Accessibility links


Texas Poet Finds Inspiration in Police Work

Police are not generally known for their genteel manners and skill at creating metaphors. But many cops, as police officers are known, have written books influenced by their law enforcement work. Still, you don't find many award-winning poets among them and not all that many females. A woman in Houston, Texas has made her way both as a cop and a lyric poet.

Sarah Cortez draws a crowd to hear poems that touch on everything from sex, love and food to dating fellow police officers.

"Your first cop boyfriend, your first handgun. No one else believed in your calling to wear a badge and police the streets," said Sarah Cortez.

Sarah Cortez had her law-enforcement calling 20 years ago. And she still works in uniform as a part-time reserve officer at the Harris County constable's precinct four office.

Her experience as a cop is often reflected in her books of poetry and the anthologies she has edited.

"I want to reveal the world of policing, the very complex, dangerous and dirty world it is, for my reader," she said.

"They knew she must have wanted to miss; ain't [it is not] that hard to kill someone," she read from one of her books.

Her gritty reality and sometimes dark humor appeal to readers like Melodie Rodriguez.

"The subject that she talks about is very deep and very serious, but she has a spin on it, the humor that she brings to it, so it shows so many different facets," said Rodriguez.

When she teaches creative writing, Cortez stresses the benefits of experiencing something far removed from academic life.

"It is absolutely essential to have life experience and work experience and then bring your poetic sensibility or your poet's eye to whatever that is," she said.

At home with her husband Gabe, a former firefighter, Sarah Cortez often reflects on experiences that have stayed with her.

She wrote one poem about helping to remove the body of an old woman who had died in her home all alone.

"Her cat pacing through rooms, pushing heavy doors open. Mute...The scenes I did not see a week earlier when my own mom died," read Cortez.

She says details are important in poems and in police work.

“One of the most crucial qualities in terms of solving your cases is that you have to pay a lot of attention to detail," she said.

Police work has provided Sarah Cortez with plenty of details about people who find themselves in a bad situation.

"As a poet you are trying to extract the purest essence of what you perceive that situation meant," said Cortez.

Because of her writing, Sarah Cortez is in big demand as a public speaker, a teacher and an editor.

But she continues working part time at precinct four, where she finds inspiration as well as personal fulfillment.