Saturday, November 23, 2013


I just got word from Harry Northup that Wanda Coleman passed. If you don't know who she is, you should read at least one of her books (betcha can't read just one). I knew her well and got to see her often in my L.A. years. She was in many ways the best known and certainly the most enthusiastically appreciated poet in L. A. We read together several times and it was pure joy to share the podium or stage or whatever with Wanda.  Black Sparrow published several of her books that won fans around the country and the world.

She was a no b.s. presence who said what she thought and wrote what she felt and even when righteously angry made you feel like she still loved you and would soon make you laugh or at least make herself laugh, amused by it all. My thoughts go out to her family, and to her friends and fans, who will miss her terribly.

Here are two poems from a series she did called AMERICAN SONNETS and best express, for me, what made Wanda's words so compelling:


rejection can kill you

it can force you to park outside neon-lit
liquor stores and finger the steel of
your contemplation. it can even make you
rob yourself

(when does the veteran of one war fail to
appreciate the vet of another?)

the ragged scarecrow lusts in the midst of
a fallow field

and the lover who prances in circles envies me
my moves/has designs on my gizzard/kicks shit

this is the city we've come to
all the lights are red all the poets are dead
and there are no norths


rusted busted and dusted

the spurious chain of plebeian events

which allows who to claim the largest number of homicides
the largest number of deaths by cancer the largest
number of institutionalized men the largest number of
crimes of possession the largest number of functionally
insane the largest number of consumers of dark rum

preoccupied with perfecting plans of escape

see you later alligator
after while crocodile
after supper muthafucka

[and here's a taste of her reading style when I knew her best:]


Robert G. Zuckerman said...

Damn, I'm a new fan. It's gonna be rich getting to the other side of the veil, so many greats and greatness over there awaiting!

Lally said...

She was a trip Robert. You would have loved to photograph her too, she had such a distinct style. Vivid and tough and controversial...which of course is why I dug her.

tpw said...

Oh, man---what a clear, funny, honest voice. And what a loss.