, and the June M. Jordan Literary Estate Trust.
See here for schedule of events.
Writing & Teaching in a Time of Crisis: Lessons from June Jordan
Introduced by Jan Heller Levi
DATE AND TIME:
February 24, 2018 - 3:00PM
Poets House, Elizabeth Kray Hall
10 River Terrace
New York, NY 10282
$10, $7 for students and seniors, free to Poets House members
During her life, poet and essayist June Jordan (1936 – 2002) energetically responded to the crises of the disenfranchised with activism, writing and teaching. To continue her legacy of speaking truth to power, poets Joshua Bennett, Suzanne Gardinier, Donna Masini and Aja Monet talk about their own experiences with writing and teaching in our current time of crisis.
Presented with the support of
the June M. Jordan Literary Estate Trust.
December 6, 2017
Pen + Brush Presents
A Celebration of We’re On: A June Jordan Reader
(Alice James Books)
edited by Christoph Keller and Jan Heller Levi
with an introduction by Rachel Eliza Griffith
This will be a glorious reading celebrating the new book, and the remarkable, inimitable bravery and brilliance of June Jordan Jordan herself. Readers include:
Mahagony L. Browne
E. Ethelbert Miller
The event is free and open to the public. Pen + Brush, at 29 East 22nd Street, NY, NY,
Please RSVP to RSVP@penandbrush.org.
- Publishers Weekly named We're On: A June Jordan Reader one of the best books of 2017.
- Poets & Writers named it a new and noteworthy book in their August issue.
- E. Ethelbert Miller called it cause for celebration in the New York Journal of Books.
- Stephanie Burt in American Poet Magazine, says "This first posthumous volume to hold both her verse and her prose puts her back near the center of conversations where -- with Audre Lorde and Adrienne Rich -- she clearly belongs."
- Oprah.com featured it as a "collection of work by and about bold, free-spirited poets," along with Nikki Giovanni, Mary Oliver and Joni Mitchell.
"In defiant black ink marching across the white page, June Jordan (1936–2002) speaks from the eternal front lines of justice: “I am black alive and looking back at you.” Jordan was a lover and liberator. She stood against oppression in all its forms: literary and material, personal and political. ..."
Read entire review.
Get We're On.
UCSF Doctor and co-founder of the Global Health organization HEAL Initiative gave a moving Tedx talk in February 2016 that tied together June Jordan, poetry, Global Health, suffering and narrative entitled Whose Suffering Matters Less, and Why?
Sri was part of June Jordan's Poetry for the People in 1998-2001. June wrote a poem dedicated to him and P4P, Its Hard to Keep a Clean Shirt Clean.
Life as Activism, published in February 2014 by Litwin Books and edited by Stacy Russo, is the first complete collection of the columns June wrote for the Progressive Magazine (from 1989 to 2001). This beautiful new book comes with a foreword by Angela Davis and a preface by Matthew Rothschild.
From Angela Davis's Foreword:
“What is remarkable about these articles is their resonance on our contemporary political landscape.”
“Published during the last decade of the twentieth century, these columns remind me just how much June Jordan’s formidable voice is missed today. She was a poet, but also equally a journalist, and no ordinary journalist, for her illuminating accounts of ongoing events were always infused with her unique poetic vision.”
From Matthew Rothschild's Introduction:
“I miss June Jordan. And after you read these breathtaking essays and poems, you’ll miss her, too, and you’ll want her back, as I do. No one wrote like June Jordan, packing her lines with beauty and love and righteous anger. No one fought harder with her words than June Jordan.”
“I know of no writer who was more fully engaged in the historic moments and burning issues of her day.”
The second volume of the Wiley Blackwell anthology of African American Literature, 1920 to the Present, published in January 2014, includes twelve of Junes poems, among them "If You Saw a Negro Lady," "What Would I Do White" and "In Memoriam: Martin Luther King, Jr." as well as her essay “The Difficult Miracle of Black Poetry in America: Something Like a Sonnet for Phillis Wheatley.”
June Jordan's 1997 book of poetry, Kissing God Goodbye, has just been published in Germany by Weidle Verlag, translated, Poetry-for-the-People-style, by the students of Technische Universität Dortmund and Professors Julia Sattler and Walter Grünzweig, in a beautiful bilingual edition, German and English, with an elegant cover by Max Cole.
Technical Difficulties, June Jordan's 1992 collection of essays, has just come out in Spanish, with an introduction by Angela Davis, especially written for this foreign-language edition. The beautiful book is published by LaOficina / BAAM, Madrid.
The Progressive's new - and first - eBook, Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall, from its Hidden History Series, edited by Matthew Rothschild. The volume includes three of June Jordan's columns written for the magazine (and anthologized since many, many times): "A New Politics of Sexuality" (July 1991); "Requiem for a Champ" (April 1992); and "The Invisible People: Black Rage and the Stolen Election" (March 2001).
A sampler of June Jordan's poems has been translated into Bengali in the small and very nice literary magazine Birutjatio. Check it out here.
Watch this film put created by the documentary film students of the University of Georgia, based on June Jordan's poem "Take Back the Night."
If you're in London on Wednesday, March 28, 2012, check out the screening of Pratibha Pramar's A Place for Rage.
Under the motto Poetry by and for the 99%! Poems of Provocation & Witness Split This Rock Poetry Festival celebrates the life and work of June Jordan on the 10th anniversary of her death: Join them in March! Be active! Poetry Occupies!
March 22-25, 2012, Washington, DC
Check out Rita Dove's The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry with June's "Poem About My Rights" as well as many other great poems.
Or go get it from the St. Mark's Bookstore shelves.