Jayne Cortez an African-American poet, activist, small press publisher and spoken-word performance artist whose voice is celebrated for its political, surrealistic and dynamic innovations in lyricism and visceral sound. Her writing is part of the canon of the Black Arts Movement. Former wife of jazz giant Ornette Coleman.
Cortez, who respected the memory of independent performing artist Josephine Baker, preferred to name inspirations rather than influences, especially when discussing writers. Those with whom she identified included Langston Hughes, Aimé Césaire, Léon Damas, Christopher Okigbo, Henry Dumas, Amiri Baraka, and Richard Wright. Parallels with the ugly/beautiful poetics of Federico García Lorca also suggest themselves. Her words were usually written, chanted, and spoken in rhythmic repetition that resembled the intricate, tactile language of African and Caribbean drumming.
“If the Drum Is a Woman,”
why are you pounding your drum into an insane babble
why are you pistol-whipping your drum at dawn
why are you shooting through the head of your drum
and making a drum tragedy of drums
if the drum is a woman
don’t abuse your drum don’t abuse your drum
don’t abuse your drum.
Jayne Cortez (May 10, 1934– Dec. 28, 2012) R.I.P.