An Interview with Terrance Hayes, by Courtney Faye Taylor
I encountered Wanda Coleman for the first time on YouTube—a recitation of her poem, “Untitled” in celebration of Luvina, the literary magazine of The University of Guadalajara. Coleman humorously starts the reading by saying, “If you’d like to know anything about me, you can Google me. I am all over the Internet, unfortunately. Not all of it good.” An early line in “Untitled” seems to respond to this: “I will outlive my ambitions or the judgments of others.” Rather than reading the line, Coleman sings it.
Her entire reading is performative like this. Portions of the poem are delivered slowly, deliberate pauses making for meditations. Sometimes a phrase makes Coleman smile. Some words encourage her hands to take flight. Lines like, “I will walk with hips that are monuments,” take me to the lyricism of Lucille Clifton. Sections with the cadence of monologues point in the direction of Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls. At the end, Coleman stares into the audience. She outlives the applause, the moment, even the beauty of that poem.
As a poet, mother, Los Angeles native, black woman, essayist, and more, Wanda Coleman is a master of honesty. Her writing is an artifact of a life defined by brilliance, outspokenness, and survival. Once you’ve witnessed Coleman, there’s no denying her irreplaceability in the canon.