junejordan_lyndakoolish1JUNE JORDAN: WRITER & ACTIVIST

The June M. Jordan Literary Estate Trust describes June Jordan, who was born in Harlem in 1936, as follows: “Poet, activist, teacher, and essayist, she was a prolific, passionate and influential voice for liberation. June Jordan, who died in 2002, lived and wrote on the frontlines of American poetry, political vision and moral witness.”

Here are some additional comments from well-known American writers who knew June Jordan:

“Jordan makes us think of Akhmatova, of Neruda. She is among the bravest of us, the most outraged. She feels for all. She is the universal poet.”
—Alice Walker

“In political journalism that cuts like razors, in essays that blast the darkness of confusion with relentless light; in poetry that looks as closely into lilac buds as into death’s mouth….she has comforted, explained, described, wrestled with, taught and made us laugh out loud before we wept…I am talking about a span of forty years of tireless activism coupled with and fueled by flawless art.”
—Toni Morrison

Below is one of our favorite poems by June Jordan. You can read others and find more information at the website of the June M. Jordan Literary Estate Trust.


Poem for South African Women

by June Jordan

Our own shadows disappear as the feet of thousands
by the tens of thousands pound the fallow land
into new dust that
rising like a marvelous pollen will be
fertile
even as the first woman whispering
imagination to the trees around her made
for righteous fruit
from such deliberate defense of life
as no other still
will claim inferior to any other safety
in the world

The whispers too they
intimate to the inmost ear of every spirit
now aroused they
carousing in ferocious affirmation
of all peaceable and loving amplitude
sound a certainly unbounded heat
from a baptismal smoke where yes
there will be fire

And the babies cease alarm as mothers
raising arms
and heart high as the stars so far unseen
nevertheless hurl into the universe
a moving force
irreversible as light years
traveling to the open eye

And who will join this standing up
and the ones who stood without sweet company
will sing and sing
back into the mountains and
if necessary
even under the sea:

we are the ones we have been waiting for.