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Wicked Enchantment: A Tribute to Wanda Coleman with Terrance Hayes & Vanessa Kisuule

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13 May 2021 @ 7:30 pm 8:30 pm BST


Join us for a special event celebrating the work of Wanda Coleman to mark the publication of WICKED ENCHANTMENT, the first selection of poems by ‘the unofficial poet laureate of Los Angeles’ to be published in the UK. The selection’s editor, Terrance Hayes, will be joined in conversation by Bristol-based poet Vanessa Kisuule via Instagram Live.

Nobody wrote about police hassle like she did. Nobody wrote about making ends meet, about the history of the slave trade or the comedy of the daily grind, with the same breathtaking originality and brio; and few writers, before or since, have had the courage to write with such honesty about their everyday experience of life – and love – in an unjust world.

This is the first ever UK publication of the poetry of Wanda Coleman: a beat-up, broke and Black woman who wrote with defiance, humour and clarity about her life on the margins, and who went overlooked by the establishment for decades – even as she was known colloquially as ‘the unofficial poet laureate of Los Angeles’.

Wicked Enchantment gathers 130 of Coleman’s poems in a selection by Terrance Hayes. Funny, angry, endlessly alive and written with an immediacy and frankness that captivate, here is the essential work of a poet of fierce resistance and self-belief against the odds.

Wanda Coleman was born in the Watts neighbourhood of Los Angeles in 1946. Her first collection was Mad Dog Black Lady, published in 1979 by Black Sparrow Press, who would remain her publisher for the rest of her life. Early fellowships were followed by years of limited recognition, during which she wrote a number of books including American Sonnets (1994). The selection of Mercurochrome (2001) as a National Book Awards finalist began to breathe new life into her reputation. In 2012, she won the Poetry Society of America’s Shelley Memorial Award. She died in 2013.

Terrance Hayes is the author of six poetry collections, most recently Lighthead (2010), winner of the National Book Award; How to Be Drawn (2016), winner of the NAACP Image Award for Poetry; and American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin (2018), which was a finalist for the T. S. Eliot Prize, the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and was chosen as the Sunday Times Poetry Book of the Year. His honours include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a 2014 MacArthur Fellowship. In 2017, he was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Vanessa Kisuule is a writer and performer based in Bristol. She has won over ten slam titles including The Roundhouse Slam 2014, Hammer and Tongue National Slam 2014 and the Nuoryican Poetry Slam. She has been featured on BBC iPlayer, Radio 1, and Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, Blue Peter, Don’t Flop and TEDx in Vienna. She has appeared at an array of festivals and was Glastonbury Festival’s Resident Poet in 2019.  She has performed all over the world, from Belgium to Brazil to Bangladesh. She was the Bristol City Poet for 2018 – 2020 and her poem on the historic toppling of Edward Colston’s statue ‘Hollow’ gained over 600,000 views on Twitter in three days. She has two poetry collections published by Burning Eye Books and her work was Highly Commended in the Forward Poetry Prize Anthology 2019. She has written for publications including The Guardian, NME and Lonely Planet and is the co-tutor for the Southbank New Poets Collective 2021/2022. She is currently working on an essay collection and her debut novel. 

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