June Jordan Jordan, June (Vol. 23)

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(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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June Jordan 1936–

Black American poet, novelist, essayist, and editor.

Jordan explores the black experience in America in poetry noted for its ironic presentation of emotions ranging from rage to love. Her subjects extend from personal to political experiences. "I expect a distinctively Black poem to speak for me-as-part-of-an-us," Jordan has said. Some of her poetry, particularly in Passion: New Poems, 1977–1980, has been denounced for its radical stance. And Jordan does advocate self-determination and activism to bring about the changes necessary for an amiable coexistence of black and white society.

Civil Wars is a collection of Jordan's essays from 1964 to 1980. These essays address Jordan's main concerns: feminism and the black experience, and children and education. The book, chronologically ordered, is an autobiographical testament to her commitment to the black community.

(See also CLC, Vols. 5, 11; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 33-36, rev. ed.; and Something about the Author, Vol. 4.)

Publishers Weekly

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

In a portentous foreword [to "Passion: New Poems, 1977–1980"] Jordan acknowledges her debt to Whitman and proposes to update this "white father's" political vision. However, this collection of talk-poems owes much more to the oral tradition of fellow black poets Nikki Giovanni and Imamu Amiri Baraka than to Whitman. Whether it succeeds in applying Whitman's democratic outlook to the modern world will depend very much on the reader's tastes and beliefs. There are forceful pieces on police brutality, racism, white genocide of Indians and blacks; "personal greetings" to Fidel Castro, "hirsute Spanish-speaking hero"; a man's confessional slyly comparing theft of a Porsche to rape. But the most effective poems are taut, sensitive explorations of personal relationships. In one strong political poem, the refrain "Martin Luther King, Jr., is still dead" sums up the book's underlying mood of desperation and resolution.

"Nonfiction: 'Passion: New Poems, 1977–1980'," in Publishers Weekly (reprinted from the October 17, 1980 issue of Publishers Weekly, published by R. R. Bowker Company, a Xerox company; copyright © 1980 by Xerox Corporation), Vol. 218, No. 16, October 17, 1980, p. 58.

Susan Mernit

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Jordan is a poet for many people, speaking in a voice they cannot fail to understand about things they will want to know. [Passion] elucidates those moments when personal life and political struggle, two discrete elements, suddenly entwine…. Her far-ranging sensibility produces intelligent, warm poetry that is exciting as literature, but even more rewarding as one woman's testimony for change.

Susan Mernit, "Poetry: 'Passion: New Poems, 1977–1980'," in Library Journal (reprinted from Library Journal, December 1, 1980; published by R. R. Bowker Co. (a Xerox company); copyright © 1980 by Xerox Corporation), Vol. 105, No. 21, December 1, 1980, p. 2501.

Mildred Thompson

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Passion as defined by Webster is "Emotion as distinguished from reason … affection … suffering … sexual desire." June Jordan's latest book of poems [Passion] deals with all of these emotions and a few more. It is a book that hurts sometimes because passion isn't always sweet. Yet it's necessary; as necessary as realizing the amount of violence that exists right now in so many of our communities, as necessary as humor.

June has demonstrated her creativity so well in this new book, her ability to see beyond the surface and cause us to react. In "A Poem About Intelligence For My Brothers And Sisters" … June confronts us with the limitations of intelligence, makes us think about the whole issue of being a genius; like who are they beyond their area of expertise, who can tolerate them personally and how did they get on the pedestal in the first place?

Violence, particularly police violence is a theme that June deals with a lot in this book…. [She] seems committed to generating alternatives to this genocidal trend.

There are some "lighter" poems here also, one about the 30,117 uses of the peanut and another about the awkwardness of...

(The entire section is 2,848 words.)