Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sarah Cortez

Sarah Cortez: Policing, Poetry, and Prose

A black and white photo of Sarah Cortez circa 2009.Sarah Cortez is a police officer, poet, writer, and editor. Author of the poetry collection How to Undress a Cop (Arte Público Press, 2000), Cortez was the 1999 PEN Texas Literary Award in Poetry, placed as a semi-finalist in the 2000 Fourteenth Annual Louisiana Literature Prize for Poetry, and served as Visiting Scholar in the University of Houston’s Center for Mexican American Studies (1999-2001). In this position she has taught the class Latino Visions of the City, a writing course that offered students the opportuunity to examine urban related poetry as well as creating their own poetic expressions. Sarah also has a taught the class Writing the Memoir at the Houston C. G. Jung Educational Center. In 2002, her poem Glance was chosen for the Poetry Society of America's national Poetry in Motion program. One of her poems was also chosen as an Honorable Mention in the 2007 Texas Poetry Calendar. She has also edited a volume of short memoir by young US Latinos entitled Windows into My World: Latino Youth Write Their Lives (Arte Público, 2007). Other of her poems have been anthologized, most recently (and for the second time), in the series The Lineup: Poetry on Crime in issue number three (April, 2010). She is co-editor with Liz Martínez of Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery (Arte Público, May 2009), a groundbreaking collection of short fiction by Latino writers. An already completed books, also co-edited with Liz Martínez, is titled Indian Country Noir (Akashic Books). It is a collection of noir short fiction that will be released in June, 2010. Sarah is currently editing a collection of non-fiction writing by law enforcement personnel on the subject of policing in America.

A color photo of the front cover of 'Urban-Speak: Poetry of the City' edited Sarah Cortez.Urban-Speak: Poetry of the City (2001)
(as editor)
This volume documents students from the University of Houston reacting to the urban landscape of Houston. These reactions are presented in the form of "gritty, throbbing, stubbornly triumphant" poetry produced under the meticulous eye of Sarah Cortez acting as their poetry teacher.

A color photo of the front cover of 'How to Undress a Cop: Poems by Sarah Cortez'.How to Undress a Cop: Poems by Sarah Cortez (September, 2000)
It's not every book of poetry that includes an "Ode to Body Armor." But then, it's not every poet whose experience in academia includes a stint at the police academy. The poems of Sarah Cortez are tough-minded, verbally supple, and often deeply erotic. And each of these fifty lyric poems displays her many facets: the street smarts of a law enforcement officer, the bilingual vocabulary of a proud Mexican American; the linguistic dexterity of an erstwhile Latin teacher; and the frank sensuality of a strong and spirited woman.

A color photo of the front cover of 'Windows into My World: Latino Youth Write Their Lives' edited by Sarah Cortez.Windows into My World: Latino Youth Write Their Lives (March, 2007)
(as editor)
"They never thought I would leave. I remember tia Olivia calling the house to let me know that I was betraying my family by leaving to study. But unlike both of my parents, I wasn't leaving the country to let years pass before seeing my family again; and unlike my mother, I wasn't leaving to get married." In this short but powerful memoir, Marisol explains that she knew her departure for Yale would create conflict with her family, but she is surprised that her leaving leads to a bond with her parents that she could never have imagined. Marisol is one of thirty-six Latinos whose writings are included in this collection. They all uniquely document their struggles with the issues that young people encounter--friendship, death, anorexia, divorce, sexuality--but added to these difficulties are those specific to their ethnicity, such as adjusting to a new culture and language, and handling familial and cultural expectations that can limit their hopes and dreams but just as often enrich their lives. In one piece, a young woman muses about the safety in the hills of her native Honduras compared to the flat expanse of her new homeland: "When I venture back into these silver hills, no one can see where I've gone because of the curves of the winding streets. But when I walk the flat roads of America, people can watch me go, trace my path and witness the inevitable stumble." These short essays written by young men and women from various Latino backgrounds--Mexican American, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Salvadoran--reflect the diversity of growing up Latino in the United States. Whether from a gay or straight, urban or rural, recent immigrant or third generation perspective, these illuminating pieces of memoir shine a light into the lives of young Hispanic adults.

A color photo of the front cover of issue one of 'The Lineup: Poems on Crime'.The Lineup: Poems on Crime (January, 2008)
(as a contributor)
The Lineup is the first issue of a planned annual chapbook of poems on crime launched July 2008 by Poetic Justic Press. This first issue contains fourteen poems. Contributors include Patrick Shawn Bagley, Ken Bruen, Sarah Cortez, Graham Everett, Daniel Hatadi, Daniel Thomas Moran, R. Narvaez, Robert Plath, Misti Rainwater-Lites, Stephen D. Rogers, A. E. Roman, Sandra Seamans, Gerald So, and K. C. Trommer. Sarah's contribution for this issue is Prayer of an Arson Investigator. The series is not intended to sensationalize or glorify crime but is instead meant to be a platform for poets' honest, powerful reactions to what they see as crime. Gratuitous anything is discouraged by the publisher.

