I would like to write a longer post and talk about the times I spoke with Wanda Coleman that were all too brief. Instead, I wanted to share my letter of support since her widow Austin Strauss is advocating for a branch of the Los Angeles Public Library to be named after her. You can email comments to Raquel Borden at rborden@lapl.org TODAY to express your support. I’ve included my letter of support below.

 

Dear Raquel,

I am writing to you because I want to express my heartfelt, enthusiastic support for naming a Los Angeles Public Library branch after the late lifelong L.A. resident Wanda Coleman. As an emerging poet, her work deeply inspired me and she was so generous with her time when I visited Los Angeles that I saw her as a sort of ambassador for the city.

Beyond that, Wanda Coleman was a prolific writer and published so many books in her lifetime and embodied the experiences of the region in a powerful way. When I describe her work, I often say that Wanda Coleman’s poetry does what Charles Burnett’s films do for Los Angeles. Both Coleman and Burnett offer a compelling, well-crafted, and under-recognized perspective of life and the pervasive moods of Los Angeles.

By naming this library after her, you would honor Coleman’s legacy in a long-term way that extends beyond the accolades that she garnered in life and make her name more visible in the city that she loved deeply. She supported libraries since her childhood, and as a gifted writer and contributor to the American literary culture, I hope that the Board of Library Commissioners will see fit to do the same.
Sincerely,
Tara Betts, Ph.D.
Binghamton University