The Quarantine Tapes

The Quarantine Tapes 142: Harryette Mullen

Episode Summary

“When I’m walking, I’m trying to keep my eyes open and my ears open and my mind open. To be open, and observant. To look for the poem in my walk. I am walking and looking for the poem to meet me.”

Episode Notes

Guest host Naomi Shihab Nye is joined by poet Harryette Mullen on episode 142 of The Quarantine Tapes. Harryette reflects on her habit of walking in Los Angeles and how that has served her well during the isolation of quarantine. She talks about her poetry practice and how walking and the city have inspired her work.

Naomi and Harryette dig into the challenges and complications of teaching during this time. Harryette talks about teaching Ntozake Shange and offers up advice for pushing yourself to experiment with writing and art. In this reflective, heartfelt conversation, Naomi celebrates Harryette’s work, lifting up her use of language and inviting Harryette to read from her poems.


Harryette Mullen was born in Florence, Alabama, and raised in Fort Worth, Texas. She has earned a B.A. in English from the University of Texas at Austin and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Early in her career as a poet, she worked in the Artists in Schools program sponsored by the Texas Commission on the Arts, and for six years she taught literature at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Mullen's work is driven by wordplay and allusion, centered in a larger tradition of African American writing and representations of black women. The 2009 recipient of the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, Mullen is also the recipient of grants from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico, and the Texas Institute of Letters. Mullen's other honors include a Gertrude Stein Award in Innovative American Poetry and the Jackson Poetry Prize, as well as a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship; a Rockefeller Fellowship from the Susan B. Anthony Institute for Women's Studies at the University of Rochester; and a United States Artist Fellowship. She teaches African American literature and creative writing in the English Department at the University of California, Los Angeles.


Paul Holdengraber - Co-Creator, Host, OLA Director
Anthony Audi - Co-Creator, Researcher, OLA Director
Alejandro Cohen - Co-Creator, Producer, Composer
Christian Pitt - Production Coordinator 
Erin Cooney - Copy, Production
Dublab Team