A. Van Jordan

The 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 University.

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 poet."

Miller takes time with Jordan because, "he's a very good brother." In his opinion, Jordan is a nice person and not at all egotistical.

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

Van Jordan 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

Jordan's poetry is generous and genuine; truth telling, compelling - and many a spirit is raised by the strength of his confident voice -- Eleanor Wilner

There is 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. -- Cornelius Eady