Hello. Come on in. The daddy writes about current events, literature, music and, once in a while, drops something on you from back in the day to make you pause and ponder, stop and stare, and begin to wonder. Who knows? You may start to pace the floor, shake your head from side to side, then fall down on bended knees in a praying position and cry, "Lawd, have mercy! What is this world coming to?" Check yourself! But this blog is NOT about the daddy. It's about you: your boos, your fam, your hood, your country...our hopes and dreams of a better tomorrow. So let's make a pact: the daddy will put it on the track if you'll chase it down and hit him back. Together, we can definitely take it to another level. Shall we?"

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Drink from the Cup of Poetry--Have Some Wanda Coleman

Like Wallace Stegner, I am in the 'universal' tradition of writers who concern themselves with The Truth -- never mind that it is apt to hurt someone, in some way, most likely me.
--Wanda Coleman

Almost any poet will have a hard time getting a book published, marketed or sold. But this is especially true of black writers who unapologetically write honestly and assertively about the black condition, and even more so of those who write about poor blacks, the oppressed, the down-and-out; the brother who just lost his job, the hooker on the corner, the dealer down the street, the addict in an alley getting ready to commit a petty crime, the status of black women in our society. Needless to say, this is not the kind of stuff that sells well at Barnes & Nobles.

Mari Evans, great poet and prime mover of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960’s, in an interview in Crisis, put it this way:

‘The only insurmountable obstacle I've faced is being a Black writer. Nobody has ever refused my work because I was a woman, but I've found that when we write about those things of which we are most passionate ... [they] are much more difficult to market. I haven't been able to crossover into that realm that would pay me more. What I write doesn't make me a bestselling author. I'm concerned about the issues that impact African American people. Even Black people want escape material, which is why street literature is so popular. They want to escape our issues, rather than standing and confronting them."

Like Evans, Wanda Coleman writes about the black condition, about black folks facing tough times, about tough black women facing tougher times still. Consider this bluesy reaction to the loss of a job:

"got a fifth o mad dog
to celebrate this day
got me a fifth o mad dog
to celebrate this day
a year of unemployment
and two weeks severance pay"

Yes, folks, when you’re poor, God can appear in the form of an unemployment check.

Or consider, in ‘Doing Battle with the Wolf at the Door," Coleman’s take on the police and the state.

“An occasional transfusion arrives in the mail
Or i find plasma in the streets
An occasional vampire flashes my way
But they don’t take much
My enemy is the wolf
Who eats even the mind

The wolf will come for me sooner or later
i know this
The wolf makes no sexual distinction
i am the right color
He has a fetish for black meat and
Frequently hunts with his mate alongside him"

But perhaps Coleman’s most memorable, most poignant truth about American society can be found in her poem ‘Women of My Color.” Here, Coleman
skillfully uses sex to draw the reader into the poem; and then drops knowledge like Einstein at the chalkboard on what it means to be a black woman in patriarchal white America:

Women of my Color

by Wanda Coleman

i follow the curve of his penis
and go down

there is a peculiar light in which women
of my color are regarded by men

being on the bottom where pressures
are greatest is least desirable
would be better to be dead i
sometimes think

there is a peculiar light in which women
of my race are regarded by black men
as saints
as mothers
as sisters
as whores

but mostly as the enemy

it’s not our fault we are victims
who have chosen to struggle and stay alive

there is a peculiar light in which women
of my race are regarded by white men
as exotic 20
as enemy

but mostly as whores

it’s enough to make me cry
but i don’t

following the curve of his penis
i go down

will i ever see
the sun!

“Women of My Color" is classic Coleman; dropping truth, singing blues, and never forgetting-- to paraphrase James Brown, the godfather of soul-- to "make it funky'' in a country where folks would rather climb mountains, bungy jump, watch soap operas or nod off to lame jokes by Jay Leno than hear what they know, deep in their hearts, is the real deal.

The daddy says drink from the cup of poetry. Go ahead: sip some hot soul from the truth-shaker, the sweet Momma Wanda, the Mad Dog Lady. Go ahead. Have some Wanda Coleman.


Kit (Keep It Trill) said...


I can't recall the last time I bought a book of poetry, but I think I'd like to have this one.

Anonymous said...

well done

Anonymous said...

The combination of her honesty and street language is so powerful!

rainywalker said...

I have been enjoying your blogs on poetry, they are deep and take me to new places.

MountainLaurel said...

Her poetry is positively beautiful and lyrical. Even if the subjects aren't. The pure beauty brings tears to my eyes. That's the mark of a true artist, in my opinion.

Thank you for bringing her into my day and brightening it.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

Wow, that's some rich stuff. Strong and powerful. Spicy and hot.
Burns a little going down. Causes a slight feeling of upset stomach. Ya know ya swallowed something.

MacDaddy said...

kit: I think you'll love "African Sleeping Sickness." It has poems from her book "Mad Dog Black Lady," which I think is her rawest and most exciting book, but also fascinating stories. Trust me: You'll love it.
anon; You're on the money: The honesty and the language makes you everything seem so real, so current, so now. You feel you're walking the streets at night with her.
rainywalker: Thanks. I'm doing two more pieces. That will end the series and then I will write something about poetry on weekends, probably on a Saturday.
mountainlaurel: Like you, I'm captivated by the blues rhythm and lyricism. I think you'll love her work as well.
sagacious: Wanda's poetry, passionate poetry, is supposed to get to us and take us to another place. Glad you love it. said...

Hey there MacDaddy!

I just thought I'd drive by and pick up what was "swiped" from my blog... you DO know exactly what I am referring to... right?? {raised brow}

Don't let the preacher have to pull out her piece!

Lisa said...

Oh... um... I didn't comment on the post...

I am loving Wanda!!!

I had never heard of her before and when you featured her...I just really connected to her prose...

Keep on giving us more of Wanda!

{thumbs up}

MacDaddy said...

Hi, Lisa;

Thanks for the kind comments about Wanda. Actually, I'm surprised so many people have responded to her and other's poetry. I'm going to conclude the series tomorrow. But I'll still write something either on poetry or music every Saturday.

Now, about what I "swiped" from your blog, I'm clueless. Let me and the other readers know...If it's true, I'll just have to live with the embarrassment. luv you.

Anonymous said...

“Women of My Color" is classic Coleman; dropping truth, singing blues, and never forgetting-- to paraphrase James Brown, the godfather of soul-- to "make it funny..."
I'm thinking "Women of My Color" is not funny...more like Sagacioushillbilly said..."burns a little going down. Causes a slight feeling of upset stomach." Wanda is a powerful poet, a rythmic truthsayer. The truth is necessary, even if its often difficult to stomach. She's keepin it real. Much respect for the sister.

MacDaddy said...

anon: You're right. It's not funny. The James Brown line is "Make it funky." My mistake. I'll make the change. Thanks for pointing that out; and let me know what you think about my most recent post which includes two historic poems I wrote. Thanks again for pointing out my error. Blessings.

MacDaddy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

daddy, no long explanation needed. I knew what you meant. My kids have stolen most of my JB CDs & I still got about 10 of them. I knew what you meant. said...

Hey MacDaddy...

Okay...maybe it wasn't your IP address flashing on my screen...

Maybe it wasn't the smell of your cologne coming through my computer...

{raised brow}

I'll leave that between you and God....

Luv you....

Anonymous said...

daddy, the poetry is alright. But what about Obama voting for FISA?