Faculty Mentor

Jonathan Johnson

Document Type

PowerPoint or Text of Presentation

Publication Date

Spring 5-11-2022


Creative Writing


“Between the bitter and the sweet”: longing and intimacy in Sappho’s and June Jordan’s love poems.

June Jordan (1936 - 2002), Jamaican-American poet, activist and educator is most known for her political poetry while the breadth of her work spans many themes. At the core of her work, she writes with a lyrical genius that shows her readers how important it is to see the core human emotions of longing and intimacy through the personal “I.” This essay draws the lines between the breadth of contemporary poet Jordan’s love poetry and the fragments of the originator of the love lyric: Sappho.

Both June Jordan and Sappho’s works put the reader inside the speakers’ bodies with potent detail, and oftentimes pulling from natural phenomena to match the intensity of emotional and sexual communion. They even share a constellation of imagery including fruit, the tides of the sea, the fire underneath the skin.

The connections between their work are clear: they write about their private, intimate moments. They write about the bitterness experienced after their same-sex loves have left them. And even with this bitterness, Jordan and Sappho write about how they would welcome the intimacy again without hesitation. In this essay, the evolution of lyrical poetry is explored through June Jordan’s love poems while discussing the reverberations of Sappho’s poetic fragments in her work.