Catherine Lee

Catherine Lee’s poetry engages in social change activism using a percussive jazz voice. Since 1976, Lee has published multifaceted writing in print, online, and as collaborative multimedia. Her impact on Boston’s jazz scene is detailed here:

Studio Red Top: Credit Where It’s Due

In 2023, Lee’s “7 Questions” responses appeared. Lee guested on KRTU-FM’s website-archived “Jazz Break at Noon” show (4-11-23), performing “on poem” with live and recorded musicians. Lee’s poetry is featured on Fevers of the Mind. A preview, “’Nina Simone: Four Women’ at the Public Theater,” appeared in Black Video News. 

Lee is a 3-time city-funded creative writer and producer who collaborates with media artists to create educational multimedia works. She completed “Mentor Wonders” in late 2022. The poetic drama script about mentoring Westside public school students is now available at Amazon. 

Lee is currently working on another city-funded poetic drama that expands upon her monolog “Subconsciously Seeking A Maverick.” Set at a poker game in a senior center, multicultural friends reminisce about maligned or omitted characters, and assumptions about gunplay and women’s roles that were programmed into them as children by mid-20th century TV Westerns. A final script will develop and emerge out of rehearsals recorded on video. 

Lee, former Pearson custom textbook production editor, created several signed, numbered artist handmade, limited edition chapbooks (We Fre ... view more »

Artist Statement of Work

Tell us about your work (style, approach, philosophy, subject and/or theme):

I specialize in writing poetry with heavily jazz-inflected meters. I agree with my mentor, the Beat poet tedjoans, that "Jazz Is My Religion." Like him, in a missionary way, I mean to educate "squares" who are unfamiliar with the vast catalog of uniquely Black American classical music AKA "jazz." Similarly to how musicians quote snippets of other compositions within their solo statements, my word choices characteristically include terms that "pivot" with multiple ambiguous semantic meanings and/or grammatical syntax. Folks more familiar with this musical repertoire can comprehend more readily what I am saying. I intend these word choices to deepen appreciation or support listeners to possibly draw alternative conclusions than what I intended. My poems can be grouped into several types:  those with overtly music-related content; those reflective of relationships that emphasize unrequited love; those with progressive activist themes, eg anti-racism or feminism; those revealing insights gained from mentoring public school students; and ekphrastic commentary about visual art and music compositions. I'm a versatile writer who creates drama, video scripts, funding proposals, and other sorts of nonfiction prose as well as poetry.


  • \"Be A Mentor - Sea Un Mentor\" is a video PSA created to encourage bilingual volunteer mentors for a San Antonio public school where Lee has mentored for a number of years. Lee wrote the grant that secured production funding, hired and managed video artist and talent, arranged production schedule, wrote storyline, logged footage, and managed a schedule of public showings. It exemplifies Lee\'s skills in bringing her writing to life in a complex multicultural, collaborative environment. Post-Covid-19 school schedule, this piece is conceptually accurate, but the school\'s mentoring program no longer functions this way.

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  • Lee\'s original poem, \"White Horse Black Mountain Boob Blues,\" performed with Aaron Price\'s piano accompaniment.

  • Lee\'s original poem, \"Laces Rule,\" from her collection of poems based on mentoring public school students. Lee reads with composer/guitarist Aaron Price, who contributed his original song to the project.

  • Lee\'s original poem, \"Keeping Score,\" performed with bassist Zack Page and pianist Aaron Price.

  • Lee\'s original poem, \"Crescendo,\" performed with Aaron Price\'s piano accompaniment.

  • Lee\'s original poem, \"Ceora Vocalese,\" performed by vocalist/trombonist Ron Wilkins with pianist Cecil R. Carter. Vocalese is a type of lyric poem that closely matches recorded music melodies or solos played by jazz musicians. In this case, Lee wrote lyrics to the melody of \"Ceora\" by trumpeter Lee Morgan.