Academic journal article Hecate

Biography of Wanda Coleman

Academic journal article Hecate

Biography of Wanda Coleman

Article excerpt

Wanda Coleman (1946-2013) was born in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. Her mother cleaned houses and worked as a seamstress, while her father worked in journalism and advertising; Coleman credits him with teaching her how to typeset and lay out stories. As a child, she did not enjoy school, preferring to write stories and read on her own. Although she attended California State College, Los Angeles City College, and Stanford, she did not receive a traditional college degree. In her twenties, she worked in a series of low-paying jobs that included medical transcriptionist, waitress, magazine editor, and proofreader while caring for her three children and doing her own writing late at night. Although she later served as a poet-in-residence at several colleges and art centres, she expressed concern over the unjust hierarchies of academia throughout her career. Her poetry also engages the many social issues that emerge from the United States' history of racial discrimination, segregation, and economic disparity, particularly through a framework of experimental and revisionist poetic forms.

Coleman's publications include thirteen books of poetry, two collections of short stories, two collections of essays, a novel, and a memoir, as well as several uncollected interviews, newspaper columns, reviews, and radio shows. She and her third husband, poet and visual artist Austin Straus, hosted Pacifica Radio's "Poetry Connexion" show from 1981 until 1996, on which they interviewed a number of local and internationally known writers. Coleman gave hundreds of readings across the United States and abroad in the course of her career, and she published articles on such notable literary figures as Bobbi Sykes and E. Ethelbert Miller. She has won awards for her work that include a National Endowment for the Arts grant (1981-1982), a Guggenheim Fellowship for poetry (1984), the Harriette Simpson Arrow Prize for fiction (1990), and the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets (1999). …

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