Back in 1983, the iconic local poet Wanda Coleman anticipated her own death, which she envisioned as "a door thru which i escape/another world." Far from being in fear of this inevitability, the Watts native and lifelong Angeleno embraced it. "When my time comes/i will speak to the night," she declared. And, like her throngs of ardent fans and poetic peers, you had to presume even the night would stop to pay attention, reveling in her every word and late-night confession: "My skin peels off, beneath it soft moist black earth."
L.A. Weekly archives/W.R. Middlebook Wanda Coleman at the Van Nuys Multi-Purpose Center, February 1980
Coleman passed away at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center after a lengthy illness on Friday, November 22, at the age of 67, leaving behind her longtime husband and fellow poet, Austin Straus, two children, three grandchildren, and a body of work that richly and palpably grappled with the contradictions of life in this city. When the former Wanda Evans emerged as a startlingly frank and fearlessly confrontational poet in the late 1970s, the East Coast literary establishment had little use for most serious L.A. writers, much less a struggling African-American single mother, and yet Coleman was published from the very beginning by Black Sparrow Press, the imprint that famously championed the works of Charles Bukowski, John Fante and D.H. Lawrence.More »