By Lynnell Edwards, Associate Programs Director, Spalding’s School of Creative and Professional Writing
On good days, mere chaos seems to swirl around us like smoke; on bad days it feels like we are staring down the apocalypse. Everywhere: the body oppressed and rent by violence, the body sickened (by virus, by fire, by flood) the body “distanced” or “essential.” Literature and the arts have always been part of healing in troubled and transitional times, but documentary poetry, with its arc beyond the interiority of the lyric and toward the external realities of the material world, has an especial urgency in these difficult days.
For me, poetry is a balance, or a vacillation, between overthinking a thing until I’ve ground it to dust, and floating on the air, letting the writing happen. One translation of this happens when I try not to think at all, to the extent that that is possible, and write, and then follow that up later by looking at every last detail as I edit.
by Douglas Manuel, Spalding’s School of Writing Poetry Faculty
When I moved to the L.A. area in 2013, I didn’t know much about Wanda Coleman. I didn’t know she was known as the “L.A. Blueswoman.” I didn’t know she was the low-key, real, unofficial Poet Laureate of Los Angeles. I didn’t know about her Lenore Marshall Prize. I didn’t know about Mercurochrome being a finalist for the National Book Award. I didn’t know about her coming for Maya Angelou (All love and praise due to Maya Angelou though!) and writing that A Song Flung Up to Heaven “seem[ed] small and inauthentic, without ideas, wisdom or vision.” Honestly, and this hurts me the most to admit, I hadn’t even read a single poem of Coleman’s before she died on November 22, 2013. And even worse, I didn’t even go to her memorial at the downtown L.A. Central Public Library that January of the following year. What a fool I am, what a fool!