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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?"

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Have some Wanda Coleman, a poet you should know

"you wear your loneliness like a trench coat pull its collar high against the chill as you walk the night whispers along the back alley of your soul."
--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

Listen up. The daddy received e-mails asking him to re-post several poets he wrote about but they didn't know. So, for the rest of this week, the daddy will be posting about great but relatively not well known poets, beginning with Wanda Coleman.

Now, the daddy thinks that 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 who by taking a needle and surging into the only God, the only savior he knows, is about 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 once she gets them there, drops drops knowledge like Einstein at the chalkboard or Sistah Souljah on the mike about 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 stupid 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. She's a poet you should know.
--------------------------------------------------
Books by Wanda Coleman:
1. Native in a Strange Land: Trials & Tremors (1996);
2. Hand Dance (1993);

3. African Sleeping Sickness (1990);

4. A War of Eyes & Other Stories (1988);
5. Heavy Daughter Blues: Poems & Stories 1968-1986 (1988);

6. Imagoes (1983); and

7. Mercurochrome: New Poems (2001).

8. Mambo Hips & Make Believe: A Novel, published by Black Sparrow Press.

10 comments:

CareyCarey said...

Well Mac Daddy, with a name like that I had to stop by to see what you were doing over here. Plus, Mac Daddy's generally have something to say and I am new to this game of blogging so I wanted to see how the big boys do it. Stop through and drop a little wisdom on me ...I need it.

Kellybelle said...

Wow. Thank you. I'm not well-versed in poets, but I know what I like and I dig this. The excerpts and poem you posted hit me where I live.

MacDaddy said...

CareyCarey:Your first time at this blog? Hey, then put your name and blog up as a follower of the daddy at the top of my sidebar and come back to your daddy. I'll be over to see you too.

Kellybelle: Miss hearing from you. Come back again. By the way, I still come to your blog, but I can't comment due to the word verification notice. It says put the letters into the box, but no letters appear. Just thought I'd let you know.

MacDaddy said...

CareyCarey:Just so you know, I tried to comment on your blog but couldn't due to the word verification notice. The notice said to put words into a box, but it didn't show any letters or words. Love your blog though.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for letting me know more about Wanda Coleman.
Evelyn

nicki nicki tembo said...

powerful!

Solomon said...

I like Wanda Colemans poetry MacDaddy, can't wait to see what other poets you bring back for an encore since I haven't been following very long.

Anonymous said...

Now that one on Marvin Gaye was good. This one too.

brownsugatou said...

Mac Daddy, my apologies for not getting back to you soon enough! Ms. Wanda Coleman is a poet that we all should know... that poem is deep with deep with some naked honesty!

MacDaddy said...

Brownsugar: I was hoping you would like her poetry, because it reminds me of your own style. And guess what? I'm going to close this series out with another post about her that I think you'll really like. So come back, okay?