Two years ago I called my friend, Harryette Mullen, and asked her if she would talk to me about the way she wrote the poems for Sleeping in the Dictionary. I was teaching her book for an MFA course at Long Island University in Brooklyn. It was summer and I had subletted an apartment on Third Street (I was living in Tucson then). I remember sitting on the floor with my computer talking into skype for the interview, for hours at a time and over several weeks. Anyhow, that was the beginning of a very long exciting conversation/interview about Harryette’s book. Neither of us expected this conversation to end up becoming a book. At the time, it was just for my class. Then after I started transcribing, I thought, wow, this should be published. And so we edited and rewrote and re-thought the conversation.
Then I broke it apart and sent it to various magazines and webzines for publication. Then it became clear that this was in fact a book length interview. So I thought — send it to Rachel Levitsky for Belladonna and see if she is interested. It is definitely political, poetic and feminist. Rachel was excited about the interview and the next thing I knew, I was invited to be part of the collaborative board of Belladonna and working with Martine Bellen to publish the book. Then it occurred to us that an earlier interview I had with Harryette in the 90’s about her earlier books could also work well with this. So the book grew. Rachel’s idea was to include some images to supplement the discussions. I went to LA and photographed Harryette and other places, artwork and related objects. Harryette and I rewrote the interviews again and expanded them. And the book grew some more. Juliana Spahr wrote a very thoughtful introduction. Martine worked diligently and creatively with me to develop, layout, proofread, get permissions, etc (everything). HR Hegnauer did the final layout and a beautiful cover. And now other women on the board and interns are working to get the book in the world.
I’m a fan of Harryette’s writing (obviously) and I have taught her books for many years. I like the way politics, the ordinary everyday and far-out playfulness intermingle. The book of interviews will be of use to teachers, scholars and poets. And the good news is that you can now order this book by going to the Belladonna Series website. The books will be delivered to the Belladonna office in Brooklyn within a few days. On the website, you can also read more about the book. As you all may know, Belladonna is a non-profit collaborative feminist project, so it’s a great press and reading series to support. The collaborative board is an exciting energetic group of women. Look through the website at the other publishing projects (The Wide Road by Carla Harryman and Lyn Hejinian and many others).
Here’s the website —
Also, there will be a book party at the Poet’s House on Friday, April 29th at 7 pm, with a conversation between Harryette and me about the book and about her other projects in the works. Also Harryette will be reading on April 29th at noon at Long Island University, Humanities Building Room 206, at Dekalb and Flatbush (Brooklyn). And on Saturday, April 30th she will read (with Christian Campbell and Niki Herd) for Cave Canum at 20 Jay Street, Suite 310A (Brooklyn). I’ll be at all three of these events. If you are in town, I hope to see you, especially at the party at the Poet’s House (10 River Terrace, downtown, nyc).