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LA’s Unofficial Poet Laureate Dies At 67

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Arthur Miller and poet Wanda Coleman in 2001 attend the National Book Awards in New York City. (credit: Scott Gries/Getty Images Entertainment)

Arthur Miller and poet Wanda Coleman in 2001 attend the National Book Awards in New York City. (credit: Scott Gries/Getty Images Entertainment)

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — A Watts native considered LA’s unofficial poet laureate has died.

Wanda Coleman was 67.

Authorities say Coleman died after a long illness.

Coleman’s work examined urban life and strife, racism, poverty and struggles of the working class.

She died Friday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, her husband — Austin Straus — told the Los Angeles Times.

Coleman began writing poetry at age 5 and published her first short story, “Watching the Sunset,” in 1970, according to The Poetry Foundation.

Coleman, who was born in Los Angeles on Nov. 13, 1946, penned 22 books, including novels and collections of poetry and essays, according to The Times.

She won an Emmy as a writer for “Days of Our Lives” in 1975-76 and earned a National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1981-82. She also won a Guggenheim Fellowship for Poetry in 1984 after the publication of “Mad Dog Black Lady” in 1979 and “Imagoes” in 1983, according to The Poetry Foundation.

Her 1998 poetry collection “Bathwater Wine” garnered the 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and another collection, “Mercurochrome,” was a 2001 National Book Awards bronze medal finalist in poetry.

Coleman also received the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs’ first literary award in 2003-04.

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