Readings in Contemporary Poetry

June Jordan

Introduction by Brighde Mullins

A poet who desires a larger than personal narrative and who commits to a vision that is responsive to the very world that we live in is one that is truly taking risks. The effect of reading June Jordan's work is that it makes a reader less capable of passing by, less susceptible to coercion. June Jordan is insistent. PAY ATTENTION, she says. DID YOUR TEACHERS EVER TELL YOU? she asks. CAN YOU SAY IT? She prompts. She sifts through the detritus of the daily injustices and horrors and she iterates and re-iterates that language is a site for revelation, that poetry is a site for imagined changes to begin.

June Jordan has re-vitalized the task of the poet. POET not as autonomous ego, but as shaper of meanings, as active participant.

The description of the shaman, the proto-poet, is "The one whose eyes are open." (I'm) "a female member of an endangered species, I am searching for relevant proof." she says.

In her essays, her plays, her poems, she requires that we look at ourselves. In her collection, entitled Haruko/Love Poems, she gathers love poems, new and selected, twenty-two years worth. Haruko/Love Poems explores the terrain between two ways of wanting: the desire for autonomy and the desire for community. This crucial juncture, this overlap, involves levels of risk and disclosure. What does it mean to take on, to take up, with another person? In an earlier book Jordan writes "at some point you have to trust somebody else." Her work is concerned with survival, with trust, between two people as well as between communities -- and the fact that her ongoing explorations have culminated, for now, in this passionate selection -- is hopeful and powerful. These somatically charged poems are proof that like charity, every revolution begins at home.

I'll close by quoting some exuberant lines: "...if I tell you how my heart swings wide enough to motivate flirtations with the trees, or how the happiness of passion freaks inside me, will you then believe?"