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About this poet

Poet and performance artist Jayne Cortez was born on May 10, 1934, in Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

Her books of poetry include On the Imperial Highway: New and Selected Poems (Hanging Loose Press, 2008), The Beautiful Book (Bola Press, 2007), Jazz Fan Looks Back (Hanging Loose Press, 2002), Somewhere in Advance of Nowhere (Serpent's Tail, 1997), Coagulations: New and Selected Poems (Thunder's Mouth Press, 1982), Poetic Magnetic (Bola Press, 1991), Firespitter (Bola Press, 1982), Mouth on Paper (Bola Press, 1977), Scarifications (Bola Press, 1973), and Pissstained Stairs and the Monkey Man's Wares (Phrase Text, 1969).

Her work has been translated into twenty-eight languages. Cortez has also released a number of recordings, many with her band The Firespitters, including Taking the Blues Back Home (1997), Cheerful & Optimistic (1994), Everywhere Drums (1991), and Maintain Control (1986).

In 1964, she founded the Watts Repertory Company, and in 1972, she formed her own publishing company, Bola Press. Her awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Foundation for the Arts, the International African Festival Award, and the American Book Award. Cortez performed, lectured, and taught at many universities, museums, and festivals. She lived in Dakar, Senegal, and New York City. She died on December 28, 2012.

Jazz Fan Looks Back

Jayne Cortez, 1934 - 2012
I crisscrossed with Monk
Wailed with Bud
Counted every star with Stitt
Sang "Don't Blame Me" with Sarah
Wore a flower like Billie
Screamed in the range of Dinah
& scatted "How High the Moon" with Ella Fitzgerald
as she blew roof off the Shrine Auditorium
                    Jazz at the Philharmonic
					
I cut my hair into a permanent tam
Made my feet rebellious metronomes 
Embedded record needles in paint on paper
Talked bopology talk
Laughed in high-pitched saxophone phrases
Became keeper of every Bird riff
every Lester lick
as Hawk melodicized my ear of infatuated tongues
& Blakey drummed militant messages in
soul of my applauding teeth 
& Ray hit bass notes to the last love seat in my bones
I moved in triple time with Max
Grooved high with Diz
Perdidoed with Pettiford
Flew home with Hamp
Shuffled in Dexter's Deck
Squatty-rooed with Peterson
Dreamed a "52nd Street Theme" with Fats
& scatted "Lady Be Good" with Ella Fitzgerald
as she blew roof off the Shrine Auditorium
                    Jazz at the Philharmonic

From Jazz Fan Looks Back by Jayne Cortez. Copyright © 2002 by Jayne Cortez. Reprinted by permission of Hanging Loose Press. All rights reserved.

From Jazz Fan Looks Back by Jayne Cortez. Copyright © 2002 by Jayne Cortez. Reprinted by permission of Hanging Loose Press. All rights reserved.

Jayne Cortez

Poet and performance artist Jayne Cortez was born in Fort Huachuca, Arizona.

by this poet

poem
Talking about New Orleans
About deforestation & the flood of vodun paraphernalia
the Congo line losing its Congo
the funeral bands losing their funding
the killer winds humming intertribal warfare hums into
two storm-surges
touching down tonguing the ground
three thousand times in a circle of grief
four