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Jayne Cortez Portrait

Born in Fort Huachuca, Arizona, Jayne Cortez grew up in the Watts ghetto of Los Angeles, but spent most of her adult life in the New York City area. Her first books combine politics, music, and surrealism, but the musical and performative elements increased during her marriage to jazz musician Ornette Coleman and after her directorship (1964-1970) of the Watts Repertory Theatre Company in Los Angeles. Her band, "The Firespitters," accompanied her performances and powerful poetry recordings, which sometimes made use of an almost mesmerizing chanting style. As one critic writes, hearing "her most volatile poems is akin to listening to a Greek chorus rebuke the cosmos." See her Coagulations: New and Selected Poems (1984).