June Jordan


Born in New York City on July 9, 1936, June Jordan attended Barnard College. She was an activist, poet, writer, teacher, and prominent figure in the civil rights, feminist, antiwar, and LGBTQ movements of the twentieth century. Her numerous books of poetry include We’re On: A June Jordan Reader (Alice James Books, 2017), Directed by Desire: The Collected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2007), Kissing God Goodbye: Poems, 1991-1997 (Anchor Books, 1997), Naming Our Destiny: New and Selected Poems (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1989), Living Room: New Poems (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1985), Passion: New Poems, 1977–1980 (Beacon Press, 1980), and Things That I Do in the Dark: Selected Poetry (Random House, 1977). Jordan also authored children’s books, plays, the memoir Soldier: A Poet’s Childhood (Basic/Civitas Books, 2000), and the novel His Own Where (Crowell, 1971), which was nominated for the National Book Award. Her collections of political essays include Affirmative Acts: Political Essays (Anchor Books, 1998) and On Call: Political Essays (South End Press, 1985). Of her career, Toni Morrison writes, "I am talking about a span of forty years of tireless activism coupled with and fueled by flawless art." Jordan received a Rockefeller Foundation grant, the National Association of Black Journalists Award, and fellowships from the Massachusetts Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. She taught at the University of California, Berkeley, where she founded Poetry for the People. Jordan died of breast cancer on June 14, 2002, in Berkeley, California. Source

On Time Tanka

I refuse to choose

between lynch rope and [  ]

the blues is the blues!

my skin and my sex: Deep dues

I have no wish to escape


I refuse to lose

the flame of my single space

this safety I choose

between your fist and my face

between my gender and race


All black and blue news

withers the heart of my hand

and leads to abuse

no one needs to understand:

suicide wipes out the clues




Rollin out the Rolls!

Proud cheatin on your (Black) wife

Loud beatin on your (white) wife


Real slime open mouth

police officer-true-creep


fixin to burn black people

killin the song of our sleep


Neither one of you

gets any play in my day

I know what you do

your money your guns your say

so against my pepper spray


Okay! laugh away!

I hear you and I accuse

you both: I refuse

to choose: All black and blue news

means that I hurt and I lose. 





Literary Movements:

Civil Rights Movement

Anthology Years:



Mental Health

Poetic Form

Racial Injustice

Violence & War


Literary Devices:


The repetition of similar vowel sounds that takes place in two or more words in proximity to each other within a line; usually refers to the repetition of internal vowel sounds in words that do not end the same.

End Rhyme

when a poem has lines ending with words that sound the same

Internal Rhyme

A rhyme involving a word in the middle of a line and another at the end of the line or in the middle of the next.