The essence of June Millicent Jordan’s life reveals itself in her poetry and in her autobiographical writings, in particular in Civil Wars (1981) and her memoir Soldier: A Poet’s Childhood. She was born in Harlem, to Granville, a Panamanian immigrant, and Mildred, her Jamaican mother. When she was five years old, her parents moved to Brooklyn, and Jordan began her education by commuting to an all-white school. She later attended Northfield School for Girls, a preparatory school in Massachusetts.
Her introduction to poetry came through her father, who forced her to read, memorize, or recite the plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare, the Bible, the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar, and the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe, as well as the novels of Sinclair Lewis and Zane Grey. At the age of seven, she began to write poetry herself. Unfortunately, her father’s pedagogical methods also included beatings for unsatisfactory performance, but Jordan never questioned his love for her, affirming that he had the greatest influence on her poetic and personal development, having given her the idea that “to protect yourself, you try to hurt whatever is out there.” Jordan’s mother, who committed suicide in 1966, did not oppose her father’s harsh treatment of her, and Jordan found this passivity harder to forgive than her father’s brutality.
Her interest in poetry was developed at Northfield but was limited mainly to white male poets “whose remoteness from my...
(The entire section is 614 words.)