Recyclopedia: Trimmings, S*PeRM**K*T, and Muse & Drudge

Overview

Three important poetry collections brought together under one cover by Harryette Mullen, author of Sleeping with the Dictionary

if you turned down the media so I could write a book then you could look me up in your voluminous recyclopedia

—from Muse & Drudge

Recyclopedia shows the extraordinary development of Harryette Mullen's career, in her books Trimmings, S*PeRM**K*T, and Muse & Drudge, all ...

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Overview

Three important poetry collections brought together under one cover by Harryette Mullen, author of Sleeping with the Dictionary

if you turned down the media so I could write a book then you could look me up in your voluminous recyclopedia

—from Muse & Drudge

Recyclopedia shows the extraordinary development of Harryette Mullen's career, in her books Trimmings, S*PeRM**K*T, and Muse & Drudge, all originally published in the 1990s and now available again to new readers. These prose poems and lyrics bring us into collision with the language of fashion and femininity, advertising and the supermarket, the blues and traditional lyric poetry. Recyclopedia is a major gathering of work by one of the most exciting and innovative poets writing in America today.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Mullen's is a stunningly lyrical voice, rich and resonant, engaged and engaging." —Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

"In her previous four collections, Harryette Mullen's influences have ranged from language poetry to the rhythms and playfulness of the black vernacular . . . Suffused with both politics and literary theory, Mullen's language refuses to be weighed down by either." —The New York Times Book Review

Publishers Weekly
Mullen's avant-garde word games, applied to the marrow of African-American experience, rightly won plaudits for Sleeping with the Dictionary (2002): poets and critics alert to innovation knew about Mullen a decade earlier, when three small-press volumes put her on the map. The contents of all three reappear in this collection, along with a brief new preface from Mullen. The first two (as she explains) build on Gertrude Stein's great modernist prose poems, full of non sequiturs and sexual puns, to make language undermine racist clich s: "The color `nude,' a flesh tone. Whose flesh unfolds barely, appealing tan. Shelf life of stacked goods." The slightly longer paragraphs of the second volume (whose title means both "supermarket" and "sperm kit") are more complicated and self-conscious: "So this is generic life, feeding from a dented cant. Devoid of colored labels, the discounted irregulars." The ambitious if sometimes scattered Muse & Drudge abandons prose poetry for long chains of irregularly rhymed quatrains, taking on politics, poetics and history: "how a border orders disorder/ how the children looked/ whose mothers worked/ in the maquiladora." Linguistic experiment has rarely sounded so bluesy and cool. (Nov.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Mullen's Sleeping with the Dictionary (2002) was an unexpected but welcome finalist for both the National Book and National Book Critics Circle awards and marked the first time in decades an experimental poet had garnered so much attention. Now, with the gathering of three previously published small-press titles into one volume-complete with an insightful preface-readers can track the evolving process of this poet's craft. And it is an evolution. The prose poems of the first two titles, heavily influenced by American writer Gertrude Stein and with hints of such pop artists as Claus Oldenberg and Jasper Johns, force readers to reexamine the bonds of femininity and language, e.g., "Cinderella highball cocktail frock. Plastered, shellacked, and laminated. Blind drunk hobbled home in a lame dress." With "Muse & Drudge," Mullen moves into poetic lines, holding each poem to a tight four-quatrain structure. Aspects of her African American heritage emerge, enforced by a thread of blues. Still, there is a delight in wordplay: "up from slobbery/ hip hyperbole/ the soles of black feet/ beat down back streets." An important purchase for comprehensive poetry collections.-Rochelle Ratner, formerly with SoHo Weekly News, New York Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555974565
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publication date: 10/31/2006
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 787,375
  • Product dimensions: 6.47 (w) x 8.48 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Meet the Author

HARRYETTE MULLEN teaches at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is the author of Sleeping with the Dictionary, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

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Read an Excerpt

Recyclopedia

Trimmings S*PeRM**K*T Muse & Drudge
By Harryette Mullen

Graywolf Press

Copyright © 2006 Harryette Mullen
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-55597-456-5


Chapter One






Trimmings








* * *






Don't ask me what to wear.




attributed to Sappho








* * *


Becoming, for a song. A belt becomes such a small waist.
Snakes around her, wrapping. Add waist to any figure, subtract,
divide. Accessories multiply a look. Just the thing, a
handy belt suggests embrace. Sucks her in. She buckles.
Smiles, tighter. Quick to spot a bulge below the belt.








