Wanda Coleman was an American poet. She was known as “the L.A. Blueswoman” and “the unofficial poet laureate of Los Angeles”.
Wanda Evans was born in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, where she grew up during the 1950s and 1960s. She is the eldest of four children. Her parents were George and Lewana (Scott) Evans, who were introduced to one another at church by his aunt. In 1931, her father had relocated to Los Angeles from Little Rock, Arkansas, after the lynching of a young man who was hung from a church steeple.
After graduating from John C. Fremont High School in Los Angeles, Wanda Evans enrolled at Los Angeles Valley College in Van Nuys, California. She transferred to California State University at Los Angeles, but did not complete a degree.
Shortly after finishing high school, she married white Southerner Charles Coleman, a troubleshooter for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the 1960s. Their union produced two children, Luanda and Anthony. She went on to marry two more times. Her third husband was poet Austin Straus, whom she married in 1981.
Coleman received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the California Arts Council (in fiction and in poetry). She was the first C.O.L.A. Literary Fellow (Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, 2003). Her honors included an Emmy in Daytime Drama writing.
While critically acclaimed for her creative writing, Coleman’s brush with notoriety came as a result of an unfavorable review she wrote in the April 14, 2002, issue of the Los Angeles Times Book Review of Maya Angelou’s book A Song Flung Up to Heaven. Coleman found the book to be “small and inauthentic, without ideas wisdom or vision.” Coleman’s review provoked positive and negative responses, including the cancellation of events and the rescinding of invitations. Her account of this incident appears in the September 16, 2002, edition of The Nation.
In That Other Fantasy Where We Live Forever
– Poem by Wanda Coleman
we were never caught
we partied the southwest, smoked it from L.A. to El Dorado
worked odd jobs between delusions of escape
drunk on the admonitions of parents, parsons & professors
driving faster than the road or law allowed.
our high-pitched laughter was young, heartless & disrespected
authority. we could be heard for miles in the night
the Grand Canyon of a new manhood.
like the first sighting of Mount Wilson
we rebelled against the southwestern wind
we got so naturally ripped, we sprouted wings,
crashed parties on the moon, and howled at the earth
we lived off love. It was all we had to eat
when you split you took all the wisdom
and left me the worry