Wanda Coleman: “Word Game”

Thursday, January 23, 2014

By the time that I got up to speak late Sunday afternoon at the Church in Ocean Park, I knew that the event had been more than long enough to reaffirm Wanda Coleman’s manifold contributions to Los Angeles literature. I cut my presentation short in order that the afternoon could accommodate the three or four remaining speakers. I would have loved to have read a poem by her from “Poetry Loves Poetry,” for instance.

One of my favorites is an early poem called “Word Game.” Its ending seems to allude to Zhuangzi’s famous question about reality being a dream within a dream. Coleman’s uncertainty is not the self-serving cynicism of the fatuous postmodern. It seems, instead, to meditate on the pleasure of the imagination’s essential,  chiastic gift exchange, Wanda, your poems will keep us dreaming that we are the poets we dreamed of becoming when we were young.


once upon a time, i a poet, transformed myself into a poem

i was very happy

my  line was intriguing and audacious

it could take many forms – a gun, a sword, a heart that throbbed

a hand gentle as a kiss

it could express any emotion i sought to convey, as well as

i could master it


then one day i was published


now i do not know whether i am a poet writing a poem

or a poem writing a poet

                   (Mad Dog, Black Lady 97)

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