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Wanda Coleman, Legendary L.A. Poet, Dies At 67

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Wanda Coleman, known as the "unofficial poet laureate of Los Angeles," passed away after a long illness yesterday. She was 67.

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Photo by C.V. Uribe via the LAist Flickr pool
Coleman was born and raised in South L.A. and touched upon topics of racism and disenfranchisement among African-Americans, according to the L.A. Times. She amassed an impressive collection of work over the past few decades, and a 2001 poetry collection, "Meurochrome," was a finalist for the National Book Award. She also won a Daytime Emmy for her writing during the 1970s on the soap opera "Days of Our Lives."

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Encouraged by her parents, Coleman began to write poetry when she was only five years old. She was published for the first time in a local newspaper when she was 13. Camile Paglia said of Coleman: "She's not as central as she should be. Her language jumps off the page."

The Los Angeles Times reports:

Born and raised in Watts, Coleman often wrote of issues of race, class, poverty and disenfranchisement. "Words seem inadequate in expressing the anger and outrage I feel at the persistent racism that permeates every aspect of black American life," she once said. "Since words are what I am best at, I concern myself with this as an urban actuality as best I can." Despite the driving theme of anger in her work, Coleman was a delightful presence: sharp, funny and powerfully charismatic.