Branch library to be dedicated to Wanda Coleman

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The Los Angeles Public Library will dedicate its Ascot Branch library to poet Wanda Coleman later this month. Coleman, who died in 2013, was considered Los Angeles’ ”unofficial poet laureate”; friends, fans and family had advocated for a permanent remembrance.

Coleman’s poetry, full of creative vigor, often dealt with racism and violence, poverty and love, family and Los Angeles. The Watts-born Coleman began taking writing workshops after the 1965 Watts riots, when she was already a wife and mother.

From 1975-76 she wrote on the soap opera “Days of Our Lives,” where she won an Emmy award. Her first collection of poetry, the chapbook “Art in the Court of the Blue Fag,” was published in 1977 by West Coast independent publisher Black Sparrow Press.


Coleman found a home at Black Sparrow -- known for publishing Charles Bukowski -- which published her collections “Mad Dog Black Lady,” “Imagoes,” “Hand Dance” and “Bathwater Wine,” among others.

In all, Coleman published more than 20 books of poetry, essays and short fiction.

Outspoken and opinionated, Coleman was not shy about taking on anointed figures. Her sarcastic coverage of an Angela Davis rally in the 1970s for the Los Angeles Free Press got her barred from its pages. Two decades later, her derisive review of Maya Angelou’s “A Song Flung Up to Heaven” in the L.A. Times made waves locally and nationally.

Coleman’s widower, Austin Straus, asked the Los Angeles Public Library to honor her memory at the Ascot branch, one of the branch libraries she visited as a child.

“Please consider my request,” Straus wrote, noting “many L.A. poets support this idea, will donate signed copies of their books, will help raise funds for the library, and will participate in annual, and perhaps more frequent, poetry readings at the library.... (I hope ultimately to give this library an excellent poetry section, probably the best one in town.)”

The dedication will take place Nov. 30 at 1:00 p.m., and the library will install a plaque in her honor. The Ascot Branch library is located at 120 W. Florence Ave in Los Angeles.

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