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Poetry Lesson Number One by Wanda Coleman

November 22, 1987

Cleveland and them hung out in that Watts cafe used

to be across the tracks on a diagonal north of the workshop off 103rd. No women were allowed at that table unless being schemed upon, or of exceptional beauty. But I was a stubborn little mud hen at the fringe of

the clique, starved for approval. So one day Cleveland and them was sitting at the table.

Cleve

and maybe Eric and one other brother. I boldly intruded on their exclusivity with my neat little sheaf of poems. "And so you write?" and "Let us see one!" And the

other brother took it and read it out loud and they passed it around the table. "Hmmmm" and "Ahhhh." And I blushed and my stomach tightened twice for each of my 19 years. "Oh yeeeaahhh," said Cleveland. "You are a writer,

young lady. As good a writer as a man!" And I caught the bus home, carrying his words with me, clutching my thin little poems to my heart, glowing in the dark. \f7 From "Heavy Daughter Blues: Poems & Stories 1968-1986" by Wanda Coleman (Black Sparrow Press: $20, cloth; $9, paper: 223 pp.). Los Angeles-based poet Coleman was a recipient of a literary fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts 1981-'82 and a poetry fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, 1984. Her other titles include "Mad Dog Black Lady" (1979) and "Imagoes" (1983). Coleman currently cohosts the interview program "The Poetry Connexion" with Austin Straus for Southern California's Pacifica radio station.

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