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Sleeping With the Dictionary (02 Edition)


Sleeping With the Dictionary (02 Edition) Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Harryette Mullen's fifth poetry collection, Sleeping with the Dictionary, is the abecedarian offspring of her collaboration with two of the poet's most seductive writing partners, Roget's Thesaurus and The American Heritage Dictionary. In her ménage à trois with these faithful companions, the poet is aware that while Roget seems obsessed with categories and hierarchies, the American Heritage, whatever its faults, was compiled with the assistance of a democratic usage panel that included black poets Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps, as well as feminist author and editor Gloria Steinem. With its arbitrary yet determinant alphabetical arrangement, its gleeful pursuit of the ludic pleasure of word games (acrostic, anagram, homophone, parody, pun), as well as its reflections on the politics of language and dialect, Mullen's work is serious play. A number of the poems are inspired or influenced by a technique of the international literary avant-garde group Oulipo, a dictionary game called S+7 or N+7. This method of textual transformation--which is used to compose nonsensical travesties reminiscent of Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky"--also creates a kind of automatic poetic discourse.

Mullen's parodies reconceive the African American's relation to the English language and Anglophone writing, through textual reproduction, recombining the genetic structure of texts from the Shakespearean sonnet and the fairy tale to airline safety instructions and unsolicited mail. The poet admits to being "licked all over by the English tongue," and the title of this book may remind readers that an intimate partner who also gives language lessons is called, euphemistically, a "pillow dictionary."


"In Mullen's playful poetic world, words are always puns. They point a thousand different ways at once. Here, she is sleeping with the enemy: the dictionary. The dictionary ties words down to certain definitions, and Harryette has fun in bed with it." Adam Munsey Tobin, Pegasus Books Downtown, Berkeley, CA

About the Author

Harryette Mullen is Associate Professor of English and African American Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is the author of Tree Tall Woman (1981), Trimmings (1991), S*PeRM**K*T (1992), and Muse and Drudge (1995).

Table of Contents


All She Wrote

The Anthropic Principle

Any Lit

Ask Aden


Bilingual Instructions

Black Nikes


Bleeding Hearts

Bolsa Algodón

Coals to Newcastle, Panama Hats from Ecuador


Daisy Pearl


Dim Lady

Dream Cycle



European Folk Tale Variant


Exploring the Dark Content

Fancy Cortex

Free Radicals

The Gene for Music

Hitched to a Star


Junk Mail

Kamasutra Sutra


The Lunar Lutheran

Mantra for a Classless Society, or Mr. Rogets Neighborhood

Music for Homemade Instruments

Naked Statues000

Natural Anguish

Once Ever After

O, Tis William

Outside Art

Present Tense

Quality of Life

Resistance Is Fertile

She Swam On from Sea to Shine

Sleeping with the Dictionary

Souvenir from Anywhere

Suzuki Method

Swift Tommy

Ted Joans at the Café Bizarre


Variation on a Theme Park

Way Opposite

We Are Not Responsible

Why You and I

Wino Rhino

Wipe That Simile Off Your Aphasia

Xenophobic Nightmare in a Foreign Language

X-ray Vision

Zen Acorn

Zombie Hat

Product Details

Mullen, Harryette Romell
University of California Press
Mullen, Harryette
Language and languages
African Americans
American - African American
General Poetry
Poetry/African American
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
New California poetry ;
Series Volume:
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
8.25 x 5.5 x 0.5 in 5 oz

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Architecture » General
Arts and Entertainment » Art » History and Criticism
Fiction and Poetry » Poetry » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Poetry » American » African American
Science and Mathematics » Energy » General

Sleeping With the Dictionary (02 Edition) New Trade Paper
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Product details 85 pages University of California Press - English 9780520231436 Reviews:
"Review" by , "In Mullen's playful poetic world, words are always puns. They point a thousand different ways at once. Here, she is sleeping with the enemy: the dictionary. The dictionary ties words down to certain definitions, and Harryette has fun in bed with it."
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