A. Van Jordan
words nationally acclaimed poet, author and teacher can be used
to describe A. Van Jordan. You may not recognize his name, but
this young, African-American poet is in the limelight.
According to Jordan, "A brother who can write is far more
threatening to the status quo—and I mean the Negro status quo as
well as the white—than a brother with a gun and pants hanging
off his butt."
Jordan represents the new African-American writer. Many writers
are not on Jordan's level, according to E. Ethelbert Miller, a
renowned poet and professor here at Howard University. "His work
not only captures you through his expression of reading, but
through the poetry itself. It has a wide range," Miller said. He
feels that Jordan's education in creative writing programs
distinguishes his work from other writers, making it more
polished, structured and developed.
Jordan studied in the MFA Program for writers at Warren Wilson
College, which is now a prestigious Creative Writing program in
Asheville, NC. He also earned a master's degree from the
graduate program in the School of Communications at Howard
Although he had been writing for some time, Jordan's actual
writing career took a leap after he met Miller, who is now his
mentor. "I don't know if I'd be a writer had I not met
Ethelbert," Jordan said. "He was the first person who looked at
me seriously as a potential writer, which is something he does
with a lot of people, but it's something for which he doesn't
get enough credit."
Over the past years, Jordan has grown as a poet. "He is a person
to watch," Miller says. According to Jordan, he has grown as a
result of encouragement and guidance from poet and playwright
Cornelius Eady and Miller, two men whom he respects and admires.
"Ethelbert's a surgeon as an editor, but he always edits out of
love for the poem and then out of love for the growth of the
Miller takes time with Jordan because, "he's a very good
brother." In his opinion, Jordan is a nice person and not at all
Jordon's first book, Rise, released last October and published
by Tia Chucha Press and Northwestern University Press, has
received rave reviews. The book is filled with energy that fuses
jazz, gospel, blues and sonnets.
Jordan is also widely published in journals and anthologies. He
has also read at many colleges and universities, including
Howard University where he was a featured guest during the Zora
Neale Hurston-Richard Wright Conference. Recently, Jordan, along
with poets Shara McCallum and Honoree F. Jeffers, read at a
reception at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.
The reception featured these exceptional young writers in
celebration for the publication of the book Beyond the Frontier:
African-American Poetry for the 21st Century.
For his exceptional work, Jordan has recently received the
prestigious PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award. He is also a
recipient of the 1995 D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities
Literary Fellowship Award. Jordan was chosen as a semi-finalist
for the 1998 Discovery/Nation award, nominated in 1999 and 2001
for the Pushcart Prize in poetry, and received a Greenwall Fund
grant form the Academy of American Poets in 2001.
In terms of his writing career, Jordan says, "this is a journey
of discovery for me; I never get bored with it." Jordan wants to
continue to write books, teach, read publicly, stay spiritual
and continue to grow. "Every poem I write becomes first a
problem to be solved and then an epiphany, something new I've
learned, so I just hope to continue learning."
Reprinted from "The Hilltop" October, 2001
blows away a poem the way John Coltrane blows a horn, but a
little bluer like Miles all mixed up with Robert L. Johnson, and
then the philosophy of Mingus weaving it all together. Yes, I
rise and sing. We can't get enough. -- Joy Harjo
is generous and genuine; truth telling, compelling - and many a
spirit is raised by the strength of his confident voice --
wisdom, complexity and good old human joy in these pages, and
whatever this generous voice has in store for us, how wonderful
to know it begins here, with this book, chock full of dust and
sweat and song. --