cover image The Essential June Jordan

The Essential June Jordan

June Jordan, edited by Jan Heller Levi and Christoph Keller. Copper Canyon, $18 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-55659-620-9

Wide in scope and singular in their articulation of atrocities, Jordan’s poems shine in this thoughtfully curated volume. Ordered so that each era of her work speaks to the next, her poems contemplate war (“What will we do/ when there is nobody left/ to kill?”) on a national, interpersonal, and intergenerational scale, and suggest that struggle may be inextricable from the human experience. Jordan (1936–2002) stands against established power in poems that reckon with colonialism and the police state through her distinctive use of cataloging, repetition, and linguistic play. She implicates the self in depictions of historical violence as a basis for the cultivation of empathy: “I am a stranger/ learning to worship the strangers/ around me.” As she contemplates land, borders, race, and gender, the reader, too, is invited to look closely at the world around them. In these rich, generous poems, to hold and accept divisive truths is an act of love and solidarity. “I am black alive,” she writes, “and looking back at you.” (May)