The author of five books of poetry, Harryette Mullen has taught at Cornell University and now teaches creative writing and African-American literature at the University of California, Los Angeles. She has received the Gertrude Stein Award in Innovative American Poetry, a PEN Beyond Margins Award, and the 2010 Jackson Poetry Prize, and she has been a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Mullen was born in Alabama and raised in Texas. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of Texas, Austin and her master's degree and Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Her innovative poems challenge us to rethink our ideas about gender, race, language, politics, and popular culture by engaging in wordplay: puns, jokes, acrostics, and anagrams. Commenting on Mullen's incisive experimentation with language, Elisabeth A. Frost has written, "Crossing the lines between often isolated aesthetic camps, Harryette Mullen has pioneered her own form of bluesy, disjunctive lyric poetry, combining a concern for the political issues raised by identity politics with a poststructuralist emphasis on language." As Carol Muske-Dukes says, Mullen's poetry is "a little like the Muse playing scrabble."