cover image Hand Dance

Hand Dance

Wanda Coleman / Author Black Sparrow Press $15.95 (271p) ISBN

With her seventh large volume in 14 years, the prolific Coleman ( Imagoes ) proves herself a good poet badly in need of a strong editor. If Charles Bukowski is one day reincarnated as an African American female, his graphic sexual imagery, and his concern with drugs, lovers and the low life would probably sound much like this. But he needn't bother, since Coleman captures the male perspective quite ably: ``She wasn't a bad looking woman,'' one man comments after a friend has hanged herself. Humor is the poet's forte as well as her downfall. When she hits the mark, the joke is usually ethnic, with herself and her family as the targets. At its most cutting, her writing juxtaposes the speakers' races with their working-class roots: ``i am the dog they whip all day . . . a punishment as old as my skin.'' Next to this, is it any wonder that the many poems poking fun at the public image of the poet seem superficial? Coleman is capable of a vigorous, blues-based rhythm, and even writes a handful of traditional blues pieces making use of rhyme and refrain, yet too many poems are prosaic. Hip dialect and spelling (``evahthang,'' ``all dat buttah'') are equally unimpressive. (May)