* * *


Lips, clasped together. Old leather fastened with a little
snap. Strapped, broke. Quick snatch, in a clutch, chased
the lady with the alligator purse. Green thief, off relief, got
into her pocketbook by hook or crook.








* * *


Tender white kid, off-white tan. Snug black leather, second
skin. Fits like a love, an utter other uttered. Bag of tricks,
slight hand preserved, a dainty. A solid color covers while
rubber is protection. Tight is tender, softness cured. Alive
and warm, some animal hides. Ghosts wear fingers, delicate
wrists.








* * *


Starving to muffler moans, boa scarfs her up. Feathers tickle
her nose. Kerchief, fichu. Gesundheit.








* * *


Her red and white, white and blue banner manner. Her
red and white all over black and blue. Hannah's bandanna
flagging her down in the kitchen with Dinah, with Jemima.
Someone in the kitchen I know.








* * *


Brimming over eye shades cool complexion, delicate hue,
the lid on, keeps a cool head under high hat.








* * *


A little tight, something spiked, tries on a scandal. One of a
pair vamps it up with a heel. If the shoe fits, another mule
kicking, a fallen, arch angel loses sole support.








* * *


Two shapely legs stretch, then rim. Sheer magic, a box divided.
One saw a woman cut in half, waving incredible feet.








* * *


A light white disgraceful sugar looks pink, wears an air, pale
compared to shadow standing by. To plump recliner, naked
truth lies. Behind her shadow wears her color, arms full of
flowers. A rosy charm is pink. And she is ink. The mistress
wears no petticoat or leaves. The other in shadow, a large,
pink dress.








* * *


The color 'nude,' a flesh tone. Whose flesh unfolds barely,
appealing tan. Shelf life of stacked goods. Body stalking
software inventories summer stock. Thin-skinned Godiva
with a wig on horseback, body cast in a sit calm.








* * *


Garters garnish daughters partner what mothers they gather
they tether.








* * *


In folds of chaste petticoats, chupamirtos. In a red sack with
a silk ribbon, hummingbird, whose tongue is sweet. Charm
for love, a captive beat, a flutter. Hidden under ruffles, secret
heart, a red pouch tied with silk.








* * *


A rich match fits a couple of gilded calves. Silk stockings
glide up fine-tuned, high-toned thighs. Blue-vein stock requires
noblessing, sitting pretty in lap de luxe.








* * *


Bare skin almost, underworn. Warm stitched-together soft
torn toy. Stuffed and laced voluptuous imaginary mammal
made of lovely lumps. Dear plump-cheeked plaything
taken to bed and hugged in the dark.








* * *


Releases from valises. Scientific briefs. Chemists model
molecular shadows structure mimic dancers. Shirt on the
line, a flapper's shimmy shake in a silk chemise. A shift, a
woman's movement, a loose garment of manmade fabric.
Polly and Esther living modern with better chemistry.








* * *


Of a girl, in white, between the lines, in the spaces where
nothing is written. Her starched petticoats, giving him the
slip. Loose lips, a telltale spot, where she was kissed, and
told. Who would believe her, lying still between the sheets.
The pillow cases, the dirty laundry, laundered. Pillow talk-show
on a leather couch, slips in and out of dreams.
Without permission, slips out the door. A name adores a
Freudian slip.








* * *


Night moon star sun down gown. Night moan stir sin dawn
gown.








* * *


Dress shields, armed guard at breastwork, a hard mail covering.
Brazen privates, testing their mettle. Bolder soldiers
make advances, breasting hills. Whose armor is brassier.








* * *


Mistress in undress, filmy peignoir. Feme sole in camisole.
Bit part, petite cliché. Dégagé ladies lingering, careless of
appurtenances. Longing pajamas, custom worn to disrobe.
Froufrou negligee, rustling silk, or cattle. Negligent in ladies'
lingerie, a dressy dressing down.








* * *


Girt, a good old girl got hipped. They thrive with wives,
broad beams. Most worthy girth, providing firm. Foundations
in midriff. Across (between) girdled loins, tender
girders. Gartered, perhaps, struts. Stretching, a snap crotch.








