Poet Wanda Coleman died Friday after a long illness, her husband said. She was 67.
Coleman was a key figure in the literary life of Los Angeles. She, as our book critic David Ulin recently wrote, "helped transform the city's literature." She was a finalist for the National Book Award for her poetry collection "Mercurochrome" in 2001.
Born and raised in Watts, Coleman often wrote of issues of race, class, poverty and disenfranchisement. "Words seem inadequate in expressing the anger and outrage I feel at the persistent racism that permeates every aspect of black American life," she once said. "Since words are what I am best at, I concern myself with this as an urban actuality as best I can."
Despite the driving theme of anger in her work, Coleman was a delightful presence: sharp, funny and powerfully charismatic.
She began writing as a young woman and was part of the Watts Writers Workshop that began after the 1965 riots. She was also involved with Beyond Baroque in Venice.