Poet Jayne Cortez Dies

An integral part of the Black Arts movement, she passed away on Dec. 28.

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Poet Jayne Cortez in 1997 (UCSD)

On Dec. 28, poet Jayne Cortez died of heart failure in New York City. She was 78 years old. Known for her fiery poetry, Cortez was a performance artist and an internationally published author. She wrote the poem "If the Drum Is a Woman," a strong indictment of domestic violence, long before the Violence Against Women Act. She is survived by her husband, sculptor Melvin Edwards, and son, jazz drummer, Denardo Coleman, reports the New York Times,

One of the central figures of the Black Arts Movement — the cultural branch of the black power movement that flourished in the 1960s and '70s — Ms. Cortez remained active for decades afterward, publishing a dozen volumes of poetry and releasing almost as many recordings, on which her verse was seamlessly combined with avant-garde music.

She performed on prominent stages around the world, including, in New York, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Museum of Modern Art and Carnegie Hall.

Ms. Cortez's work was beyond category by virtue of embodying so many categories simultaneously: written verse, African and African-American oral tradition, the discourse of political protest, and jazz and blues. Meant for the ear even more than for the eye, her words combine a hurtling immediacy with an incantatory orality.

Read more at the New York Times.

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