* * *


Some panties are plenty. Some are scanty. Some or any.
Some is ante.








* * *


Tiny binary aftermath figure. Navel baste playmates with
ultimate breeder of nuclear families. Suburban bombshell
shelters magazines of big guns aiming to sell inny things or
nothing at all.








* * *


Step into gathered floral. Sashay and flounce out. At length,
skirt's sweep, her furbelow. Or slit, tight. Gored, wrapped,
young shirttail tucked. Cowgirl, hips suede. Leather fringe
skirts, a border. A stiff, fine crinoline. Straight seams,
hemmed, or binding. Warm hands, felt skirt. An issue of
blood, she pleated.








* * *


Mum, dissembling girl, resembling cartoon mouse. Scantness
forces a stand, she cannot bend.








* * *


Heartsleeve's dart bleeds whiter white, softened with wear.
Among blowzy buxom bosomed, give us this-blowing,
blissful, open. O most immaculate bleached blahs, bless
any starched, loosening blossom.








* * *


Menswear, the britches. Rosie flies off the handle. Jeans so
tight, she pants. Wants to cool out, slacks off.








* * *


Of what material softness folds to hold her, under when
over, inside or out, where air is, makes a difference in motion,
living here-or walking. Taking off, putting on her
flimsy garment. Holes breathe, and swallow. Openings,
hem, sleeve. Borders on edges where skin stops, or begins.
Fancy trim. Sew buttons on, but they are slow to open
flowers-imagine the color. Loose skirt, a petal, a pocket
for your hand. My dress falls over my head. A shadow overtakes
me.








* * *


When a dress is red, is there a happy ending. Is there murmur
and satisfaction. Silence or a warning. It talks the talk,
but who can walk the walk. Distress is red. It sells, shouts,
an urge turned inside out. Sight for sore eyes, the better to
see you. Out for a stroll, writing wolf-tickets.








* * *


Girl, pinked, beribboned. Alternate virgin at first blush.
Starched petticoat besmirched. Stiff with blood. A little
worse for wear.








* * *


The bride wore white. Posed in modest bodice a la mode.
Cake with sugar rosebuds and white frosting. Everyone gets
a piece. Off-color jokes, borrowed and blue. Her blush, tip
of the iceberg, froze in layers of lace, in a photograph of
her smile.








* * *


Cold feet, darned socks. Mismatched pair, the black sock
and the blue sock. Male color blindness. A girl's thin ankles.








* * *


What's holding her up. Straps, laces. Garters, corsets, belts
with laces. What's holding them up. If not straps, then
laces. Buttons and bows, ribbons and laces set off their
faces. Girls in white sat in with blues-saddened slashers.
Laced up, frilled to the bone. Semi-automatic ruffle on a
semi-formal gown.








* * *


Her feathers, her pages. She ripples in breezes. Rim and
fringe are hers. Who fancies frills. Whose finery is a summer
frock, light in the wind, riffling her pages, lifting her
skirt, peeking at edges. The wind blows her words away.
Who can hear her voice, so soft, every ruffle made smooth.
Gathering her fluttered pages, her feathers, her wings.








* * *


Clip, screw, or pierce. Take your pick. Friend or doctor,
needle or gun. A dab of alcohol pats that little hurt hole.
Hardly a dimple is soon forgotten brief sting. Stud, precious
metal. Pure, possessive ring. Antibody testifying with immunity
to gold, rare thing. So malleable and lovable, wearing
such wounds, such ornaments.








* * *


Body on fire, spangles. Light to sequin stars burn out at
both ends.








* * *


Cinderella highball cocktail frock. Plastered, shellacked,
and laminated. Blind drunk hobbled home in a lame dress.






* * *


Bones knit. Skins pink, flush tight. White margin, ample
fleshings. Out of character, full blush. Flushed out of hiding,
pink in the flesh.








* * *


Gold chains, choker, ring her neck. Draw a bead, string it.
Precious jewel, locket. Real pearl handles it, lacy-necked
in the black. What rankles, she fakes it. Less than naked,
strung out, stranded.








* * *


Akimbo bimbos, all a jangle. Tricked out trinkets, aloud
galore. Gimcracks, a stack. Bang and a whimper. Two to
tangle. It's a jungle.








* * *


Harmless amulets arm little limbs with poise and charm.








