Sleeping with the Dictionary

This is one of my favorite books to come back to and read again and again because I feel like I always find new things in it, and the pleasure of the poems’ sounds never decreases. It always feels new, interesting, unique.

But what I really love about Harryette Mullen’s collection is that while there is extensive language play and music in the poems, there is also some biting social critique. To overlay these two aspects–perhaps inserting the critique into the work in such a way that the critiqued might be fooled or overlook it–is, perhaps, the ultimate form of rebellion because it allows oppressive forces to participate in their own mocking.

The book is a giant abecedarian, the poems elapsing alphabetically by title, which also makes me think about the importance of–and purpose of–structure. As this is a book about language, the rules of language both apply and are subverted with equal aplomb.


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