The Essential June Jordan honors the enduring legacy of a poet fiercely dedicated to building a better world. In this volume, introduced by Pulitzer Prize winner Jericho Brown, June Jordan's body of poetry is distilled and curated to represent her work. Written over the span of several decades--from Some Changes in 1971 to Last Poems in 2001---Jordan's poems are at once of their era and tragically current, with subject matter including racist police brutality, violence against women, and the opportunity for global solidarity amongst people who are marginalized or outside of the norm.
... a vibrant, blistering, and often tender collection ... Heller Levi and Keller depart from the staid form of a Selected Poems collection, a fitting editorial choice given the spirit and timeliness of Jordan’s poems, which defy any attempts at classification by distinct decade and book. Instead, the editors use a style modeled after the poet’s own practice. Jordan often republished older poems in newer collections, so the editors follow her lead in organizing the selected poems in achronological order ... Jordan is an indispensable poet and theorist for the contemporary moment because she uses clear language to dream about multifaceted conceptions of liberation ... Readers have never been more ready to receive Jordan’s unsparing yet finely wrought works, distilled in this collection to the most powerful selections ... offers us multiple subtle gestures of existence as resistance, inviting us to take them up whenever we are ready.
A truly powerful collection of Jordan’s work, The Essential June Jordan is a nuanced and emotional exploration of race, sexuality and politics. The collection feels deeply personal and reflective; from June Jordan’s opening quote and series of photographs, through to the end which concludes with an afterword by poet Jericho Brown and explanations of each snapshot. Featuring poems from throughout her career, it is a collection that varies greatly whether in its poetic structure or the poetry’s wide ranging subject matter ... In trying to understand the poems and decide on a definitive message, Jordan’s poetry asks questions of us, they urge us to consider how life and society operates ... Despite the anger and the sadness, the collection is also filled with love, a theme that June Jordan writes aptly about through her work as a love poet ... I am in awe of June Jordan’s work and I wholeheartedly would recommend this collection to any poetry lover and anyone who is willing to give poetry a try. It is beautifully curated and a testament to the works that Jordan published during her life.
Creating a fresh playlist of such a critical voice in modern American poetry is both a significant challenge for the editors and a satisfying reward for us. The Essential June Jordan, edited by Jan Heller Levi and Christoph Keller, is a generous collection which samples poems—some unpublished—across decades, making one distinctly aware of how important Jordan is to our current discourse. The most indispensable poets—and she is easily on that list—are both of their time and oddly prescient, and that is proven repeatedly throughout this collection. What sets this book apart from others that try to capture the career-long portrait of a singular author between two covers is the editorial decision to present the work in an achronological manner ... This may not be the definitive compilation of Jordan’s oeuvre, whatever that might be, but it is decidedly a necessary one—and one that will rightly urge readers to seek out more of her work.