“The moment one learns English, complications set in.” Felipe Alfau (Chromos)
Harryette Mullen’s Sleeping with the Dictionary (Univ. of California Press) is one of my favorite books to read, teach, and recommend to children, big and small. The book is genius. Where’s her MacArthur!?
Mullen mashes Stein’s huzzah! and Oulipo’s triggering restraints with the deep language of an African-American woman. Also, the poems are deadly funny.
That isn’t always apparent to first time readers. Some students mistake her verbal peregrinations for poststructuralist blague or academic obfuscating. One solution? We go to YouTube so they see her read. Once they put her words to a voice, a face in front of fully engaged, joyful audience, they get it. Mullen is singing for them.