Conversations with Harryette Mullen

Below is an intro to a 50 page interview with Harryette Mullen. Sections of the interview are available or will soon be available in the magazines listed below.

With Harryette Mullen’s dense, layered and playful poems in Sleeping with the Dictionary, there is often a subtle question, almost present but not quite present, a riddle-like structure that leaves the reader wondering: How did she make this poem? As a prep for an MFA course I was teaching at Long Island University in the summer of 2009, and as a project I knew I would enjoy working on later, I decided to ask Harryette if she would be willing to talk to me about each of the poems in this collection, and then I would share sections of the interview with the class. This interview would be in the spirit of the Oulipo artists who reveal their experiments and constraints and catalogue them in their library in Paris. No secret mysterious inspired “writer-self,” but instead a writer who is seriously inventive and willing to share her methods and approaches. It was very curious and enlightening to the students to discuss and then hear some of the writer’s intentions, context, and the way she had constructed the poems. We of course weren’t searching for meaning, but instead aiming to help writers expand their own repertoire of tools for writing and to think about the reasons writers write the way they do.

For the most part, this interview follows Harryette’s alphabetical structure for Sleeping with the Dictionary. Sections are available or forthcoming in The Poetry Project Newsletter Feb/Mar 10 #222(E-M), Sonora Review (R-S), and the online journals, Eoagh (B-D), Not Enough Night (A-B) and Jacket Magazine (S-Z).

Links (I’ll update these as available):

Sonora Review Blog until the print version is available

E to M republished on the How2 Blog

1 comment

  1. Do you have a link yet for the interview at Eoagh? I looked at the TOCs for issues 1-5 and didn’t see it, though I may have missed it.

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