A color photo of the front cover of 'Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery' edited by Sarah Cortez and Liz Martínez.Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery (March, 2009)
(co-edited with Liz Martínez)
In Lucha Corpi's story, Hollow Point at the Synapses, her unique narrator a bullet describes the instant before killing a young Peruvian woman: "I feel the pull of the hammer. The pressure mounts. I am now in place. The moment is upon me. Swiftly and efficiently, I will do what I must, what I was created for. In an instant, I am off, traveling at a speed reserved only for death." This groundbreaking anthology of short fiction by Latino mystery writers, Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery, features an intriguing and unpredictable cast of sleuths, murderers and crime victims. Reflecting the authors' and society's preoccupation with identity, self, and territory, the stories run the gamut of the mystery genre, from traditional to noir, from the private investigator to the police procedural, and even a chick lit mystery. The Right Profile features a Miami private investigator who goes undercover to prove a deadbeat father can pay child support, and she delights in testifying against him in court. In The Skull of Pancho Villa, someone has stolen the family heirloom and it's up to Gus Corral to get it back. And in A New York Chicano, a successful bachelor from El Paso a graduate of New York University working for Merrill Lynch in Manhattan gets his revenge against a xenophobic newscaster. Hit List is a collection of first time short mystery fiction by Latino authors who have pioneered the genre, using it to showcase their unique cultures, neighborhoods and realities. The stories are both stylistically and ethnically diverse running the gamut of the mystery genre, from traditional to noir, private eye to police procedural, and even chick lit. Contributing authors include award-winning writers such as Mario Acevedo, Carolina García-Aguilera, Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Lucha Corpi, Sarah Cortez, Carlos Hernandez, Rolando Hinojosa (aka Rolando Hinojosa-Smith), Bertha Jacobson, John Lantigua, Arthur Muñoz, R. Narvarez, L. M. Quinn, S. Ramos O'Briant, Manuel Ramos, A. E. Roman, Chico Santana, Steve Torres, and Sergio Troncoson.

The Lineup, Poems on Crime logo.The Lineup 3: Poems on Crime (April, 2010)
(as a contributor and as a member of the editorial staff)
The third annual issue of The Lineup: Poems on Crime will be released in April, 2010. This collection, The contributing poets to The Lineup 3 are: Patricia Abbott, Joe Barnes, Henry Chang, Reed Farrel Coleman, Sarah Cortez, Michael A. Flanagan, Anne Frasier, James W. Hall, David Hernandez, Amy MacLennan, Carrie McGath, James M. McGowan, Kristine Ong Muslim, David S. Pointer, James Sallis, Jackie Sheeler, Wallace Stroby, Larry D. Thomas, and Francine Witte.

A color photo of the front cover of 'Indian Country Noir' edited by Sarah Cortez and Liz Martínez.Indian Country Noir (June, 2010)
(co-edited with Liz Martínez)
This sharp, stylized, and ambitious anthology of Native American literature continues Akashic Books groundbreaking series of original noir anthologies. Each book in this series has a collection of previously unpublished short stories. Each story for the collections in this series is set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the city of the book. Indian Country Noir is set in Indian Country including Canada, Canadian Reserves, US Reservations, Alaska, Hawaii, and Mexican Indian land. Each enters into the dark welter of troubled history throughout the Americas where the heritage of violence meets the ferocity of intent. The protagonists of these stories--whichever side of the law they're on--use their familiarity with Indian cultures to accomplish goals ranging from chilling murder to a satisfying participation in the criminal justice system. Authors with Indian heritage or blood join non-Indian authors in creating stories in settings as diverse as the terror-ridden atmosphere of the Indian boarding schools to the dubious sleaze of contemporary casinos. The contributing authors include Mistina Bates, Jean Rae Baxter, Lawrence Block, Joseph Bruchac, David Cole, Reed Farrel Coleman, O'Neil De Noux, A.A. Hedge Coke, Gerard Houarner, Liz Martinez, R. Narvaez, Kimberly Roppolo, Leonard Schonberg, and Melissa Yi. With a foreword by Richard B. Williams, president and CEO of the American Indian College Fund.

Sarah Cortez' author poet web site
Sarah Cortez at Arte Público Press
Sarah Cortez at KUHF, Houston Public Radio
Sarah Cortez at PoliceWriters.com
Audio discussion with Sarah Cortez and Liz Martínez from The Watering Hole June, 2009
Sarah Cortez audio interview at KUHF, Houston Public Radio May, 2009
A description of CrimeWAV 36, an online collection of readings from The Lineup
Gerald So reading Sarah Cortez' poem 'Prayer of an Arson Investigator'
Sarah Cortez print interview at La Bloga April, 2009
Sarah Cortez print interview at The Dark Phantom Review April, 2009
Sarah Cortez print interview at The Austin Chronicle November, 2007
The Akashic Books Noir Series
Arte Público Press
Nuestra Palabra, Latino Authors Having Their Say
BronzeWorld Latino Authors
Poetic Justice Press blog

Newer Article: Newer Article Pending


Older Article: Flesh Colored Horror, the early work of Japanese Manga horror writer Junji Ito

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