Wanda Coleman’s final public reading

December 1, 2013

During the past week I received several e-mails and messages from poets about Wanda Coleman, but the one that surprised me the most was from Jax Pham, who commented that she had seen Wanda read at The Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles in the recent celebration of the new edition of the Norton Anthology of Postmodern Poetry. I had thought about attending that reading myself, but I was still fairly ill from a flu I caught on the return trip from New York City. Jax wrote me that Wanda’s performance at the reading was “fabulous,” which makes me regret missing it all the more. That Wanda was strong enough to take part in a public reading and give an all-out effort a month before she died is part of the reason we feel so caught off-guard by her passing.

Another poet who recently wrote me is Mae Ramirez, who is now living up in Berkeley after getting a M.F.A. at Cal State Long Beach. Mae recollected how much watching videos of Wanda perform her poetry enabled her to apprehend the pivot points of recitation. Wanda was a master of summoning the underlying rhythms of a poem and thereby making the dialogue between the images an iridescent spiral of hard-won knowledge. I am grateful that both Jax and Mae will have a poet such as Wanda to point to as they teach their students in the decades to come.

For those who are reading this blog for the first time, here is the important date to remember: Sunday, January 19, 2014; 2 p.m.; a memorial gathering for Wanda Coleman at the Church in Ocean Park; 235 Hill Street, Santa Monica. 90405.

Here are two links to other commentary on Wanda’s passing:

http://splab.org/2013/11/wanda-coleman-dead-at-67/

http://kategale.wordpress.com/2013/11/23/wanda-coleman-is-dead/