Black American Women Poets and Dramatists

By Harold Bloom | Go to book overview
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June Jordan
b. 1936

JUNE JORDAN was born in New York on July 9, 1936. Her parents, who were immigrants from Jamaica, wanted their daughter to be a doctor and sent her to the Northfield School, an exclusive girls' school in Massachusetts. One of the few black students in her class, Jordan graduated in 1953 and entered Barnard College in New York City that fall. Two years later she married a Columbia graduate student, Michael Meyer, and abandoned her own studies to take care of their son.

After moving with her husband to Chicago, Jordan returned to Harlem around 1960 and began working on Frederick Wiseman's film about life in the ghetto, The Cool World. Around this time she became interested in city planning and met R. Buckminster Fuller, with whom she devised plans for the revitalization of Harlem. In 1969 Fuller nominated Jordan for the Prix de Rome in Environmental Design, which she won. She spent the next year studying at the American University in Rome. Her marriage ended in 1965, and she continued to work as a freelance journalist, writing poetry in her spare time. A long poem titled Who Look at Me was published in 1969. It reflects the racial and political concerns that mark much of her poetry.

Since Who Look at Me appeared in 1969, Jordan has published seven more volumes of poetry, including Some Changes (1971), New Days (1974), and Things That I Do in the Dark: Selected Poetry (1977). Passion (1980) and Living Room (1985) gather the poems she wrote between 1977 and 1984, while Lyrical Campaigns (1989), Naming Our Destiny (1989), and Haruko/ Love Poetry (1993) present selections of her best poetic work. Jordan has also written several plays, including The Issue (1981) and Bang Bang Uber Alles (1986), which have been performed but not published.

In 1971 her first novel, His Own Where, was nominated for a National Book Award. This young adult book is written in dialect, referred to as Black English, which aroused much protest from parents who felt that their children should not be guided toward nonstandard English models of writing and dialogue. The case was decided in the Michigan courts, where a judge


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