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Heart First Into This Ruin: The Complete American Sonnets

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"Fantastically entertaining and deeply engaging...potent distillations of creative rage, social critique, and subversive wit."--Washington Post

"Terrifying and fearlessly inventive."--New York Times

The first complete collection of Wanda Coleman's original and inventive sonnets. Long regarded as among her finest work, these one hundred poems give voice to loving passions, social outrage, and hard-earned wisdom.

Wanda Coleman was a beat-up, broke Black woman who wrote with anger, humor, and ruthless intelligence: "to know, i must survive myself," she wrote in "American Sonnet 7." A poet of the people, she created the experimental "American Sonnet" form and published them between 1986 and 2001. The form inspired countless others, from Terrance Hayes to Billy Collins.

Drawn from life's particulars, Coleman's art is timeless and universal. In "American Sonnet 61" she writes:

reaching down into my griot bag

of womanish wisdom and wily

social commentary, i come up with bricks

with which to either reconstruct

the past or deconstruct a head....

from the infinite alphabet of afroblues

intertwinings, i cull apocalyptic visions

(the details and lovers entirely real)

and articulate my voyage beyond that

point where self disappears

These one hundred sonnets--borne from influences as diverse as Huey P. Newton and Herman Melville, Amiri Baraka and Robert Duncan--tell Coleman's own tale, as well as the story of Black and white America. From "American Sonnet 2"

towards the cruel attentions of violent opiates

as towards the fatal fickleness of artistic rain

towards the locusts of social impotence itself

i see myself thrown heart first into this ruin

not for any crime

but being

This is a collection of electrifying truth that only an artist such as Wanda Coleman can deliver.

ISBN-13: 9781574232530

Media Type: Hardcover

Publisher: Black Sparrow Press

Publication Date: 06-21-2022

Pages: 128

Product Dimensions: 7.60h x 4.90w x 0.60d

Coleman, Wanda: -

Wanda Coleman--poet, storyteller and journalist--was born and raised in South Central Los Angeles. Coleman was awarded the prestigious 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize for Bathwater Wine from the American Academy of Poets, becoming the first African-American woman to ever win the prize, and Mercurochrome was a bronze-medal finalist for the 2001 National Book Award for Poetry. Wicked Enchantment: Selected Poems was the first new collection of her work since her death in 2013.

Browne, Mahogany L.: -

Mahogany L. Browne is a writer, organizer, and educator. She served as the Lincoln Center's first ever poet in residence, and works as the executive director of JustMedia, a media literacy initiative designed to support the groundwork of criminal justice leaders and community members. Her books include Black Girl Magic, Chlorine Sky, Vinyl Moon, Woke: A Young Poets Call to Justice, and I Remember Death by Its Proximity to What I Love, a poetry collection responding to the impact of mass incarceration on women and children. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.