Cover Image: Wicked Enchantment

Wicked Enchantment

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I find it quite hard to decide whether I liked the poems or not. Quite thorn between obsessing over them and at the same time running away from them. I decide to attribute this to the rawness of the language Wanda Coleman.

Wicked Enchantment is a collection of the poetry written by Wanda Coleman, precisely 130 of them. Coleman was colloquially known as ‘the unofficial poet laureate of L’os Angeles’. Her poetic expression Is raw, very direct, metaphorically playful and brutally honest. Common themes are brutalities of African-American women’s lifestyle in the 80’s and 90’s, racism, family life, poverty, hustle culture, self-identity and relationships. 

I started reading this collection without any prior knowledge of Wanda’s work. This turned out to be a blessing and a curse. I was so amazed by her literary expression, at times it left me in awe.

“how I committed suicide: i revealed myself to you.
i trusted you. I forgot the color of my birth.” (American Sonnet 94)

“those who have sunk complain in their fleshlessness
rankled, they rile against the chill of fathoms
where is Poseidon when you need him? off somewheres 
and leaving you to Hades.” (I ain’t yo Earthmama)

Most of the poems are very explicit, which was too much for me at times and made my reading experience not particularly enjoyable. That’s a downside of me diving into this work without any prior knowledge. To avoid that the best thing would be check out the content warnings before reading. 
Wanda’s poems are indeed timeless and unfortunately very relevant even today and it is only nowadays that she is praised for her work. Her rage and rebellion is expressed through poems that can be enjoyed by mature audience and readers.

CONTENT WARNINGS: explicit language, suicidal thoughts, graphic medical descriptions of bodily fluids.
Was this review helpful?
Wanda Coleman is the voice of a suppressed minority crying out for justice, for revenge, and for a place in the world. Reminiscent of Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brookes, and Allen Ginsberg, Wanda Coleman is the voice of  many.
Was this review helpful?
Wow there is some powerful stuff in these pages. I was unaware of Ms Coleman but I will be researching her further after reading this book. The rhythm and the wordplay are phenomenal and there is pain and yet humour throughout her poetry.

“heart full of been done wrong, I’m a candidate for the coroner, a lyric for a song.”
“went to the clown show disguised as you, you did not recognise me”
“She starves hearts to feed stomachs”

This collection is beautiful and always true. The poetry works and it talks to me, even though I have little in common with the poet. That, to me, is the success of poetry and I’m glad in this case to have found a brilliant poet to read again and again.

I was given a copy of this book by Netgalley
Was this review helpful?
I was not familiar with Wanda Coleman or her work before picking this up,  so I really am grateful for the introduction to such a beautiful, powerful and skilled poet, I am only annoyed (but sadly not surprised) that it’s taken so long for these to be published in the UK, but thank you to penguin for finally giving Wanda the spotlight she deserved, albeit sadly so long after her passing. Wanda was so talented and had a such an incredible and powerful use of language, she writes intimately and beautifully about inequalities, racism, sexism and human nature, all drawn from her own experiences. These poems will touch you so deeply, you won’t necessarily connect with them all, but you don’t have to feel connected to appreciate the skill and craft in the poems.  You won’t always connect as deeply because you haven’t lived these experiences, you can only empathise but not fully understand, but it makes these no less power or beautiful. I am thankful for the introduction to Wanda Coleman,I highly recommend that you pick this up and experience her work yourself, you will only be the better for it

Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for a free copy for an honest opinion
Was this review helpful?
Wicked Enchantment by Wanda Coleman is a collection of her poetry over the years.

I was not familiar with her or her work before this so I really liked how there were lots of different poems with different styles and tones. She is clearly incredibly talented and absolutely has a way with words. Some of my favourite lines were; 'My delicious dilemma is language. How I structure it. How the
fiction of history structures me. And as I’ve become more and
more shattered, my tongue has become tangled . . . I am glassed in
by language as well as by the barriers of my dark skin and financial

She writes intimately about human nature and the messiness of what it means to be alive. I liked the honesty and unapologetic tone in which a lot of her poems had. Coleman wrote beautifully about inequalities and drew from her own personal experience of racism, sexism and classism. She writes about struggling to make ends meet and losing who you are in the process.
" ignore the actuality of blackness blah blah blah 
and it will cease to have factual power over my life. 
which doesn’t make sense to me 
– especially when the nature of mirrors
is to reflect"

