November 23, 2013 |
Wanda Coleman was a force of nature. The last time I saw her, in early 2012, she took over a panel we were on at 826LA. The subject was Los Angeles literature - something Coleman, who died Friday at the age of 67 after a long illness, embodied at the very center of her being - and all of us, her fellow panelists, were more than happy to sit back and listen to her talk. There was that magnificent voice, for one thing: resonant, oratorical, deep with experience. And then, of course, there was everything she had to say. Coleman was the conscience of the L.A. literary scene - a poet, essayist and fiction writer who helped transform the city's literature when she emerged in the early 1970s.
November 23, 2013 |
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.
November 26, 2012 |
Wanda Coleman, widely considered the "unofficial poet laureate of Los Angeles," has been battling an upper respiratory infection since September; she has been hospitalized more than once. According to an email from Richard Modiano, director of Beyond Baroque Literary/Arts Center , Coleman had to cancel several appearances this fall due to illness, and recently went back into the hospital again. She is scheduled to be released early this week but will need additional care after she is discharged.
CALIFORNIA | LOCAL
May 25, 2012 |
What is the rhythm of Los Angeles? Before hearing poet Wanda Coleman speak at the Los Angeles Central Library recently, it had never occurred to me to think that L.A. has a rhythm. Coleman is an L.A. native whose poems have taken her around the world as an ambassador of Angeleno attitude. She shared the stage at the library's "ALOUD" lecture series with another great L.A. poet, Lewis MacAdams. When you leave L.A. and come back, Coleman told us, you feel the unique way time and people move here.
April 22, 2012 |
One of my favorite pieces of writing to emerge from the 1992 Los Angeles riots is a poem by a writer named Nicole Sampogna, called "Another L.A. " In it, the poet traces the odd dislocation of living on the Westside while so much of the city burns. "They send us home early, again," she begins, "supposedly for curfew sake, / but I know it's to beat the traffic. " And then: "over there the smoke rises, / horns blare, streets scream, / shoot, loot, / bash windows, bash heads, / lights out / knocked out / by a black & white with a baton.
May 1, 2005 |
Starting with her 1977 book, "Art in the Court of the Blue Fag," Coleman has produced a body of work -- poetry, novels, memoir, criticism and journalism -- that has moved more than one observer to dub her "the unofficial poet laureate of Los Angeles." She has been praised both as a black writer and an L.A. writer, but her aspirations and her achievements transcend such labels.