Wanda Coleman is dead.


Wanda Coleman is dead, and for some poets it feels like one of the lights turned out. I don’t remember when I first met Wanda. When I came to Los Angeles, her voice was everywhere. I remember that at some point I wanted to meet her and then I met her and when I did, I kept running into her.

And Wanda was someone you could not miss. When she walked into a room, she took up so much energy you had didn’t need the lights on. We had her over for dinner with her husband Austin several times, I remember at a party where Deena Metzger was also present, they bowed to each other, a sort of reverence that giants give one another. Deena Metzger tiny with her grey hair and fierce energy and Wanda, tall and goddess like, they bowed like stags upon greeting.

I remember being on a radio show in San Francisco, Jack Foley’s show and he invited my son to read a poem by his favorite poet. Stephen read a poem about Los Angeles by Wanda Coleman who was, he told Jack, unquestionably his favorite poet. Wanda knows me, Steve said.

And indeed, Wanda would sit with him at our house talking about rap music and skateboarding and where he wanted to travel and books and Wanda’s energy seemed just like his, huge and wild, pulsating and vibrant.

Red Hen Press is releasing a book of love poems by Wanda and Austin in spring. It’s called The Love Project and it has Austin’s art work on the cover. She loved Austin very much, they both worked hard to make a life of art, poetry, music and love and that’s not easy. When they were fund raising for her heath care needs, I remember Brendan Constantine telling me he was sending money. We agreed that having chosen to be poets makes everything harder.

Will we be reading Wanda Coleman in one hundred years? I certainly think so. Here’s to Wanda. Here’s to poetry and here’s to love.

Wanda wanted to believe we can live forever, but we can’t. Except in what we create. And she created work that will make her immortal.
In That Other Fantasy Where We Live Forever
we were never caught

we partied the southwest, smoked it from L.A. to El Dorado
worked odd jobs between delusions of escape
drunk on the admonitions of parents, parsons & professors
driving faster than the road or law allowed.
our high-pitched laughter was young, heartless & disrespected
authority. we could be heard for miles in the night

the Grand Canyon of a new manhood.
womanhood discovered
like the first sighting of Mount Wilson

we rebelled against the southwestern wind

we got so naturally ripped, we sprouted wings,
crashed parties on the moon, and howled at the earth

we lived off love. It was all we had to eat

when you split you took all the wisdom
and left me the worry
Wanda Coleman

Published in: on November 23, 2013 at 1:13 pm  Comments (6)  

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  1. Reblogged this on lotsa, larry goodell and commented:
    I met her at the Bisbee Poetry Festival in 1990 . . . the second important L.A. African American woman poet we have lost in recent years — Merilene Murphy (of Telepoetics) and now Wanda Coleman . . .

  2. Ah, Kate. Lovely.

  3. Thank you Kate. Wanda leaves her mark on all of us–how lucky we are.

  4. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2013/12/the-wanda-coleman-project/

    The Wanda Coleman Project

    We’re still saddened by the loss of Wanda Coleman. Today, though, we were thrilled to hear news of a new documentary in the works featuring a full-length interview with Wanda Coleman in all her greatness. Bob Bryan, who conducts and directs the interview and film, says about the project: “This is THE Must-See interview if you’ve ever loved Wanda or if you’re interested in finding out what her beautiful life was all about. Interview plus Poetry readings. 90 minutes of unadulterated magic. Check it out for the holidays!” Head over to theSanta Monica Dispatch to read Coleman’s own comments on project. But first, check out the trailer below!


    This is a personal invitation for you to screen online my new documentary GV21 THE WANDA COLEMAN PROJECT: Genius. (period)

    Here is the location and the password:
    Location: https://vimeo.com/85043436

    Who is Wanda Coleman?
    Remembering Wanda Coleman
    November 23, 2013|By David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times Book Critic

    Total Running Time: 87 Minutes

    PS the Private Screening Password cannot be published or shared with others. Other interested Screeners must receive the Screening Info directly from me.
    This is a “For Your Eyes Only Exclusive Invitation” for broadcast consideration.


    Here are two reviews and commentary from Wanda Coleman herself.

