Los Angeles-based poet, fiction writer, reviewer, essayist and activist Wanda Coleman will read from and sign copies of her books at 12:15 p.m. Thursday in the Assembly Hall of Campbell Student Union on the Buffalo State College campus. The event, sponsored by Buffalo State College's School of Arts and Humanities and the English Department, is free and open to the public.
Ms. Coleman, who grew up in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles in the 1960s, is widely celebrated for the jazz and blues influences on her spoken work performance style. She is also notably the author of 16 books of poetry and fiction, perhaps the best known of which are Bathwater Wine (Black Sparrow Press, 1998), which received the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of the American Poets; Mercurochrome: New Poems (Black Sparrow, 2001), a finalist for the National Book Award in poetry; and Ostinato Vamps, a Pitt Poetry Series selection for 2003-04.
She has also penned three short story collections, the most recent of which is Jazz and Twelve O'Clock Tales (Godine/Black Sparrow Books, 2008), and Mambo Hips and Make Believe: A Novel (Black Sparrow, 1999). In addition to writing fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the California Arts Council, Coleman received an Emmy for best writing in daytime drama, while on the writing staff of NBC's Days of Our Lives in 1976. Coleman became the City of Los Angeles' first literary fellow in 2003 when that title was created by the city's Office of Cultural Affairs.
In her two collections of prose writings Native in a Strange Land: Trials and Tremors (Black Sparrow, 1996) and The Riot Inside Me: More Trials & Tremors (David R. Godine, Publisher, 2005), as well as her stints as a book reviewer and essayist for the Los Angeles Times, Coleman has proven to be a trenchant, tough-minded, and fiercely independent critic who does not suffer fools gladly.
When an interviewer for Poetry Society of America asked her in 2004 whether "gender, sexual preference, or ethnicity figured more prominently than being an American" in her self-identity as a poet, Coleman candidly responded in her inimitable speaking-truth-to-power style: "As a Usually Het Interracially Married Los Angeles-based African American Womonist Matrilinear Working Class Poor Pink/White Collar College Drop-out Baby Boomer Earth Mother and Closet Smoker Unmolested-by-her-father, I am unable to separate these and, as time progresses, resent having to fit into every niggling PC pigeon hole some retard trendoid academic with a grant or hidden agenda barfs up."