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Friday October 24, 2014
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Jayne Cortez

 

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The combination has held: she has published ten books of poetry and released nine CDs. Her most recent book, Jazz Fan Looks Back, is a big collection of jazz- and blues-influenced poems she has written over several decades.

Because of the spread of hip-hop, which creates rhythm simply by stressing a word vocally, we've been trained to expect performance poetry to come to life only when spoken live. Of course, Jayne Cortez's poetry works that way, too, and does so wonderfully. She is an extraordinary performer of her own verse. She uses some of the devices we have come to expect in performance: she often rhymes, although her rhymes are subtle, often hidden within words; she repeats words and phrases to accent rhythm; she uses long catalogs of detail to add humor and verbal flourishes; and she uses parallel grammatical structures to build whole poems.

None of this, however, explains the musical effectiveness of reading Jayne Cortez's poetry. Poetry written to be performed often falls flat on the page. But even a silent reader of Cortez's work is overwhelmed with sound and music. It is a poetry that transcends its own performance.

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