* * *


In feathers, in bananas, in her own skin, intelligent body attached
to a gaze. Stripped down model, posing for a savage
art, brought color to a primitive stage.








* * *


Chichi busy bodice with fancywork got filigreed and gold.
Then plumed themselves in fancy dress and knit their brows
to clothe the naked.








* * *


Punched in like slopwork. Mild frump and downward
drab. Slipshod drudge with chance of dingy morning slog.
Tattered shoulders, frayed eyes, a dowdy gray. Frowzy in a
slatternly direction.








* * *


Duds, garbled garb. Misfits, women in breaches. Early
bloomers or bluestockings, whose blue worsted wicked
black dress, or a white none inhabits. Unholy Magdalene
with her veil of tears.








* * *


Mohair, less nape to crown fluffed pillow. Fuzzyhead, down
for a nap. Soft stuff of dreams in which she fluffs it.








* * *


Animal pelts, little minks, skins, tail. Fur flies. Pet smitten,
smooth beaver strokes. Muff, soft, 'like rabbits.' Fine fox
stole, furtive hiding. Down the road a pretty fur piece.








* * *


Opens up a little leg, some slender, high exposure. Splits a
chic sheath, tight slit. Buy another peek experience, price
is slashed. Where tart knife, scoring, minced a sluttish strut.
Laughing splits the seams. Teeth in a gash, letting off steam.








* * *


Swan neck, white shoulders, lumps of fat. A woman's face
above it all. Unriddled sphinx 'without secrets.' Alabaster
bust, paled into significance. Clothes opening, revealing
dress, as French comes into English. Suggestively, a cleavage
in language.








* * *


Decorative scrap. A rib, on loan. Fine fabric, finished
at edges. Fit for tying or trimming. Narrow band, satin, a
velvet strip. A ribbon wound around her waist. A glancing
bow. Red ribbon woven through her, blue-ribbon blonde.
For valor, a shred of dignity. A dress torn to ribbons.








* * *


For frills, fancy crimps and shaves. Cuts curls, flail flounce.
Smiles, curtsies, now only of women flexing a fondness.
Plain as a broad steaming a wrinkle, takes out the starch.
Frilled up to here, she starts sleeking. Flat, flatter, flatterer.








* * *


Gaudy gawks at baubles fondle tawdry laces up in garish
gear, a form of being content.








* * *


Chaste, apprehended, collared and cuffed. Kept under wraps,
as bridal veils visually haze precious, easily torn, gauzy romantic
tissues. Thin threads lace into delicate, expensive
fabrics woven and unwoven at night by patient spinsters
with needles and scissors. Laced in, as fate would have it.
Knots and the tiniest holes. Surgical cutting and sewing.
Peeking as usual. Skin under lace. A thread, a net effect, a
web to sleep in. A white nightgown, girl, child, baby, laced
and unlaced. A ruffle, a frill. A pale piece of something,
almost made of air.








* * *


Rapt babes in peekaboo webs. Preying widows, spiders
in black weeds. Smoldering glance in a drop-dead dress.
Witches burning at high stakes. Blackened virgins, selling
the sizzle.








* * *


Hand in glove hankers, waves a white flag. Hand to mouth
surrenders, flirts with hanky-panky.








* * *


Low impact, lateral moves. No new wrinkles favor grace to
last past shoe chat. Old sneakers jog their memories. Cool
heels, odd hours in the park. Whistling dogs and cars exhaust.
Stopped in her tracks, that doffed hat knocks her
socks off.








* * *


Shades, cool dark lasses. Ghost of a smile.








* * *


A fish caught, pretty fish wiggles for a while. A caught fish
squirms. A freshly licked fish sighs. Gapes with holes for
eyes. A wiggling fish flashes its display. A pattern over whiteness.
Bareness comes with coverage for peeking through
holes to see flesh out of water. Cold holes where eyes go.
The sea is cold. Her body of foam, some frothy Venus. Or
strayed mermaid, tail split, bleeds into the sea. With brand
new feet walks unsteady on land, each step an ache.








* * *


What a little moonlight inside her pink silvery is softness
condensing a glaze to repair a blister. Itches sit and silken,
growing dearer to the wearer. Who would wear a necklace
of tears. Inside her moonlight lining, tears were shed.
Smooth tears, bitter water, a salted wound produced a pearl.
A mother's luster manufactured a colored other. Pearl had
a mother who cried.