    Commentary by Wanda Coleman, Poet, Writer & Journalist

    Given that I am from the African-American subculture where questions are used to intimidate, oppress and confuse, it is rare that I enjoy either conducting interviews, or being the subject of them.

    However, independent and direct in his manner, and radiating empathy (without being precious or solicitous), Bob Bryan interviews his subjects in an unforgettable manner.

    Cool yet excited, all in the same moment, he is asks frank, inoffensive questions of genuine interest. At times his questions are startling, because they force the interviewee to assess and summarize quickly, leaving very little opportunity for B.S.

    He does not arouse suspicion, and does not give off the impression that he has some hidden agenda other than the subject at hand. Because of his careful research, he asks questions that have not been asked 100 times before. (In my case, he asked about how I think! This seldom happens.)

    This does not mean that a Bob Bryan interview is easy. It is not, because, in my case, it demanded that I do some sharp and quick thinking on timeworn-and-worry swollen feet.

    Bob Bryan may not know it, but he asks consummate clean questions, questions that are free of the sociological garbage of assumption, implication and innuendo – questions that told me, in my case, that he was open to what I had to say, and that if he had any preconceptions, he was keeping them to himself. The Bob Bryan experience is lean, comfortable and professional, and one of the best I’ve ever had.
    —Wanda Coleman, Poet, Writer & Journalist


    GV21 THE WANDA COLEMAN PROJECT: Genius. (period)
    Thoughts & Reflections by Poet Austin Straus, Wanda Coleman’s Husband

    Bob Bryan’s interview with Wanda Coleman is a classic example of a sensitive, intelligent, and superbly prepared Documentarian eliciting brilliant responses from a genius poet/writer/journalist who is forced by smart questions to think deeply, eloquently and movingly.

    Many moments in this film made me laugh or cry or just sit there in wonder at the depth and breadth of this woman’s mind. And I was her mate for nearly 33 years!

    This film is far and away the best of all the dozens of interviews Wanda ever did and I am profoundly greatful to Bob Bryan for giving me this treasure I can turn to whenever I feel like being reminded of my beloved’s fantastic mind.

    Bob, you have created a work of art, a masterpiece of the documentary interview.

    Thank you from my heart, Austin Straus=


    Review of GV21 THE WANDA COLEMAN PROJECT: Genius. (period)
    by Michelle “Chelle” Angelini

    Normally, I am not one to watch or listen to interviews, but GV21 The Wanda Coleman Project: Genius. had me riveted to my seat
    in front of my computer.

    I could not tear myself away from Bob Bryan’s unique questions or Wanda Coleman’s inspiring answers.

    I was so drawn in by her wonderful infectious laughter, her philosophy of life, her poetry, and Wanda herself. In the process,
    I learned new words and ideas to inspire me as a writer.

    To describe Wanda Coleman – she was vivacious, beautiful, self-assured – without being vain, and a champion to people who needed one.
    And not just black women, but to people of all races and both genders. I learned from her and learned about myself through her.

    Her poetry drew laughter and tears from me. I learned many facts to apply to myself and to my writing.

    Most of what I learned is her enthusiasm for the craft of writing.
    Her poem “Mastectomy” (from her book Mercurochrome) helped me to understand more about the physical and emotional nature
    of the removal of women’s breasts and I was in tears by the end of her reading.

    What drew me to listen with different ears when she read her poems was the emotion she poured into it.
    She didn’t just read it; she didn’t perform it – she was the poem come alive.

    I would love to watch this interview again to pick up anything I missed, since it was filled with so much amazing information.

    GV21 is not just an interview – it is a lesson in life, love, the craft of writing, and one writer’s way of surviving and overcoming what life handed her.
    This documentary should be required viewing in every creative writing classroom for young and emerging poets who think they want to write poetry
    or anything else.

    GV21 THE WANDA COLEMAN PROJECT will help them understand that the craft of writing is not just taking a pen to paper and splashing words onto it,
    but pouring everything – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual – into the words and ideas that make it onto the page.

    Because of Bob Bryan’s excellent interview with a poet who will be missed intensely, I have a new-found appreciation for the craft with which
    I have been blessed and skilled to have as a talent.

    Thank you Bob, straight from my heart.

    ~Michelle~ Chelle Angelini .


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