Urban Tumbleweed

Urban Tumbleweed
Notes from a Tanka Diary
Harryette Mullen
"Mullen is a walker, and in many ways, this is a walker's diary, a record of her interactions with the city at the level of its streets. But even more, it is a portrait of her mind in the act of reflection, sharply observed and deeply felt."—Los Angeles Times
“A gorgeous book. . . . The tankas are delightful because they evoke the jubilation of discovery that the practice of seeing and then finding language to give life to what one sees is like, the very core of what poetry can do. . . . Mullen brings her love of form and syntax to a rhetorical intersection with the transitory natural world in an exciting portrayal of postmodern ecology, an ambitious and subtle work.”NPR

About the Book

“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.
            —from Urban Tumbleweed
Urban Tumbleweed is 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 public park while listening to a podcast with ear-bud headphones?”
Praise for Harryette Mullen:
“[Mullen’s poetry is] brilliant and enigmatic, familiar and subversive. Like jewels, her poems are multifaceted and shoot off lights. Mullen uses the techniques of sound association, innuendo, and signifying, and this way makes the reader alert to the cunning of the English language.”—Jackson Poetry Prize judges’ citation

Additional Reviews

“Spare, playful and yet ultimately quite serious in its implications, [Urban Tumbleweed] blurs all sorts of lines between contemporary and traditional, urban and contemplative, off-the-cuff and deeply, movingly engaged.”Los Angeles Times 
“Tanka after tanka, [Mullen] illustrates the landscape with brevity, humor and crisp detail. . . . Mullen is a magician. . . . The book is an instant classic."—KCET LA Letters
“Taken together, [the poems] document the errant progression of a beginner’s mind as it seeks to revise its connection to the sensory world.”Boston Review
Urban Tumbleweed offers up the beautiful heartbreaks of encounters in an urban ecosystem.”Numéro Cinq
“Mullen’s tanka verses are by turns (and sometimes at once) striking, funny, moving and transcendent.”—The Ivy Bookshop
“Not only do these poems chronicle daily life in California, but they serve as love letters, tokens of friendship, and records of historical events. . . . While Mullen defers to the tanka tradition, her adaptation of the form enables her to exhibit the verbal electricity for which she is known.”—Rain Taxi
"Multifaceted and enjoyable. . . . This smart piece of literature is filled with strange, beautiful, and breathtaking sights and sounds."Front Porch
"The pleasure in reading this minor masterpiece from one of America's best poets comes from its invitation to contemplate, to actually see and feel all the small delights of the world of which we are so often unaware. This book makes us envy the opportunity for introspection that it delivers, and it has the power to reinvigorate our relationship with the world outside our windows."Coldfront, Top 40 Poetry Books of 2013