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Urban Tumbleweed: Notes from a Tanka Diary

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  109 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
“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 Tu
Paperback, 120 pages
Published November 5th 2013 by Graywolf Press
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Nov 28, 2015 Ellie rated it really liked it
Urban tumbleweed, some people call it,
discarded plastic bag we see in every city
blown down the street with vagrant wind.
—from Urban Tumbleweed by Harryette Mullen.

Harryette Mullen is a favorite poet of mine. I loved her Sleeping with the Dictionary and S*Perm**K*T. So I was confused when I began Urban Tumbleweed: Notes from a Tanka Diary by its seemingly prosaic tone. But every work of Mullen's demands to be read on its own terms. As the lines above demonstrate, Urban Tumbleweed: Notes from a Ta
Tanka is a new-to-me poetic form, though the poems here are a modified version -- three lines rather than five, with varying distribution of syllables. Topics range from a squirrel seeking solace in the shade to reactions to world news, but the poems are local, focused; each is some kind of observation about the world around the author.

Insofar as I am qualified to talk about poetry, I'll say this: every word counts. In this form (and others like it), every syllable counts. Sometimes the author s
Mar 17, 2014 Ashley rated it really liked it
This collection of stanzas is quite inspiring. It is interesting to read her perspective about a common thing that turns out to be something so profound. I felt recharged, as an artist, that creativity is still found everywhere, even in the most modest, meager, and common daily thing or activity that we don't stop to acknowledge.

Lynne Huffer
Jan 27, 2014 Lynne Huffer rated it it was amazing
stunningly beautiful: "As you have forgotten, so one day you might remember how to be wild and bewildered, to be wilder and be wilderness?
Arielle Hebert
Nov 29, 2015 Arielle Hebert rated it it was amazing
Mullen's process in "Urban Tumbleweed" makes me want to commit to trying it myself-- marrying in-the-moment experiences and some of the traditional elements of the Japanese Tanka (poem of 31 syllables) by taking walks with a notebook.
Some major themes--Man v. Nature; the man made v. the natural; man made boundaries make nature a trespasser; the idea of property; man's use or misuse of nature as decoration or entertainment... Mullen draws attention to some environmental issues and man's role in
Karin Cope
Jan 03, 2016 Karin Cope rated it really liked it
Urban Tumbleweed Notes from a Tanka Diary by Harryette MullenI have long enjoyed Harryette Mullen's poetic experiments. Urban Tumbleweed introduced me to the notion of the tanka, a Japanese form of syllabic verse often deployed in daily meditative practice, or as a sort of poetic diary. I particularly like the idea as Mullen redeploys it: make a short poem of 31 syllables from observations made during a daily walk. Some of these tankas are lovely, others are simply (unsurprisingly) pedestrian. The book is a form of urban naturalism, perhaps an emerging g ...more
Jun 11, 2015 Jerry rated it really liked it
I was hoping for a mixture of poems of lucid documentation and poems of quick epiphany. Instead I see a combination of the latter with poems of forced epiphany--overthought, overwrought poems that press the tanka form towards conventional lyric. If they feel more under the influence of the lyric crises of Li Po, they lack his guiding sense of proportion and modesty. Mullen's "I" is intrusive, baggaged with editorial adjectives, accentuating a kind of outsider status in every scene she witnesses. ...more
Sandy D.
This is a beautiful mix of nature and urban grit.

I've never read tanka poetry before, but that didn't stop me from loving Mullen's poetic metaphors in this little book. Urban tumbleweeds = plastic bags, blowing across urban wastelands. Most of her poems are set in the greater Los Angeles area - in neighbor's gardens, in parks, "between train stations and high-rises", though a few take place in Texas.

