Poetry on Vinyl: Michèlle T. Clinton and Wanda Coleman, Black/Angeles
Record-listening and writing go hand in hand for me. It’s the throughline of my life. Heaven, if it exists, will consist of a room with a stereo, where for eternity I will put favorite vinyl records on a turntable, sit back, and listen. A cup of coffee or cocktail may be involved, as well as cleaning, organizing, alphabetizing, writing notes, or poem-editing.
Maybe I am preaching to the choir here, talking about the benefits of listening to records and writing, although I know a lot of writers who prefer to write in silence or in a cafe. I’m not embarrassed to say that a good chunk of my life has been spent in chairs and on rugs, listening to discs of vinyl. And, while I wouldn’t say I am a record collector per se, I do own a few shelves’ worth. This week, I’d like to share specific selections from my collection: poetry records and spoken record records.
First up: Black/Angeles, a 1988 recording that features performances from two poets, one on each side: Michèlle T. Clinton on side A, and Wanda Coleman on side B. I got this record maybe 15 years ago, going by the price tag. I was unfamiliar with Clinton’s work when I picked this record up, but was jarred and rocked by the poems — they’re raw, punk, fiery. “Anti Apart Hate Art” is a favorite. At the time I picked this record up, the main draw was hearing Wanda Coleman’s performances, and they do not disappoint.
An interesting detail is that the label that releases this and other Wanda Coleman recordings, New Alliance Records, according to Discogs, was founded in 1980 by Minutemen members D. Boon and Mike Watt, along with friend from San Pedro High School, Martin Tamburovich. I recognize the label on records from my old Hüsker Dü and Descendents records.
Last year, the mighty Black Sparrow Press released Wicked Enchantment, a beautiful collection that covers Coleman’s career, edited by Terence Hayes. It’s a terrific volume and introduction to Coleman’s work. Coleman who passed away in 2013, presented herself as largely existing outside the poetry establishment. With Wicked Enchantment, Coleman’s work is receiving a new look, although it is a bit awkward to read largely white critics circle around and try to provide a critical framework for a poetry is both entirely straightforward and transformational and future-seeking. Wanda Coleman’s work on record deserves a second look as well, possibly even a box set of some sort.
This originally appeared on the Best American Poetry Blog.