Improvising and Experimenting: An Interview with Jayne Cortez


In the fall of 2006, activist, artist, and poet Jayne Cortez performed at James Madison University with her seven-piece band, the Firespitters. Her blend of spoken word and free jazz is marked by its avant-garde, political, and dynamic style.

Unfortunately, the performance wasn’t recorded, but you can hear Cortez’s strong voice punch out the lines of “There It Is” online. In poems like this, Cortez repeatedly urges us to experiment, to think and fight for ourselves.

Today the late poet’s influence echoes in the lines of contemporary poets such as Evie Shockley and jessica Care moore

In this interview with Furious Flower’s executive director Dr. Joanne Gabbin on the morning before the performance, Cortez describes how improvisation arises from the pairing of music and poetry, reflects on the impact of visual arts upon her writing, insists that the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s continues as long as we keep moving, and offers her advice to younger poets.  

Back to Top

Published: Friday, November 13, 2015

Last Updated: Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Related Articles