* * *


Her ribbon, her slender is ribbon when to occupy her
hands a purse is soft. Wondering where to hang the keys,
the moon is manicured. Her paper parasol and open fan
become her multiplication of a rib which is connected
and might start a fire for cooking. Who desires crisp vegetables,
she opens for the climate. A tomato isn't hard. It
splits in heat, easy. It's seasonal. Once in a while there is
heat, and several flowers are perennials. Roses shining with
green-gold leaves and bright threads. Some threads do wilt
after starching. She has done the starching and the bleaching.
She has pink too and owns earrings. Would never be
shamed by pearls. A subtle blush communicates much.
White peeks out, an eyelet in a storm.








* * *


Thinking thought to be a body wearing language as clothing
or language a body of thought which is a soul or body
the clothing of a soul, she is veiled in silence. A veiled, unavailable
body makes an available space.

Chapter Two






DES[S*PeRM**K*T]DES








* * *




This is no authority for the abuse of cheese.




Gertrude Stein








* * *
Lines assemble gutter and margin. Outside and in, they
straighten a place. Organize a stand. Shelve space. Square
footage. Align your list or listlessness. Pushing oddly evening
aisle catches the tale of an eye. Displays the cherished
share. Individually wrapped singles, frozen divorced compartments,
six-pack widows all express themselves while
women wait in family ways, all bulging baskets, squirming
young. More on line incites the eyes. Bold names label familiar
type faces. Her hand scanning throwaway lines.








* * *


With eternal welcome mats omniscient doors swing open
offering temptation, redemption, thrilling confessions. The
state of Grace is Monaco. A shrine in Memphis, colossal
savings. A single serving after-work lives. In sanctuaries of
the sublime subliminal mobius soundtrack backs spatial
mnemonics, radiant stations of the crass. When you see it,
you remember what you came for.








* * *


Pyramids are eroding monuments. Embalmed soup stocks
the recyclable soul adrift in its newspaper boat of double
coupons. Seconds decline in descent from number one, top
of the heap. So this is generic life, feeding from a dented
cant. Devoid of colored labels, the discounted irregulars.








* * *


Just add water. That homespun incantation activates potent
powders, alchemical concentrates, jars and boxes of
abracadabra. Bottled water works trickling down a rainy
day watering can reconstitute the shrinking dollar. A greenback
garnered from a tree. At two bucks, one tender legal
portrait of Saint No-Nicks stands in for clean-shaven, defunct
cherry chopper. Check out this week's seasonal electric
reindeer luz de vela Virgin Mary markdowns. Choose
from ten brands clearly miracle H-2-O. Pure genius in a
bottle. Not municipal precipitate you pay to tap, but dear
rain flesh capped at spring. Cleaner than North Pole snow,
or Commander in Chief's hardboiled white collars. Purer
than pale saint's Flow of holy beard or drops distilled from
sterile virgin tears.








* * *


Aren't you glad you use petroleum? Don't wait to be told
you explode. You're not fully here until you're over there.
Never let them see you eat. You might be taken for a zoo.
Raise your hand if you're sure you're not.








* * *


Desperately pregnant nubile preferred stock girls deliver
perfect healthy psychic space alien test tube babes, in ten
or less, or yours is free, we guarantee.








* * *


It must be white, a picture of health, the spongy napkin
made to blot blood. Dainty paper soaks up leaks that steaks
splayed on trays are oozing. Lights replace the blush red
flesh is losing. Cutlets leak. Tenderloins bleed pink light.
Plastic wrap bandages marbled slabs in sanitary packaging
made to be stained. A three-hanky picture of feminine
hygiene.








* * *


Iron maidens make docile martyrs. Their bodies on the
racks stretched taut. Honing hunger to perfect, aglow in
nimbus flash. A few lean slicks, to cover a multitude, fix a
feast for the eyes. They starve for all the things we crave.








* * *


Chill out a cold, cold world. Open frost-free fridget. Thaw
and serve slightly deferred gratification, plucked from the
frozone, hard packed as slab of ice age mammoth. Cool
cache stashed between carbon dated ziplocked leftovers and
soothing multicolored safety tested plastic teething ring.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Recyclopedia by Harryette Mullen Copyright © 2006 by Harryette Mullen. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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