"June Jordan was not the blacksmith's daughter. June Jordan was the blacksmith. . . . She never waited around, not for anyone's permission, to write or act or be. . . . For this book to have its birth now, in the lopsided moment when we need it most, is no chance occurrence. This great woman blacksmith is still sweetly hammering us on." Nikky Finney
Poet, activist, and essayist June Jordan is a prolific, significant American writer who pushed the limits of political vision and moral witness, traversing a career of over forty years. With poetry, prose, letters, and more, this reader is a key resource for understanding the scope, complexity, and novelty of this pioneering Black American writer.
From "Poem about Police Violence":
Tell me something what you think would happen if everytime they kill a black boy then we kill a cop everytime they kill a black man then we kill a cop you think the accident rate would lower subsequently?
. . .
I lose consciousness of ugly bestial rabid and repetitive affront as when they tell me 18 cops in order to subdue one man 18 strangled him to death in the ensuing scuffle (don't you idolize the diction of the powerful: subdue and scuffle my oh my) and that the murder that the killing of Arthur Miller on a Brooklyn street was just a "justifiable accident" again (again)
People been having accidents all over the globe so long like that I reckon that the only suitable insurance is a gun
June Jordan (1936 - 2002) was a poet, activist, journalist, essayist and teacher. Prolific and passionate, she was an influential voice who lived and wrote on the frontlines of American poetry, international political vision and human moral witness. The author of many award-winning books, she traveled widely to read her poems and to proclaim a vision of liberation for all people. Dynamic, rebellious, and courageous, June Jordan was, and still is, a lyrical catalyst for change.
Christoph Keller is the author of numerous prize-winning novels, plays and essays in German, including Gulp (1988); I’d Like My Country Flat (Ich hätte das Land gern flach, 1996); and the Swiss best-selling memoir The Best Dancer (Der Beste Tänzer, 2003). Keller and his wife, the American poet Jan Heller Levi, are currently co-writing Whatever Can Come To A Woman, the first full-length biography of the American poet Muriel Rukeyser, to be published by Alfred A. Knopf.
Jan Heller Levi is the author of three books of poetry, Once I Gazed at You in Wonder, Skyspeak, and Orphan. She is the editor of A Muriel Rukeyser Reader and consulting editor on the 2005 reissue of The Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser. She is also coeditor, with Sara Miles, of Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan. Levi lives in New York City with her husband, the Swiss-born novelist and playwright, Christoph Keller, with whom she is completing a biography of Rukeyser. She teaches at Hunter College.
Jan Heller Levi’s first collection of poems, Once I Gazed at You in Wonder, won the Walt Whitman Award of the Academy of American Poets, and poems from her second collection, Skyspeak, won The Emily Dickinson Award of the Poetry Society of America. She is the editor of A Muriel Rukeyser Reader, served as consulting editor for the new edition of The Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser, and is currently writing the biography of Rukeyser. She is also co-editor, with Sara Miles, of Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems of June Jordan. She lives in New York City with her husband, the Swiss novelist and playwright Christoph Keller, and teaches at Hunter College
“Jordan begs us to trust one another and to tell the truth, to read the world more closely, to learn the wisdom of those who came before, who resisted before, and loved before. She laid a foundation, leaving a revolutionary blueprint for poetry to transform our lives beyond the white gaze and its literary imagination. . . .This book is not just a collection of figurative words; it is a tool for liberation.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review by Aja Monet
“This first posthumous volume to hold both [Jordan’s] verse and her prose puts her back near the center of conversations where—with Audré Lorde and Adrienne Rich—she clearly belongs.”
—Stephanie Burt, American Poets
“Read this reader, maybe beginning with Jordan’s ‘Poem about My Rights’ or ‘Poem About Police Violence.’ If nothing else June Jordan will teach you how to love, no matter who you are. This book is the rainbow sign after all the flooding across America.”
-E. Ethelbert Miller for the New York Journal of Books
“The wonder of poetry is that after the body burns off, the breath and bones, the residue of mischief, the fierceness and loyalty to truth remains. Don’t you hear her beside us now, as we gaze into the dark? Doesn’t holding these pages light your mind with impossible bravery?”