Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

As the title to June Jordan’s collection of poetry indicates, individual and collective self-determination are central concerns in her work. Throughout the 109 poems in Naming Our Destiny, Jordan uses her own self-naming process to illustrate her contention that women and other oppressed groups must have the freedom to define themselves and choose their own courses of action. Jordan’s dual emphasis on personal and communal autonomy, coupled with her belief that her own self-determination entails recognizing and affirming the interconnections between herself and apparently dissimilar peoples, gives her work a visionary perspective and a defiant optimism that grows stronger in the later poems. As she examines the interconnections between her own destiny and the destinies of increasingly diverse national and international groups, Jordan rejects restrictive notions of isolated, self-enclosed individual identities and creates intimate, potentially transformational dialogues between herself and her readers. Whether she explores her relationships with her mother and other women, racial violence in Atlanta, South African apartheid, or the Middle East, she combines self-expression with revolutionary calls to action.

Divided into four parts spanning a period of thirty years, the poems in Naming Our Destiny illustrate Jordan’s own increasingly expansive individual and collective self-definitions. Part 1, composed of thirty-six poems...

(The entire section is 510 words.)