"When you see me walking in the neighborhood,
stopping to admire your garden, I might be
Lynn Pedersen
Apr 07, 2014 Lynn Pedersen rated it really liked it
I received an advanced copy of the book as part of a Goodreads giveaway. I am a big fan of Harryette Mullen's work, particularly Sleeping With the Dictionary. Urban Tumbleweed: Notes from a Tanka Diary is a very different book than Sleeping With the Dictionary. The poems in Urban Tumbleweed are short, and play with the tanka form to capture small moments of every day experience and observation, what I would call the living moment. I found myself reading and re-reading the poems in a slow, ...more
Cameron Brown
Apr 17, 2014 Cameron Brown rated it really liked it
I was surprised by the complexity of emotion and imagery that can be contained within 31 syllables. Mullen presents a fascinating panorama of the natural world, humanity, and the interactions between the two. Though each tanka is unique to a single day of the year, it is a fascinating development that several tankas, taken together, form a cohesive unit, a sub-story within the overall collection.
Urban Tumbleweed is a fascinating reading experience that I would encourage poetry lovers, especiall
Jul 23, 2014 Alghamdi rated it really liked it
-Harryette Mullen talks about her front yard ''Los Angeles'' in ''Urban Tumbleweed'.
-She asks so many questions in this collection..e.g, what is private? what is public?! Who is a trespasser?!!
-She uses a lot of slang language in these poems ''Urban Tumbleweed'' for instance!!
-The image of the tumbleweed is very interesting: wind/change/movement
-It is lots of enjoyments to read and it is going to make you laugh!!
-If you are into academia, check out Alan Golding's article ''Between the News a
Aug 08, 2015 Michael rated it liked it
It was an interesting read. Tankas are brief everyday walking poems. The poet has made them three lines each. Little meditations on life as she encounters it. One of the joys for it were the little bits of wit and the lovely metaphorical juxtapositions she provided throughout the book. It was a quick read, an easy read, and one that encouraged me to see the world around me with more attention. I’m glad I read it.
May 19, 2014 Emily rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, favorites
A friend recommended I read this, and I'm glad she did. I loved many of the poems here. Some touched me with their language and imagery, and some made me laugh at their wittiness. Interestingly, this is similar to what I set out to do this year myself, and I'm glad to see I'm not alone in these sorts of projects.
Apr 07, 2014 Sylvia rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
I received this book for free as a First Reads winner and I am so glad I did. Being a native of Southern California myself, I visualized perfectly what the poems described. I had never delved much into tanka poetry, but the poems were truly beautiful and inspiring. This book will make you want to take a walk outdoors.
Patti K
Jul 15, 2016 Patti K rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
This small volume from 2013 is full of modified tanka. Instead of traditional
form of 57577, it is three lines totally 31 syllables. She writes these poems
as part of her project to walk every day for a year and record her experiences.
They are casual, slangy, and rough-edged. Some of them were fun, but most
of them were tepid. I did like the idea of the project.
Jul 15, 2014 Richard rated it it was amazing
I am a big fan of Mullen's work. This Tanka Diary is lyrical and profound. Mullen says in the preface that she sets out to explore the question, "What is natural about being human?" In many ways the question remains fruitfully unanswered in these paradoxical urban nature walks. A book to return to again and again, I am keeping it close at hand.
David Allen
Aug 23, 2014 David Allen rated it liked it
Poems all of 31 syllables, written in a small notebook while Mullen was out on a daily walk around Los Angeles. Closely observed, sometimes witty, many are about the sights and sounds around the city or in gardens or parks, while others reflect stories in the news: "Southern California family surprised/to discover uninvited black bear taking/a dip in their suburban pool."
Apr 08, 2014 Amy rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads, 2014
I really liked the concept/style of this book. I have never read anything like this before. In reading it, you are made to think about the everyday things/moments that life is made up of.

*I received this free as a Goodreads giveaway*
Chelsea Cameron-Fikis
Nov 01, 2014 Chelsea Cameron-Fikis rated it really liked it
A delightful little collection of poetry that gets at the heart of the collision between the human world and the natural world. She really makes the reader slow down and pay attention to the smallest details of beauty in our fast-paced, technologically driven world.
Anjanette V
Nov 06, 2013 Anjanette V rated it it was ok
a kind friend sent me a hastily scribbled note/inquiring about my "tanka dairy."/I wrote back to say, "I'm milking it."

whether this truly is a tanka dairy or diary
by the time you read this stanza
your suspicions are confirmed
Fatima E.
Mar 14, 2015 Fatima E. rated it really liked it
very pleasant. great to get lost in while commuting. many of the tankas were comfortable observations or beautifully put thoughts.
A. Anupama
Nov 15, 2013 A. Anupama rated it really liked it
My review is online at Numero Cinq Magazine--
Jamie Erickson
Mar 15, 2016 Jamie Erickson rated it it was amazing
short poems on walks and nature and nature walks and urban walks and the things you see and think on walks. couldn't be more fitting for me. loved it.
Emily Dobbs
Dec 19, 2014 Emily Dobbs rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, 2014
I really really enjoyed this collection of short tanka poems. I've always liked Mullen but this collection is something special. I highly recommend it!
Megan rated it really liked it
Oct 03, 2016
Hannah rated it liked it
Aug 23, 2015
Nicole McCarthy
Nicole McCarthy rated it really liked it
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Jan 09, 2014
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Harryette Mullen is an American poet, short story writer, and literary scholar. She was born in Florence, Alabama, grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, graduated from the University of Texas at Austin and attended graduate school at the University of California, Santa Cruz. As of 2008, she lives in Los Angeles, California. She wrote poems such as Land of the Discount Price, Home of the Brand Name.

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“Walking the path, I stop to pick up
bleached bark from a tree, curled into
a scroll of ancient wisdom I am unable to read.

Even in my dreams I’m hiking
these mountain trails expecting to find a rock
that nature has shaped to remind me of a heart.”
More quotes…