However, although I felt some of the poems deep in my soul and I just loved the way they were, others didn't have too much of an impact on me. I can appreciate the poetry, the meaning, the significance, but ultimately a lot of these poems didn't truly touch me. Overall this is still an incredible piece of literature and deserves to be picked up time and again.
Was this review helpful?
I has not come across Wanda Coleman before reading this book - I can't understand why?! The poetry was powerful, compelling and told stories that I hadn't heard before. The collection is thought provoking and provided opportunity to reflect on how things have/haven't changed since it was written. The topics covered are racism, classism, poverty and black feminism. Truly incredible! So glad I can keep returning to this.
Was this review helpful?
I hadn’t heard of Wanda Coleman before, but enjoyed some of this collection.   Lots of powerful and impactful writing, but not something I think I’ll return to.

Unfortunately I think I missed the impact of some of the poetry because of the formatting of the kindle version I read.
Was this review helpful?
I had never heard of Wanda Coleman until I picked up the book, and the variety of poetry was a lovely introduction to her work. The poems are poignant and thought-provoking, covering themes of racial disparities and are painfully relevant today.
Was this review helpful?
Some parts of this collection were particularly powerful and poignant but at other points I found the collection lacked a little bit of flow.
Was this review helpful?
This was my first time reading Wanda Coleman's poetry (a writer I had not previously come across), and I was not disappointed! I loved how unique and experimental Coleman is in her form, and overall the collection is thoroughly touching, personal, and thought-provoking. Coleman also touches on a range of issues that affected her life, such as racial discrimination, poverty, sexism, and Black feminism, which certainly makes for a powerful and timely read.
Was this review helpful?
This collection of poems is strikingly and sadly very relevant today, though written in the 80s and 90s. The poems are brave, bold, gritty, funny, deep, flippant, historic and contemporary all at once. Themes are race and discrimination, Black feminism, poverty, and poetry as a craft. Coleman makes interesting use of traditional forms, with lots of sonnets for example, and she invents her own. I found out about this collection after reading a good review in The New Yorker, by Dan Chiasson.
Was this review helpful?
I like to think of myself as well-read, and even if I don’t read a lot of poetry, I like to think that at least I’ve heard of the major contemporary poets – but I’d never heard of Wanda Coleman (1946-2013) so this collection was a real revelation. Why has her work never been published in the UK before now? Such a vibrant, powerful voice – and yet this is her first collection to be issued here; and kudos to Penguin for now doing so. 130 poems are included from her 40 year writing career, and there’s a useful introduction to put them into context.  She writes of the Black experience, especially in her native Los Angeles. She writes about being a woman, being a Black woman, being poor and disenfranchised, about life on the margins. But also about love and joy, about family and loss, just about everything that touches all our lives, not just Black ones in the US. It’s a bit overwhelming to read through the collection in one go – a more measured and slower pace is needed, and I’m sure I will go back to the book many times. I’m so pleased to have discovered her.
Was this review helpful?
How have I never heard of Wanda Coleman before now?! I am so grateful to Penguin for bringing this work to a UK audience and to Terrence Hayes for his thoughtful introduction to the collection. 

I really enjoyed Wicked Enchantment and, even as someone who doesn't read much poetry and is often intimidated by it as an art form,  there were plenty of pieces in here that I could relate to. Much of the work focuses on issues around race, what it means to be a woman (particularly a black woman) and the cost of being your authentic self in a world which does not always encourage it. 

Coleman is unapologetic in her writing, she obviously knows her stuff and understands the "rules" of traditional poetry but this doesn't stop her from breaking those rules and using her work as a means of better understanding herself and, in doing so, allowing us to understand her as well. 

The poems that I enjoyed the most were those that almost read like prose. One poem is set out as a multiple choice question highlighting the disparities between how people of different races are perceived even when performing the same actions - it was honest, stark and forced me me to challenge many of my own prejudices. I also enjoyed the poems she wrote as letters to her dead sister, they were beautiful, sad and evocative all at the same time and conveyed the survivor's guilt that is often felt by those left behind. 

