Saturday, January 5, 2013


Jayne Cortez was a dynamic poet and woman, who was a major force in the small press world for decades, as well as in spoken word, performance art, and women's and African-American poetry scenes. She passed late last month [here's the NY Times obit] and I kept meaning to post at least a small homage to a wonderful woman whose work could be challenging and comforting at the same time. Here's an example:

There It Is
And if we don't fight
if we don't resist
if we don't organize and unify and
get the power to control our own lives
Then we will wear
the exaggerated look of captivity
the stylized look of submission
the bizarre look of suicide
the dehumanized look of fear
and the decomposed look of repression
forever and ever and ever
And there it is

And here's what she was like performing only a few years ago:

This is the way I remember Patti Page when I was a kid. Best known for what seem like cheesy or schmaltzy songs in retrospect, as a kid they were fun and comforting [not surprised that latter word is part of both these small tributes]. I commented on Doug Lang's tribute to Page, she was sort of the flip side to Peggy Lee back in the early 1950s. Both beautiful blondes who managed to transcend their natural genres (jazz for Lee and country for Page) to become pop stars for a while.

Where Lee was sultry and still, Page was joyous and expansive. But the main thing about Page, for me, was her unpretentiousness. Lee was more musically skilled, especially as a song writer and arranger, but both had great control as vocalists and Page made it clear she was here to entertain and please and wasn't ashamed to sing about "How much is that doggie in the window" a song that became so ubiquitous it became almost too much to bear but when first heard was just a delightful novelty song.

But my first memory of noticing her as a singer was her first hit: "With My Eyes Wide Open, I'm Dreaming" that made me fall in love with her as a little boy. Here's a YouTube posting of that, not the best reproduction, but listen to the end and you'll hear how skillful a singer she was. 


Kalei's Best Friend said...

Saw u over on Kevin's page... never heard of Ms. Cortez... wow, she did not look nor sound her age.. voice was full of passion for sure.

Lally said...

Yeah, she was passionate about a lot.

Bob said...

Hello, Michael - Wouldn't have heard this news if not for your blog which I check out occasionally (and then read lots of past-posts to get caught up!)

Met you back in the late 70's when you visited and read a few times in Toledo. (One time you read with Etheridge Knight.) And more than anything, I remember your graciousness.

Have always enjoyed your poems and also this blog. Ain't the internet great?

Anyway, Happy New Year to you and your family.

Best Regards,

Bob Phillips

Lally said...

And same to you and yours Bob. Thanks for the kind words. You made me think of Nick Muska and other great souls I knew in Toledo.

Bob said...

Nick is doing well and still writing wonderful poems. Just saw him recently at his 70th birthay party. Tom Barden (you stayed at his place) is quite well and active as is Joel Lipman who is (woo-hoo) Lucas County Poet Laureate.

I was renting a bedroom in Barden's house on one of your visits. I bought a copy of Rocky Dies Yellow. You gave me a copy of In The Mood and the Salt Lick Sampler piece, all of which I still have and thank you for.


Lally said...

Thanks for the update Bob. I thought Nick was older than me! Guess not. I remember staying there that time. Toledo was always good to me thanks to all you folks. Nice to hear everyones still kickin'. As Whitman more or less said, any day above ground's a good one.