Wanda Coleman was a poet and writer from Los Angeles, California. Her numerous poetry collections included Mercurochrome: New Poems, nominated for the National Book Award; Bathwater Wine, winner of the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; Ostinato Vamps; and The World Falls Away. She was the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, and an Emmy Award as a writer for Days of Our Lives.
The burnings from which Coleman culls her work casts a glow and unique warmth that invites the reader to sit by her metaphorical hearth, to laugh and enjoy their “conversation.” The contemplative and philosophical have entered her voice as she continues to explore the conflicts and confusions that shape the aesthetic terrain of Southern California and beyond—as she continues to grapple with cultural bias, malignant domestic neglect, poverty, and the damages of racism, yet broadening her palette of social ills to include the privacies of grief, loss and transcendence. A nominee and finalist for Poet Laureate of California, she continues to reflect the ethnic scramble of Los Angeles, where she has been honored by proclamations from the cityÆs elected officials, including the mayorÆs office, the city council and the Department of Cultural Affairs.
Ostinato Vamps is Wanda Coleman’s first book of poetry since the demise of her longtime publisher, Black Sparrow Press. It continues and enlarges the traits that have been her hallmark for more than three decades: a fierce adherence to the truth and a language so musical one can almost hear the blues line underneath her stanzas.
Linguistically daring, lyrically breathtaking, stylistically bold, these poems both explore familiar territory and shatter stereotypes. Life is difficult, often unfair, but it belongs to the living, as Coleman reminds us in no uncertain terms. Racing between an earthy eroticism and fatalistic despair, filled with humor and tragedy, these poems are alive. They breathe. They challenge us even as they reward us for seeking the truth.