A poet whose angry and extravagant music, so far beyond baroque, has been making itself heard across the divide between West Coast and East, establishment and margins, slams and seminars, across the too-American rift among races and genders (there are more than two of each) for two decades. . . . But her poems do not require an audible voice or physical presence: They perform themselves.
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.
[Coleman] is best known for what has often been termed her 'warrior voice,' her inclination to impatiently peel away small talk's polite veneer, to scissor through to the heart of the matter. . . . [A] master of telling unvarnished truths—about self, about the world, about personal past and our collective future.
A sly observer, Coleman continues to shoplift language to address a gamut of psycho-social ills. . . . The inclusive and experimental quality of Coleman's voice characterizes a truly American aesthetic.
A veritable atomic bomb of Brechtian-style 'verfremdung.' Ostinato Vamps is Coleman's most accessible and powerful work to date and my third-choice reading of the year.
Something clearly reaches out from her poems to shake the reader awake. . . . Coleman's writing has a certain gusto. . . . She is [among] the best poets of today.
What astounds is the clarity and uniqueness of her perceptions. . . . The demise of Black Sparrow Press necessitated Coleman's move to the Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, but her politics might, if anything, be better served in this new context. Highly recommended.
Adds a remarkably divergent voice to the richly multicultural strain of recent American poetry. A poet of tremendous range and verbal energy. . . . Coleman is a poet who courts disruptionas a way of making sense of a mind-boggling diversity of values.
Weighty with poems that defy characterization as much as they invite discussion, this raunchy but delacately provacative collection restores faith in the power and pleasure of the word. Employing dramatic lyric and extravagantly ornametal language, Coleman crafts a finely tuned dissonace, a brilliant cacophony that intoxicates as it disrupts. . . . Remarkably ambitious, the collection displays the depth of Coleman's responsiveness and the precision of her perception.
Bejeweled with an optimism that can only be generated by the will, Wanda Coleman's Ostinato Vamps compels the reader to nod in agreement at the inevitable pessimism life produces, then turn on a dime as her lines rebel against such fate. . . . Arranges snapshots of life into a mural so heart-stoppingly profound, we must pause and catch our breath after reading each poem.
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.