Photo by Lynda Koolish

JUNE JORDAN

bisexual Poet & journalist

June Jordan (1936 – 2002) was a prolific Jamaican American poet, civil rights activist, journalist, playwright, essayist and teacher. Her work covered an enormous amount of personal and political ground, engaging with race, class, capitalism, motherhood, plural sexuality, and more. She was a champion of Black English, or AAVE, as language worthy of respect, and firmly rejected “white English” as the default linguistic standard. ⁠

BOOKS

[See below for a visual guide to Jordan’s books]

AUDIO & VIDEO

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HONORS
  • Rockefeller Grant for Creative Writing (1969-1970)
  • American Academy in Rome Environmental Design Prize (1970)
  • Creative Arts Public Service grant (1978)
  • Yaddo Fellowship Recipient (1979)
  • New York Council of the Humanities Award (1979)
  • National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1982)
  • National Association of Black Journalists Achievement Award for International Reporting (1984)
  • New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship (1985)
  • Massachusetts Council on the Arts Award (1985)
  • MacDowell Colony Fellowship (1987)
  • Nora Astorga Leadership Award (1989)
  • Chancellor’s Distinguished Lectureship from UC Berkeley Recipient (1991)
  • PEN Center USA West Freedom to Write Award (1991)
  • Northfield Mount Herman School Distinguished Service award (1993)
  • The Woman’s Foundation Ground Breakers-Dream Makers Award Winner (1994)
  • Edinburgh Arts Festival Critics Award and Herald Angel Award (1995)
  • Lila Wallace Reader’s Digest Writers Award Winner (1995-1998)
  • Posthumous Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian* Poetry (2005)
  • National LGBTQ Wall of Honor at the Stonewall National Monument Inductee (2019)

*Lambda did not add a bisexual category to their awards until 2006, a year after Jordan’s posthumous win.

JUNE JORDAN QUOTES

“Bisexuality means that I am free and I am as likely to want and to love a woman as I am likely to want and to love a man, and what about that? Isn’t that what freedom implies? If you are free, you are not predictable and you are not controllable. To my mind, that is the keenly positive politicising significance of bisexual affirmation… to insist upon the equal validity of all the components of social/sexual complexity.”

June Jordan

I am not wrong: Wrong is not my name
My name is my own my own my own
and I can’t tell you who the hell set things up like this
but I can tell you that from now on my resistance
my simple and daily and nightly self-determination
may very well cost you your life”

June Jordan, “Poem About My Rights”

SUGGEST A QUOTE:

BOOKS BY JUNE JORDAN

Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems
june jordan (2005)

Directed by Desire is the definitive overview of the poetry of June Jordan, considered one of the most lyrically gifted poets of the late twentieth century. Directed by Desire gathers the finest work from Jordan’s 10 volumes, as well as 70 new, never-before-published poems that she wrote while dying of breast cancer. Throughout over 600 pages readers will find intimate lyricism, elegance, fury, meditative solos, and dazzling vernacular riffs.

Some of Us Did Not Die: New & Selected Essays of June Jordan
june jordan (2002)

Some of Us Did Not Die brings together a rich sampling of the late poet June Jordan’s prose writings. The essays in this collection, which include her last writings and span the length of her extraordinary career, reveal Jordan as an incisive analyst of the personal and public costs of remaining committed to the ideal and practice of democracy. Willing to venture into the most painful contradictions of American culture and politics, Jordan comes back with lyrical honesty, wit, and wide-ranging intelligence in these accounts of her reckoning with life as a teacher, poet, activist, and citizen.

soldier: a poet’s childhood
june jordan (2001)

A profoundly moving childhood memoir by a noted poet, essayist, teacher, and journalist. “SHORTA not uncommon story is here captured with astonishing beauty” the childhood of a gifted daughter whose immigrant parents must struggle in order to provide her with the educational and social opportunities not available to them or, for that matter, to most Black people of her generation.

Affirmative Acts: Political Essays
june jordan (1998)

In this new collection of political essays, Jordan explores the confusion of an America in the grip of pseudo-multiculturalism and political intolerance. Continuing in the tradition of her classic collections Civil Wars and Technical Difficulties, Jordan acquaints readers with moments of American life threatened by social negligence and economic despair. With her characteristic insight, Jordan unveils how these too-frequent bouts of civil unrest bring out the weakest parts of the American spirit and challenges readers to remain inspired as society approaches the millennium.

Civil Wars: Observations from the Front Lines of America
june jordan (1995)

In Civil Wars, June Jordan’s battleground is the intersection of private and public reality, which she explores through a blending of personal reflection and political analysis. From journal entries on the line between poetry and politics and a discussion of language and power in “White” versus “Black” English to First Amendment issues, children’s rights, Black studies, American violence, and sexuality, Jordan documents the very personal ways in which she meshes with the social issues of modern-day life in this country.