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Urban Tumbleweed: Notes from a Tanka Diary

by Harryette Mullen

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331621,748 (3.29)None
"Harryette Mullen is a magician of words, phrases, and songs . . . No voice in contemporary poetry is quite as original, cosmopolitan, witty, and tragic." --Susan Stewart, citation for the Academy of American Poets Fellowship Urban tumbleweed, some people call it, discarded plastic bag we see in every city blown down the street with vagrant wind. --fromUrban Tumbleweed Urban Tumbleweed is the poet Harryette Mullen's exploration of spaces where the city and the natural world collide. Written out of a daily practice of walking, Mullen's stanzas adapt the traditional Japanese tanka, a poetic form suited for recording fleeting impressions, describing environmental transitions, and contemplating the human being's place in the natural world. But, as she writes in her preface, "What is natural about being human? What to make of a city dweller taking a 'nature walk' in a publicpark while listening to a podcast with ear-bud headphones?"… (more)
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This was a good choice for my read-a-poem-every-morning-and-night routine, because Harryette Mullen wrote Urban Tumbleweed in a similar fashion, except I believe she did a poem every day which took a year and I read 2 pages every day which took about a month. But this was meditative in the sense of you're supposed to let thoughts come to you without judgement (or so I've heard, I've never meditated). So in that sense, Mullen is truly meditating on the things she depicts every day... from nature to pop culture, true crime to daily life, not judging anything as 'bad' or 'good', but just depicting it as she sees it. This is a worldview that I think I will try to adopt for a change.

There are a lot of nature poems in this collection, which made it a fitting replacement now that I've finished my big Mary Oliver book, but there's also a lot about Los Angeles, a city that I don't know much about. It's an effective portrait of LA culture, and some of the more dystopian parts about celebrity culture or technology reminded me of books like "Something New Under The Sun" by Alexandra Kleeman. It's not that Mullen exaggerates things in this book, but when you put a microscope on something like "Octomom" or Venice Beach, the grotesque is put front-and-center. But maybe this is my bias creeping in, and she's merely depicting Californian culture as part of its environment, something that the title "Urban Tumbleweed" encapsulates. ( )
  jooniper | Sep 10, 2021 |
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"Harryette Mullen is a magician of words, phrases, and songs . . . No voice in contemporary poetry is quite as original, cosmopolitan, witty, and tragic." --Susan Stewart, citation for the Academy of American Poets Fellowship Urban tumbleweed, some people call it, discarded plastic bag we see in every city blown down the street with vagrant wind. --fromUrban Tumbleweed Urban Tumbleweed is the poet Harryette Mullen's exploration of spaces where the city and the natural world collide. Written out of a daily practice of walking, Mullen's stanzas adapt the traditional Japanese tanka, a poetic form suited for recording fleeting impressions, describing environmental transitions, and contemplating the human being's place in the natural world. But, as she writes in her preface, "What is natural about being human? What to make of a city dweller taking a 'nature walk' in a publicpark while listening to a podcast with ear-bud headphones?"

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