There were poems in the collection that I didn't understand or connect with but that is due in no small part to my need to follow a linear narrative and Coleman does not allow herself to be limited by such restrictive parameters. To fully appreciate her work, I think readers need to take their time with it and if you don't fully understand a poem try reading it aloud or watching a video of Coleman performing the work. Treat the words like music, let the rhythm flow over you and see if you can connect with it that way; despite me never having met her, I get the sense that Wanda would wholeheartedly approve of this approach.
Was this review helpful?
Ok, so let’s preface this with the fact that I’m not a big poetry person. In fact I’m still holding a grudge agains Wordsworth, Tennyson and the Brownings after my A-Levels. But every now and again I venture in and this was one of those times. And it was also my first encounter with Wanda Coleman and it has absolutely made an impression on me. This is a thought provoking and well put together collection of more than 130 poems from across Coleman’s forty career. The order is drawn from Coleman’s own preferences and examines her life and black American experiences as she saw them. 

It’s gritty and rule breaking and I sometimes felt totally out of my depth. You’ll have to think and concentrate and probably read out loud to understand the rhythm. And although some of the poems are forty years old, the themes and experiences still feel strikingly relevant today.
Was this review helpful?
This was my first read of Wanda Coleman's poetry and it was thoroughly riveting. I felt that Coleman was speaking her truth, issues with race, relationships and family provoked a feeling of revealing her innermost thoughts. Poetry has the power to transform and this is a text that you could keep coming back to.
Was this review helpful?
These poems are full of wry humour, and arresting images. I always feel a bit uneasy commenting on poetry as I feel less authoritative than I do with fiction. 

I found these still feel fresh and also somehow familiar, conjuring an image of life in LA and a story that has been the same for a long time. 

I'm glad to have read them. 

My thanks to netgalley and the publisher for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
This was unquestionably the most powerful poetry I've ever read. 

The emotion of each piece is so visceral.  

I want to put this in the hands of everyone and urge them to read it because everyone can get something from this collection. 

I'm going to buy a physical copy to dip in and out of because some of the poems demand to be re-read.  

Thanks for the ARC :)
Was this review helpful?
Despite the fact these poems were written in the 80’s and 90’s, they feel very relevant for today.  Themes of inequality, racism and poverty are prevalent.  She experiments with form but has a distinctive style throughout.

Thanks to NetGalley for my review copy.
Was this review helpful?
Wanda’s words are powerful and
at times, you could feel the sadness and anger seep through the pages. She writes with a punch, using graphic and sometimes blunt imagery. It is a selection of 130 of her poems and she writes about her life, and through every line, you feel the resistance, the anger and the injustice. For me she says it like it is, no flowery language or an attempt to conceal how difficult her life has been, the issues of racism, motherhood, mental health and self determination, and at times, for me, it overwhelmed me. I wanted to like this book more than I did, but I think it was the style of this book. It will work for others, but not for me.
Was this review helpful?
Prior to seeing the book cover of Wicked Enchantment, I had never heard of Wanda Coleman, and I have to say I feel somewhat robbed that I did not discover her until after she had died some years ago. The cover drove me to choose the book as it showed a striking image of a Black woman with an afro looking thoughtful.

The introduction, from Terrance Hayes - a fellow poet who was the award winner of the National Book Award for Poetry - gave me a real insight into Wanda and her inspirations. He provided examples from her prose (fiction and non fiction) as well as her interviews.

Despite much of her poetry being written in the 80s and 90s there is something still relevant and timeless about them in the 21st Century - which is also quite saddening. Her poems cover depression, suicide, racism, sexism and 
poverty but all are handled sensitively.

The poems were emotional and poignant. And they definitely painted any pictures in my mind.

The opening poem - Wanda in Worryland definitely sets the tone of what to expect in the book and her last phrase in Moon Cherries “forget my name” is not something that I can do.

Considering this collection was put together posthumously, it would be a delight and insightful to also see them how she intended them - if they are in separate anthologies for example. 

As someone who has made it my mission to read and discover more content from Black creatives whether it is fiction, non fiction as well as poetry I really want to say thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Press UK for this ARC in exchange for an honest review. I hope more of us based in the UK can read more of Wanda Coleman’s work.
Was this review helpful?