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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."

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."

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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.