POUGHKEEPSIE, NY – Harryette Mullen started writing poetry when she was a college student in a multicultural community of writers and artists in Austin, Texas. Today, she is an award-winning American poet, short story writer, and literary scholar who is known for her wordplay, cultural critiques, and distinctive sense of humor.
Mullen, who currently teaches at the University of California in Los Angeles, will deliver Vassar’s Elizabeth Bishop Lecture on Tuesday, September 18, 2007 at 6 p.m. in the Sanders Classroom Auditorium (Room 212). The annual lecture is named in honor of Vassar alumna Elizabeth Bishop, the Pulitzer Prize-winning American poet.
As an emerging poet in Texas, Mullen received a literature award from the Black Arts Academy, a Dobie-Paisano writer's fellowship from the Texas Institute of Letters and University of Texas, and an artist residency from the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico. In Texas, she worked in the Artists in Schools program before enrolling in graduate school in California, where she continued her study of American literature and encountered even more diverse communities of writers and artists.
The social, political, and cultural movements of African Americans, Mexican Americans, and women in the 1960s and 1970s influenced Mullen, including Civil Rights, Black Power, the Black Arts Movement, Language poetry, Movimiento Chicano, and feminism. Her first book, Tree Tall Woman, which showed traces of all of these influences, was published in 1981.
Especially in her later books, Trimmings, S*PeRM**K*T, Muse & Drudge, and Sleeping with the Dictionary, Mullen frequently combines cultural critique with humor and wordplay as her poetry grapples with topics such as globalization, mass culture, consumerism, and the politics of identity. Critics, including Elisabeth Frost and Juliana Spahr, have suggested that Mullen's poetry audience is an eclectic community of collaborative readers who share individual and collective interpretations of poems that may provoke multiple, divergent, or contradictory meanings, according to each reader's cultural background.
Before teaching American poetry, African American literature, and creative writing at the University of California in Los Angeles, Mullen taught at Cornell University. While living in Ithaca and Rochester, New York, she was a faculty fellow of the Cornell University Society for the Humanities and a Rockefeller fellow at the Susan B. Anthony Institute at University of Rochester. She has received a Gertrude Stein Award for innovative poetry, a Katherine Newman Award for best essay on U.S. ethnic literature, a grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, and a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Her poetry collection, Sleeping with the Dictionary (2002) was a finalist for a National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Mullen received her PhD from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1990.
The Elizabeth Bishop Poetry Series at Vassar College is funded through the gift of Priscilla H. Rockwell '47 and H.P. Davis Rockwell, with additional support from the Helen Forster Novy '28 Visiting Scholar Fund.
Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations at Vassar should contact the Office of Campus Activities at (845) 437-5370.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential, liberal arts college founded in 1861.
Individuals with disabilities requiring accommodations or information on accessibility should contact Campus Activities, (845) 437–5370. Without sufficient notice, appropriate space and/or assistance may not be available.
Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential liberal arts college founded in 1861.