Lesbian Poetry Retrospective Part 1

 
 

June Jordan (1936-2002)

Born
in Harlem, June Jordan is one of the most published African-American writers,
with 28 books, including essays, memoir, plays, novels, children’s books and
poetry. The daughter of Jamaican immigrants, Jordan was, Alice Walker said,
“among the bravest of us, the most outraged. She feels for all. She is the
universal poet.”

Jordan founded Poetry for the
People out of UC–Berkeley, a program that defines itself as teaching "empowerment
through the artistic expression of writing and reading poetry.”

Her own work consistently and passionately
concerns itself with the idea of
freedom,
both in her art and her life, and she is famous for defining her bisexuality
according to those standards:
"Bisexuality
means I am free and I am as likely to want to love a woman as I am likely to
want to love a man, and what about that? Isn’t that what freedom implies?"

“A Short Note to My Very
Critical and Well-Beloved Friends and Comrades”

First they said I was too light
Then they said I was too dark
Then they said I was too
different
Then they said I was too much
the same
Then they said I was too young
Then they said I was too old
Then they said I was too
interracial
Then they said I was too much a
nationalist
Then they said I was too silly
Then they said I was too angry
Then they said I was too
idealistic
Then they said I was too
confusing altogether:
Make up your mind! They said.
Are you militant
or sweet? Are you vegetarian or
meat? Are you straight
or are you gay?

And I said, Hey! It’s not
about? Are you vegetarian or meat? Are you straight
or are you gay?

And I said, Hey! It’s not about
my mind.

Marilyn Hacker (b. 1942)

One of the most respected
formal poets, Marilyn Hacker has published several collections of poetry,
including Winter Numbers and Presentation Piece, which won the
National Book Award.

Her brilliant collection
Love, Death, and the Changing of the
Seasons
is a book of sonnets that records an affair with a younger woman.
The following poem comes from the middle of the narrative:

After eight
nights of sleeping with you, one

without you, and,
O damn it, I miss you.

I’d have to say
how much and where I’d kiss you

into your
answering machine. It’s on;

you’re out. I’d
like to brag that I have done

my donkey work,
cleared my desk. In a daze,

I walked four
miles enumerating ways

you make my
laugh, take care of business, moan

your name out
loud and…There’s the telephone!

Midnight, your
good friend/roommate’s sick, maybe, gone

Off without
telling you. I saw Chip and Iva.

You got in
trouble in your sailor bar.

I drank wine,
talked France, and you, with Nadja.

We wished we were
together. Well, we are.

  

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