cover image Bathwater Wine

Bathwater Wine

Wanda Coleman / Author Black Sparrow Press $16.95 (290p) ISBN

Coleman's seventh book with Black Sparrow is an encyclopedic, moment-by-moment accounting of left coast rage, witness and transcendence. The poems move agilely from a tragic (yet comedic) resignation, to verbal riffs and hijinks, to direct, in-your-face declarations of resistance and anger. Primarily a collection of disparate shorter poems, the volume is punctuated by longer sequences. The strong opening series, ""Dreamwalk,"" is a poignant, quasi-confessional, free-associative account of the author's adolescence: ""ugly and more ugly. you are a card carrying / member of the FBI (Fat Black Idiots) and you arrest and/ jail them in your mind for crimes against your heart."" Later in the sequence, the need to escape inspires a fecund, but suspicious, alternate reality for the young poet: ""you become a shadow in pursuit of shadows. you/ smoke imaginary imported German fags while sipping/ imaginary English sherry barely clad in blood red/ silken fantasies while straddling a rattan chair on/ the balcony of a Cuban bordello."" Another grouping, ""The Ron Narrative Reconstructions,"" maps the activity of a poet's mind with vignettes (""in the midcity laundromat, we two-step to a piped-in salsa...""), wry theoretical musings (a digression on ""poetoerotic rape"": ""the plundering and transmogrification of another's form... a physical release akin to sexual orgasm""), and reliance on the eternal powers of language, and the basic need everyone has to be a part of another's life. The poem is emblematic of the best qualities of this large, somewhat sprawling, formally diverse yet occasionally loose, book of poetry. (July)