Over four decades, poet Harryette Mullen has been feted for the vivacity, humor and generosity of spirit that are the hallmarks of her verse. Yet in her forthcoming collection, composed during the pandemic, the esteemed UCLA professor has carried her wit and puzzle-box playfulness to new heights — literally into the sky. 

Bethany Mollenkof

Her new anthology, Regaining Unconsciousness, will be published by Graywolf in 2025 and will surely be one of poetry’s most talked-about books of the year. Below, she offers a sneak peek with “On A Lark’s Wing,” a “skinny” poem that appears at first blush to be a celebration of a springtime bird soaring over a green world. Typically, it’s a lot more, too. 

“It is about [the Eurasian skylark] and nature under threat, which I thought a lot about during the COVID lockdown when we all felt trapped, away from nature. That is a theme in the new book,” she says. “But it’s also about my free-spirited mother, whose name, Avis, means ‘bird’ in Latin. And it’s also about her blue car, the Studebaker Lark. It also references the Johnny Mercer song ‘Skylark.’ Maybe that explains the jump at the end of the long skinny poem, a musical beat. That is up to you to decide.”

Such wordplay is another reason why, after a long and prestigious career, Mullen still finds such joy in verse. This year, for the first time, a poem of hers will be one of the daily digital downloads on poets.org; there will also be a British anthology of her past works, complete with five critical essays.

“More people read poetry now than ever before,” she says. “Maybe because there are more people, or maybe because there are more ways to find it. I remain optimistic about the power of the word.”

Reading her soul-stirring verses, so do we.

Listen to Mullen read “On a Lark’s Wing.”

On a Lark’s Wing
By Harryette Mullen

taking flight 

gone wandering

have you seen 

a solo bird


over meadow green

have you heard

song of spring’s 

beginning in blossom’s

dew-wet whisper

 tender melody

hummed rhythm of


to unquenchable stream

haven’t you seen or

wondered ever


some fancy


 might take you

make your heart 

start to wander


& there?