Mercurochrome

A self-made writer from Black Los Angeles who lived every day with racism, poverty, violence, the police, inequality. The triumph is in words that endure. “Having Lost My Son, I Confront the Wreckage.” “The Language Beneath the Language.” “They Will Not Be Poets.” “Dreams Without Means.” “American Sonnets.” This is vintage Coleman, the poet of the people.

National Book Award in Poetry finalist, Mercurochrome is one of Coleman’s most powerful collections. With humor, anger, and sorrow, she captures the deeply personal and societal forces of a Black working woman and mother, always behind in rent, always writing. She captured her world and its truths with beauty, harshness, clarity, and power. Through it all, there is passionate love and sexuality, humor and drama — her work is full of startling confession and breathtaking power.

love
as i live it seems more like mercurochrome
than anything else
i can conjure up. it looks so pretty and red,
and smells of a balmy
coolness when you uncap the little applicator.
but swab it on an
open sore and you nearly die under the stabbing
burn. recovery
leaves a vague tenderness

Terrance Hayes says, “Wanda Coleman was a great poet, a real in-the-flesh, flesh-eating poet who also happened to be a real black woman. Amid a life of single motherhood, multiple marriages, and multiple jobs that included waitress, medical file clerk, and screenwriter, she made poems. She denounced boredom, cowardice, the status quo. Few poets of any stripe write with as much forthrightness about poverty, about literary ambition, about depression, about our violent, fragile passions.”

A college drop-out, spurned by the literary establishment during her life, it’s time for Wanda Coleman’s courageous, impassioned, one-of-a-kind voice to reach readers everywhere.

Wanda Coleman—poet, short story writer, novelist, and essayist—was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. Coleman was awarded the prestigious 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for Bathwater Wine from the American Academy of Poets, becoming the first African-American woman to ever win the prize, and was a bronze-medal finalist for the 2001 National Book Award for Poetry for MercurochromeWicked Enchantment: Selected Poems is the first new collection of her work since her death in 2013.

VIRTUAL BOOK LAUNCH
+ Six stellar poets came together with Black Sparrow Press and to celebrate the publication of Wicked Enchantment: Selected Poems. The incredible gathering of acclaimed poets and bona fide Wanda Coleman fans—Mahogany L. Browne, Terrance Hayes, Dorothea Lasky, Rachel McKibbens, Patricia Smith, and Amber Tamblyn—read from and discussed Coleman’s influential work. | Watch

READ
+ Poetry Foundation on Wanda Coleman | Read
+ “Remembering Wanda Coleman” Los Angeles Times | Read
+ Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Memorial Award | Read
+ “Remembering Wanda Coleman” by Amber Tamblyn | Read
+ Obituary: Wanda Coleman Los Angeles Times | Read

VIEW (Poems from Wicked Enchantment)
+ “I Live for My Car” | Watch
+ “Wanda Why Aren’t You Dead” | Watch
+ “They Came Knocking On My Door at 7 AM” | Watch

LISTEN
+ Wanda Coleman Interviewed (2002) | Listen